Monday, December 15, 2008

A Preference for truth versus a preference for racial discrimination

The noblest-sounding justification for racial preferences--that they lift up their beneficiaries--may soon be exposed as fraudulent. A group of law professors and economists examining the effect of law school admissions preferences on students' bar-exam passage rates is suing the State Bar of California to obtain data for their study. The proposed research could deal a death blow to the quota regime by proving that affirmative action actually damages a student's chances of becoming a lawyer. Predictably, the race industry has mobilized to crush the project.

Lead researcher Richard Sander has already earned the enmity of much of the law professoriate for his pioneering work on affirmative action in law schools. Almost all black students are admitted to law school with drastically lower college and LSAT grades than those of white and Asian students. After their first year of legal education, 51 percent of blacks are in the bottom tenth of their class; two-thirds are in the bottom fifth. Blacks are four times as likely as whites to fail the bar exam on their first try. Sander has drawn two conclusions from these data, first published in 2004: first, that blacks' low qualifications entering law school predict their lagging performance in school and on the bar exam; second, that there would be more black lawyers if schools stopped extending preferences to black students--because these students would learn more in schools that matched their capabilities.

An advance guard of preference advocates furiously tried to discredit Sander's "mismatch" hypothesis, without drawing much blood. But Sander himself admitted that the national data that he used for his 2004 study were imperfect; thus his effort to obtain the records of the California bar, which has the most extensive set of law student information in the country. It can link individual students' college GPAs, LSAT scores, law school grades, and bar scores going back to 1973. Researchers would be able to compare, with an extraordinary degree of precision, the bar-passage rates of students admitted into elite schools via affirmative action with the rates of those with similar qualifications who attended less elite schools. When Sander and his colleagues approached the bar's leaders and statisticians in 2005 about collaborating on a study, they got an enthusiastic response.

Then a platoon of law school deans paid the bar a little visit. Suddenly, the bar changed its tune. It threw up obstacle after obstacle, claiming that the study was an "anti-affirmative-action" ploy and would violate student privacy.

Both objections were ludicrous. Sander's research team included skeptics of his mismatch theory as well as affirmative-action supporters, all of whom just happened to believe that any theory should be subjected to rigorous empirical testing. Sander has invited his many other critics to get involved in the study as well. His project had the backing of leading social scientists. As for privacy, only the bar's chief researcher--who has conducted many analyses of student performance in the past without incurring any objections--would have access to students' actual records. The research would make the data anonymous so that tracing any individual's records would be impossible for anyone else.

Nevertheless, the legal establishment's assault on Sander's project continued. A group of activist law professors argued that the study would lend undue importance to the bar exam. (Law students will undoubtedly be relieved to learn of the exam's insignificance.) A UCLA law professor launched an e-mail campaign to minority lawyers in California, portraying the research as a frightening invasion of their privacy. After a hearing process that failed to give Sander's team any opportunity to respond to the critics' charges, the bar's board of governors voted in November 2007 to reject the research proposal. Sander is now suing the bar, which is a government body, under California's public-information laws.

The racial preference regime has thrived in deliberate secrecy and duplicity, but it is gradually losing its cover. Against all expectations, Sander recently convinced the University of California that it had a legal obligation to share its records on undergraduate students' incoming qualifications and subsequent performance. Though this data set is more generalized than what Sander seeks from the bar, it will likely buttress his mismatch theory and expose lingering preferences at the university, in violation of a 1996 voter initiative outlawing them. The lawsuit against the bar remains pending, but Sander expects to start releasing results from the UC study this fall. They promise to be explosive.


BOOK REVIEW of The Age of Openness: China Before Mao By Frank Dikotter. Review by Rowan Callick

Communist account misleading

We have been duped. The evidence is starting to pile up and this incisive, extended essay provides a good introduction to revisionist research that shows how. The Age of Openness is a thrillingly contrarian and accessible read. History is, of course, written by the victors, so naturally the modern story of the world's biggest country was primarily spun by Mao Zedong and his party's propaganda department, which not only retains its centrality in China's power structure but has enjoyed a renaissance this Olympic year.

In 1949, the communists militarily defeated their Nationalist rivals, who had assumed the republican mantle first worn, along with his prototype of what Westerners call the Mao suit, by the founder of modern China, Sun Yat-sen. What is extraordinary is that Mao's story was swallowed more or less whole by the rest of the world, which continues to believe that he and his party rescued the nation from sickness, corruption and collapse. Squeamish Westerners concede that the communists' medicine might have been a little robust, but mostly they affirm that it was essential treatment at the time, freeing peasants from feudal landlords, saving the country from starvation, introducing modern industrialisation and stabilising and unifying a nation torn apart by supposed warlords.

Frank Dikotter is a 47-year-old Dutchman who is professor of the modern history of China at the school of Oriental and African studies, University of London, and professor of humanities at the University of Hong Kong. His new book convincingly exposes the founding myth of China's communist dynasty as a bundle of half or quarter-truths.

China's kai fang, the period of openness and reform inaugurated by Deng Xiaoping 30 years ago this month, is not so new. It is a long-overdue attempt to recapture something of the modern, cosmopolitan spirit manifest in much of the country from the 1920s to the '40s. It also raises the intriguing hypothetical question: What if the Nationalists had won the civil war? They likely would have done so had it not been for the Japanese invasion. Their leader Chiang Kai-shek was a flawed figure, inept in many areas, yet when he died Mao wept bitterly, saying that they were the last two true nationalists, the only figures who really understood the burden of trying to steer China.

It is likely that under the Nationalists-republicans the mass starvation of about 30million people during the Great Leap Forward would have been avoided, that a modern, open economy -- already present in embryo -- would have developed sooner and that China would have integrated swiftly into the international community, though probably not wholeheartedly on the Western side in the Cold War.

Dikotter argues that China's modern history has been written from the templates of revolution and of centralisation. Contrary trends in the republican era following the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911 -- globalisation and local sovereignty, or devolution -- were called "pandering to foreign exploiters" and anarchy or"warlordism".

"Because so much of the history of the 20thcentury seemed to have been about revolution, students tended to look for the 'causes', 'roots', 'stages' and 'origins' of communism, a grid through which a unitary understanding of modern China could be created," Dikotter writes.

We have a historiography, he says, "rich on 'exploitation', counterbalanced only recently by work on charity; it is abundant on 'communism', even if work on democracy has steadily been growing; there are gangsters, warlords and prostitutes in abundance, and only gradually are we gaining new insights on polyglot diplomats, returned migrants and businesswomen ... The notion of 'warlordism' has also been used to obfuscate federalist ideas" which remain essentially forbidden, isolating China as the only large non-federal nation. Hu Shi, a critic of nationalist ideology, said that disorder did not come from warlords but from attempts to unify the country by force from above.

Local administrators were becoming more successful in implementing central policies even if the central republican government was itself weak. Today's national boundaries are roughly those secured through three centuries of ambitious Qing military campaigns. Insisting on the need for a "strong state" to secure them, Dikotter writes, is like doing the same for the Austro-Hungarian empire in Europe, "conniving in the confusion between nation and empire which lies at the heart of geopolitics on the region referred to as China".

In 1912, 40 million Chinese voted at a national election, and in 1947 a fully democratic constitution was adopted. Many villages and towns held direct elections at this time. Vast numbers of associations and organisations, from chambers of commerce to beggar unions, were established that were truly independent from the government. There are none today.

The battles for power, regional and national, were intense and prolonged, almost from the time that the last emperor, Pu Yi, was forced to abdicate. But military forces remained modest in size in republican China, comprising in 1933 less than 2 per cent of males aged between 15 and 44, and with less than 1 per cent of rural households receiving income from military service. Military spending reached 4 per cent of economic output by the '30s, twice Australia's present ratio. Wars between 1917 and 1930 killed 400,000: terrible, but only about 1 per cent of the casualties of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution.

More than 1000 newspapers were published. "Even with censorship, the opportunities for political expression outside of the ruling party far exceeded anything even remotely possible under emperor or Mao," Dikotter writes.

There were sustained efforts at legal reform despite many abuses, though today's courts remain arms of the party. There were 350,000 officially registered foreigners living in China in 1919, many of whom had made it their home. There are fewer than that today and only a handful of foreigners have been permitted to become citizens of the People's Republic.

The foreign settlements deployed local taxes and foreign investment to build massive urban infrastructures that set the development pace, including in education and women's roles, and helped China integrate with the broader international community.

In the decades to 1937, about 10 per cent of China's gross domestic product was traded, accelerated by the treaty ports. Technological transfers were boosted by the openness of Chinese society. Agricultural production grew twice as fast as population in central and coastal China from 1890 to 1930.

Chinese students outnumbered all other foreigners at US universities by 1930. Bilingual Chinese judges sat at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. In 1948, Zhang Pengjun helped draft the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Dikotter writes: "Religious expression was also allowed to thrive in a climate of relative tolerance, while culture bloomed in the absence of a monopoly on power and knowledge."

Concluding this exciting, mind-spinning account of a world so different from what most people both inside and outside China have imagined, he says: "The era between empire andcommunism is routinely portrayed as a catastrophic interlude (but) the extent and depthof engagement with the rest of the world was such that we can see closure under Mao instead as the exception."

The communist party has turned back to openness to secure its legitimacy through economic growth. That shift will inspire big celebrations in China this month. But they should be accompanied by a rueful and apologetic backward glance at what was lost when the civil war was won.


Update: A comment from China Hand below

Yes indeed - the time to revise China's history, as standardized by the communist party has arrived. Chinese historians are chaffing at the bit to get it done in China itself and insiders seem to be dribbling out stuff to Chinese free to write in the West in order to try and spur on the process. E.g. Recent books on Zhou Enlai and the Long March appear to have had inside sources.

Interesting the figures on war losses at 400,000 - The CCP version shares it was 20m combining the two civil wars and the 'war of resistance against Japan', just as it was in the Taiping uprising in 1851.

Seems like a book I need to read. Many of the points I have belabored to my students - e.g. pointing out that while they point to racism in the US, there is no known foreigner alive who has gained Chinese citizenship (some of them were given it posthumously). This of course China shares with many Asian countries e.g. Japan.

Of course the straw man here is the apologist - decades of excellent scholarly research debunking communism and its myths are pushed aside and the apologists -who had little credibility throughout the Cold War - are made to look like the mainstream so that Dikotter can look like the contrarian he never was being a major, well paid cold war warrior.

Are EU deaf or what?

Four times, European voters have said `No' to European Union documents: in Ireland on 7 June 2001 (Nice Treaty); in France and Holland on 29 May and 1 June 2005 (European Constitution); and most recently in Ireland on 12 June 2008 (Lisbon Treaty). And all four times, European leaders responded by effectively saying: `No doesn't really mean no.'

For most people, a vote is a question asked, and an answer received. Yet European and national politicians treated the `No' votes not as answers, but as obstacles to be negotiated around. They deployed a variety of creative phrasing and reasoning to indicate why these votes did not really count, and how they could be avoided.

This week, on 11-12 December, EU leaders will meet to find what they call a `solution' to the `Irish problem' - that is, Irish voters' rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in a democratic vote in June. It looks likely that the Irish will be asked to vote again. To mark the occasion, the Manifesto Club has published the EU Phrasebook: 27 Ways to Say No Doesn't Really Mean No - exposing all the different ways in which EU leaders have sought to avoid or neutralise `No' votes - which we will launch at a meeting in Brussels tonight.

After each `No' vote, political leaders said that people had not really rejected the treaty in question. `No in France and Holland does not mean no to the European Constitution', said the European Green Party after France and Holland. well, voted `No' to the European Constitution. `I want to make it absolutely clear that, in my view, the "No" vote should not be interpreted as a vote against enlargement', said Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern after the Irish people rejected the Nice Treaty (which enabled enlargement) in a democratic referendum in 2001.

In every case, the rejection of the treaty only hardened leaders' conviction that the treaty was necessary, and that they had been right to propose it and push it through. The problem was not the failure of their treaty, but of the electorate, which was apparently not sophisticated and grown-up enough to appreciate this elevated piece of political craftsmanship.

People had simply not understood what was at stake. The treaty in question had been too weighty and complicated for an electorate more accustomed to voting in the finals of The X Factor. `Many Europeans don't understand how we are building Europe', said French president Nicolas Sarkozy after the Irish `No' to the Lisbon treaty this year. A `triumph of ignorance' was Lord Neil Kinnock's response to the French and Dutch votes against the European Constitution in 2005.

Over the course of the four `No' votes in recent years, European leaders became more assured about brushing the votes aside like an irritating fly. They became more visibly irritated with what they described as a `block' to the `policymaking process', or an `obstacle to the timetable'. The unflattering terms used to describe the electorate became less and less guarded - which culminated, after the Irish vote this year, in two separate Brussels officials describing the Irish people as outright `bastards'.

Over time, European leaders became more resolved not to expose treaties like this to the unpredictable and sullying world of public debate. `I believe that [referendums] are especially inappropriate when trying to deal with the intricacies of creating a treaty. Although a referendum might be appropriate for Pop Idol it is unsuitable for explaining a treaty', said Chris Bryant MP in November 2003. After the Irish vote, Belgian MEP Jean-Luc Dehaene said: `Once again it has been shown that the formula of a referendum is not the right way to approve European treaties.'

At times, EU leaders have issued gloves-off threats to ensure they get their desired `Yes' vote, as with German MEP Elmar Brok's dark mention of `consequences for Ireland' if there were another `No'. The transcript of the meeting between the presidents of the European Parliament and Czech president V clav Klaus shows the EU officials behaving like a band of heavies, `paying him a visit' to warn him off associating with the Irish `No' campaign. They fell short of threatening his family, but in all other respects it was pure Mafia tactics.

At other times, EU leaders have adopted the tone of an understanding primary school teacher, trying to be tolerant of her pupils' mistakes. Vice-president of the EU Commission, Margot Wallstr”m, favours this approach. She has said she is determined to `analyse' the vote and discover voters' concerns, to find out where they had gone so wrong. And then they would have a second try: Are you sure you want to say no? Why don't you try again?

Whether in Mafioso or primary school mode, what is universally lacking is any respect for the electorate - any sense that votes mean something and should count. Any sense that, at base, leaders are answerable to the electorate, and not the other way around.

We published the phrasebook as an attempt to expose this insidious political logic. Looked at in black-and-white print, what is clear is political leaders' complete incomprehension of the basic principles of democracy; the fact that an elitist self-justification has become absolute second nature to the operations of European politics, and they cannot see events other than in the terms of this elitism. Perhaps the phrasebook will just pre-empt the phrases they will use in their meeting this week. Or perhaps it will embarrass some EU officials into the inkling that these `No' votes were really answers, and not just obstacles.


Class hatred at Britain's Stansted Airport

Posh Plane Stupid insists that it is not picking on poor people. So why is it so madly obsessed with cheap flights?

The contrast between the protesters at Stansted Airport and the people who were delayed by their protest could not have been more stark. On one side there were the well-to-do moaners of Plane Stupid, a campaign group that counts the grandson of a peer, the granddaughter of a baronet, and numerous privately educated young people amongst its most visible cadre. On the other side, the `cheap flyers' hoping to fly abroad from an airport that specialises in no-frills flights, and which has been labelled by snooty observers as Britain's `chief chav airport' because its main airlines include Ryanair and easyJet (1). On one side, eco-elitists; on the other, everyday holidaymakers.

The protest - which forced Stansted to close for five hours and delayed more than 50 flights - provided a striking snapshot of the snobbish, masses-attacking streak in environmentalism. Plane Stupid and other anti-flying groups insist that they're not only concerned with `poor people' who take `cheap flights'; in response to an article I wrote in 2007, Joss Garman, the founder of Plane Stupid, said `cheap flights haven't made it easier for poorer people to travel for the first time; they've just made it easier for the wealthy to travel more often'. So, he said, laying into cheap flights is actually a way of laying into `the privileged' (2). Yet no amount of fact-twisting can disguise the fact that, again and again, the eco-worthies of the anti-flying lobby are drawn towards attacking and delaying those flights taken by the lowest-income communities; by `cheap people'. Why?

It is no accident that the Plane Stupid protesters chose Stansted for their biggest demo yet. They said their aim was to `draw attention to CO2 emissions from the aviation industry'. Yet Stansted, being the smallest of London's major airports, does not emit nearly as much CO2 as a Heathrow or a Gatwick. In Heathrow there are 481,476 aircraft movements a year, and 68million passengers. Gatwick has 266,550 aircraft movements a year, and 35million passengers. Stansted comes a low third, with 208,462 aircraft movements a year and 24million passengers (the New Labour government has now given the go-ahead for the expansion of passenger numbers at Stansted). Even Manchester Airport, far away from the Big Three airports in London, has more annual aircraft movements than Stansted: 222,703 (3).

The Plane Stupid protesters targeted Stansted not because it is particularly polluting, but because it is the home of that apparently most reckless and pointless and destructive form of flying: the no-frills variety. Stansted is, as one website puts it, the `hub for Europe's low-cost carriers' (4). Ryanair, the bete noire of anti-flying groups, flies to 109 destinations from Stansted; easyJet flies to 23. It is not surprising that Ryanair, which is described by Plane Stupid as `Lying-Air', its Irish bosses mocked by the well-to-do, well-educated anti-flying activists for not attending university and being `clearly very stupid' (5), suffered most as a result of yesterday's protest: it had to cancel 52 flights. And because it is the least frilliest airline of all, its stranded passengers were not offered hotel or meal vouchers; they squeezed themselves into uncomfortable chairs and tried to get some shut-eye as their better-educated peers on the runway kept Stansted in shutdown.

Indeed, Stansted is a gleaming symbol of the opening up of flight to lower-income communities. Stansted has been used as a commercial airport since 1966, but its business has grown exponentially over the past 10 years as a direct result of the rise and rise of low-cost airlines. As one government report says, `Stansted has grown very rapidly in recent years, particularly in the leisure market'. In 1998, Stansted was handling seven million passengers a year; in 2003, that rose to 19million passengers; today it handles 24million passengers. This `rapid expansion of passenger numbers' has come `on the back of the boom in low cost air travel' (6). If the growth of Heathrow and Gatwick in the 1960s and 70s spoke to the expansion of air travel for the middle classes, then the growth of Stansted since the 1990s is a result of the expansion of air travel even to the lower middle classes, working-class families, young single people, and others. This is the main reason why Stansted, more than any other British airport, riles the anti-flying lobby: because it symbolises the expansion of flight to nearly all members of British society.

Largely in response to spiked's critique of their eco-misanthropy, and of their seemingly unshakeable focus on `cheap flights', the anti-flying lobby argues that targeting Stansted and Ryanair is not about targeting `poorer people'. `The average income of people using Stansted Airport is 47,000 pounds per year - and it's supposed to be a budget airport!' scoffs Plane Stupid. In an article attacking me for being a Gap jacket-wearing Marxist (the Gap? Oh please.), Joss Garman added a few extra thousand quid to this estimate, arguing that `the Civil Aviation Authority's own data shows that the average person flying in or out of Stansted, a budget airport, earns in excess of 50k' (7).

These bandied-about figures are highly disingenuous. The CAA did not find that the `average person' who uses Stansted earns 50,000 a year - it found that the average household income of people who use Stansted as leisure passengers is 47,000 a year. This includes the earnings of everyone living in a single household before it is taxed and squeezed by various other outgoings. This hardly makes them wealthy, and certainly not part of `the privileged'. They could not, for example, afford to send their children to schools such as Westminster (26,000 a year), as attended by leading Plane Stupid activist Tamsin Omond, or Godolphin and Latymer (15,000 a year), as attended by Plane Stupid's spokesperson on yesterday's demo, Lily Kember. [Two posh protesters in the pic below. Kember on the right]

In their rush to mock the supposedly `privileged' people who take cheap flights from Stansted, Plane Stupid neglects to point out that, according to the CAA's figures, the average household income of 47,000 at Stansted is the lowest for London's major airports. At London City airport, the average household income of leisure passengers is 78,000 a year; at Heathrow it is 58,000; at Gatwick it is 54,000; and at Luton it is 48,000 (9). So, no, those who take cheap flights from Stansted are not `poor' (what the aloof, ivory-tower activists of Plane Stupid fail to realise is that most working-class families, while far less well-off than the public-school crowd, are not `poor' in absolute terms; they frequently earn fairly decent wages, would never define themselves as `poverty-stricken', and like to spend their disposable income on enjoyable things); however, in terms of average household income, Stansted is the `poorest' of London's major airports. However much Plane Stupid tries to comfort itself with the delusion that it is attacking `the privileged', in truth it continually targets the least wealthy of Britain's flyers.

Again and again, almost despite themselves, despite their defensiveness about coming across as wealthy snobs - the real privileged - attacking those chavs and slags who fly abroad on the cheap, Plane Stupid and its supporters return to the `scandal' of cheap flights. They cannot help themselves. It really is cheap flights that they find most foul and offensive. Before yesterday's closure of Britain's `chief chav airport', Plane Stupid forced the HQ of easyJet in London to shut down, on the basis that `binge-flying' - a phrase that sounds deliciously like `binge-drinking', that other famous pastime of `cheap people' - is `choking the planet to death' (10).

Plane Stupid has also spent thousands of pounds taking out a newspaper ad attacking Ryanair; it was a spoof advert with Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary saying: `Let's beat the climate to death. Book Ryanair today to ensure a real climate disaster.' (11) The dripping snobbery of Plane Stupid's campaign comes through in its attacks on the kind of uncultured oiks who take Ryanair and easyJet flights from Stansted: `There's been an enormous growth in binge-flying with the proliferation of stag and hen nights to Eastern European destinations chosen not for their architecture or culture but because people can fly there for 99p and get loaded for a tenner.' (12)

When you consider that aviation contributes only five per cent to Britain's total carbon emissions, and that a tiny proportion of that five per cent is caused by Ryanair, easyJet or Stansted itself, it becomes clear that there is something seriously skewed about Plane Stupid's focus on cheap flights. This is not about reining in CO2 per se; it's about reining in the slovenly, destructive behaviour of the lower orders. The shutting down of Stansted and the relentless attacks on Ryanair and easyJet are driven by the most pernicious snobbery, by a view of `cheap flyers' as ultimately destructive, noxious, wanton and foul. These posh activisits, descended from baronets, lords, inventors and aristocrats (13), are keeping up a long tradition in which `mass tourism' has attracted the `class-contempt of killjoys who conceived themselves superior by reason of intellect, education, curiosity and spirit' (14). What we saw at Stansted yesterday was not remotely radical or edgy - it was unabashed, undiluted, unattractive class hatred.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


No comments: