Tuesday, November 30, 2004


On Affirmative Action

For almost half a century affirmative action has been a very contentious issue in politics. It has led to bitter debates that go to the heart of society and its organization. Most of these debates have been in the United States. Affirmative action is the process of giving preferential consideration to people who have been discriminated against, usually minority groups and women, in hiring and admissions practices. It exists to distribute access to jobs and education to minorities; especially in areas that have usually been dominated by one group of society. The essential premise behind the practice is that minorities will never be properly represented the workforce and academia unless a real effort is made to reverse the trends that have caused the current unbalance, regardless of whether or not the discriminatory policies have been eradicated. The history of affirmative action is full of hotly contested initiatives for proponents and opponents of the policy and controversial decisions made by the Supreme Court and other high courts. The debate usually exposes deep ideological differences that are often irreconciliable. Both the proponents and opponents have very strong arguments. This paper will explore those arguments, compare and contrast them and show that affirmative action is neccessary to ensuring social justice in North America.

Affirmative action policies date back to 1961 begining with President John F. Kennedy's Executive Order 10925 that stated federal contractors should take "affirmative action to ensure that applicants are treated equally without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." Kennedy had been elected on a platform emphasizing civil rights during the heart of the civil rights movement. Kennedy also created the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. In 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed, prohibiting employment discrimination by employees whether or not they have government contracts. The rationale for affirmative action was best summed up a year later, when President Lyndon Johnson said in a speech: "You do not take a person, who for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say 'you are free to compete with all the others,' and still believe that you have been completely fair." The U.S Supreme Court made it's first decision on affirmative action in 1978 in the Bakke vs University of California case. It supported the principle of affirmative action, as practiced by the University of California but ruled against the use of quota's in admission processes. A year later, the Supreme Court made another decision in the AFL-CIO vs Weber case allowing the use of affirmative action to counter the inbalance created by past discrimination in the workforce. During the 1980's the Supreme Court made three more decisions on affirmative action, two of them in support of it. The biggest challenges and changes occured during the 90's. President Bill Clinton explicitly supported affirmative action in 1995 and encouraged a policy of "mend it, don't end it". After decades of pro-affirmative action policies being pursued by the government there was a sudden shift in attitude. In 1995, the Equal Opportunity Act was introduced to Congress. It proposed an end to the affirmative action laws regarding government contractor's hiring practices. During that same year, the University of California banned affirmative action and a year later the state of California passed proposition 209 effectively abolishing affirmative action programs statewide. The latter part of the 1990's saw many efforts to end affirmative action and many of those efforts succeeded in many states. As recently as 2002, the administration of George W. Bush challenged the University of Michigan's Law School admittance policy of affirmative action as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court heard the case and made a decision on it in 2003 reaffirming affirmative action policies used by universities in admissions processes.

Opponents of affirmative action insist that the policy does not promote diversity and equality but actually does the opposite. If the policy is meant to remedy disadvantage then it should be based on disadvantage rather than race. As well, in special circumstances the program usually doesn't recognize the difference between for example, an underqualified middle or upper class African American student and a qualified working class Asian student. That is because Asians are disproportionately over-represented in institutions of higher education. The main problem is that racism cannot be undone by more racism. Race-conscious policies betray the color-blind society we strive for and create tensions that actually worsen the problem of discrimination. Universities should admit students based strictly on merit, including not only grades and scores but achievements in athletics, extracurricular activites, community involvement and other areas. Admission should be based on this view of merit and not race, which is not an achievement but a trait. As well, affirmative action creates a dillema for those who benefit from it. Louis P. Pojman, professor of Philosophy at the United States Military Academy, presents a common occurance in his essay, "The Case Against Affirmative Action". He states that he
"cannot help wondering on seeing a Black or woman in a position or honor, "Is she in this position because she merits it or because of Affirmative Action?" Where Affirmative Action is the policy, the "figment of pigment" creates a stigma of undeservedness, whether or not it is deserved." This circumstance neither benefits the principle of affirmative action, nor does it equate to tolerance and equality in general. Further, Pojman contends that the premise of increasing diversity is flawed. Rather Pojman contends that "Diversity for diversity's sake is moral promiscuity, since it obfuscates rational distinctions." Affirmative action has many flaws and goes against the essentials of civil rights, say the opponents, because it uses the methods and practices that the civil rights movement aimed to abolish and did.

On the other hand, the proponents of affirmative action argue that it is the best way to correct the history of racism and discrimination. The main reason to advocate affirmative action is that systemic discrimination does exist.
Recognizing that most of the inequalities in the workplace were caused by systemic discrimination, Canada's Royal Commission on Equality in employment created a systemic response to it and called it "Employment Equity". The purpose of Employment Equity, like affirmative action, is to "eliminate employment barriers for the four designated groups identified in the Employment Equity Act: women, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal people, and members of visible minorities; remedy past discrimination in employment opportunities and prevent future barriers; improve access and distribution throughout all occupations and at all levels for members of the four designated groups; foster a climate of equity in the organization." This is clearly a noble cause justified by the presence of systemic discrimination and other social and cultural barriers preventing minorities from advancement in society. Furthermore, affirmative action is only a method used to meet societal obligations on diversity and equality. For example, many medical schools in the United States have adopted affirmative action policies to promote diversity in the health-care system because of the many benefits that presents. For example, S. E. Lakhan discusses the benefits of diversity in the field of medical research: The American research agenda is primarily promoted and investigated by individuals who feel and see the problems they wish to solve. Diversifying the medical (MD) and doctoral (PhD) student pool will only broaden the research foundation of our country, especially areas of public health, biosocial, and medical concerns. Such a workforce will be equipped with the tools necessary to combat the various ailments our country faces, including racial discrimination. As well, studies indicate that minority patients are less likely to "take the doctors orders" than their white counterparts because of language and cultural barriers. (Lackhan) The social benefits of affirmative action greatly outweigh any disadvantages and problems caused by it and it is essential to meeting societal obligations on equality.

Both sides make legitamate claims, but we must look at the realities rather than the ideals that we have today. In an ideal world, all people have equal opportunity to education, employment and many other things. In an ideal world, systemic discrimination would not exist. The reality is that not all people have equal opportunity and systemic discrimination does exist. Because of previous segregation, society is faced with the issue of inner city public school systems and housing and welfare programs. It is an example of systemic discrimination when an inner city school, attended mostly by minority students, recieves less funding and produces graduates who are far behind their suburban and affluent counterparts who had access to well funded public schools that provided the proper education. Opponents of affirmative action call for merit based admissions procedures, without acknowledging that the individual that the program is geared toward cannot concievably gain the same level of merit as his or her counterpart. Some of the more realistic opponents argue that merit should not be based on SAT scores and grades but achievement in other fields including athletics, music, community programs and other various extracurricular activities. A minority, inner-city student faces the same obstacles in trying to achieve a high score on the SAT as he or she would trying to achieve merit in an extracurricular activity. Some of the inner-city schools are so under funded that they cannot provide athletics programs, community involvement programs, and other "after school" or extracurricular activities. Some of the opponents of affirmative action refuse to acknowledge the social reality. The case for absolute merit qualifications has been shown to be flawed as many minority students who benefited from the affirmative actions policies in law and med school admissions excelled once they were in the program. The reason why they were less qualified than their counterparts was because they did not have the opportunity to qualify. Idealy, affirmative action is unnecessary because all people have the same opportunities not only to gain access to all institituions, but also have the same opportunity to qualify to gain access to those institutions. Unfortunately, reality is much different. There exists a glass ceiling; just because we cannot see it, does not mean its non existent. Affirmative action is a tool for shattering this glass cieling. It is a means, not an ends; a means to achieving social justice and equality.

Friday, November 26, 2004


Late Night Roundup

LONDON (Reuters) - Parliamentarians will table a motion on Wednesday demanding a debate on Prime Minister Tony Blair's "gross misconduct" in leading Britain to war against Iraq.

Pretty gross if you ask me.

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada is being considered for a big role in preparing for and possibly monitoring Iraq's upcoming election, a Canadian national newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing sources.

Where was Canada on November 2nd?

U.S., Iraqis Sweep Through 'Triangle of Death' (Reuters)

Whatever happened to the 'Circle of Life'? Lame. I know.

And the "Story of The Night Award" goes to...

Canadian Press -- Globe and Mail
Khartoum — Prime Minister Paul Martin brought a message of hope and peace to a displaced person's camp in Sudan on Thursday.
In an unfortunate incident as his convoy was leaving the camp, a security vehicle near the front of the procession struck a five-year-old girl, who was then taken to hospital by ambulance.
Ms. Gruer said that Mr. Martin plans to visit the girl in hospital before he boards his plane to leave the area.
He drew another ovation with word that the Prime Minister's Office had brought “a planeload” of schoolbooks, crayons and supplies. He told them that Canada would continue to help Sudan.

Nice. Very nice.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004



Computer of the Future.

Friday, November 19, 2004


Special Deal

For only $100,000 you too can become an official United States ambassador to some European country! Here's how.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Falluja Arithmetic Lesson


Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Shooting of Unarmed Iraqi in Falluja Mosque

U.S. Military Probes Shooting of Iraqi in Falluja
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military has begun an investigation into possible war crimes after a television pool report by NBC showed a Marine shooting dead a wounded and unarmed Iraqi in a Falluja mosque, officials said on Monday.
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Good thing the US isn't subject to international law because that would constitute a war crime.

UPDATE: A reader has brought this to my attention. I thought it would serve other readers better:
Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
Article 3

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

Monday, November 15, 2004


"CSIS has easy time getting warrants"

From the Globe and Mail:

Judges approve more than 99 per cent of the requests by CSIS to spy on people in Canada, according to records obtained by The Globe and Mail.

While the government says espionage is one of its most intrusive powers, records show that Federal Court judges almost never disagree with Canadian Security Intelligence Service agents who ask for permission to take extraordinary steps so they can discover more about suspected terrorists or foreign spies.


Powell Resigns

As expected.

Sunday, November 14, 2004


Purging the CIA

I'm not one to shed a tear for the CIA but this definitely does not sit well with me. Whatever objectivity and credibility the institution has ever had has gone down the drain:
CIA plans to purge its agency
Sources say White House has ordered new chief to eliminate officers who were disloyal to Bush


November 14, 2004

WASHINGTON -- The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.

"The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda."

Lets hope the mainstream media makes at least a peep about this story. Hyperbole or not.

Friday, November 12, 2004


Tanks in the Streets

Indymedia LA:
LOS ANGELES, November 9, 2004 - At 7:50 PM two armored tanks showed up at an anti-war protest in front of the federal building in Westwood. The tanks circled the block twice, the second time parking themselves in the street and directly in front of the area where most of the protesters were gathered. Enraged, some of the people attempted to block the tanks, but police quickly cleared the street. The people continued to protest the presence of the tanks, but about ten minutes the tanks drove off. It is unclear as to why the tanks were deployed to this location. Uploaded here is video from the event.

Okay. It didn't register right away. I thought I read it wrong. Then I watched the video. That's unbelievable stuff. It may seem insignificant, but ask yourself: "why would two tanks show up at some random anti-war protest in Los Angeles?" Is there any possible explanation?

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Moral Values

Frank Rich hits the nail on the head:
The blue ascendancy is nearly as strong among Republicans as it is among Democrats. Those whose "moral values" are invested in cultural heroes like the accused loofah fetishist Bill O'Reilly and the self-gratifying drug consumer Rush Limbaugh are surely joking when they turn apoplectic over MTV. William Bennett's name is now as synonymous with Las Vegas as silicone. The Democrats' Ashton Kutcher is trumped by the Republicans' Britney Spears. Excess and vulgarity, as always, enjoy a vast, bipartisan constituency, and in a democracy no political party will ever stamp them out.


Mr. Wittman echoes Thomas Frank, the author of "What's the Matter With Kansas?," by common consent the year's most prescient political book. "Values," Mr. Frank writes, "always take a backseat to the needs of money once the elections are won." Under this perennial "trick," as he calls it, Republican politicians promise to stop abortion and force the culture industry "to clean up its act" - until the votes are counted. Then they return to their higher priorities, like cutting capital gains and estate taxes. Mr. Murdoch and his fellow cultural barons - from Sumner Redstone, the Bush-endorsing C.E.O. of Viacom, to Richard Parsons, the Republican C.E.O. of Time Warner, to Jeffrey Immelt, the Bush-contributing C.E.O. of G.E. (NBC Universal) - are about to be rewarded not just with more tax breaks but also with deregulatory goodies increasing their power to market salacious entertainment. It's they, not Susan Sarandon and Bruce Springsteen, who actually set the cultural agenda Gary Bauer and company say they despise.

This article is a must read. Very well written and quite entertaining.


Yasser Arafat Dies at 75

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Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Gonzales in Ashcroft out

President Bush has picked Alberto Gonzales as his new attorney general (Reuters). The Republicans really want that Latino vote. Daily Kos is talking about Bush and Latino's.

Also from Daily Kos:
Oh, and in case you're wondering about Gonzales on the issues -- he thinks it's okay to ignore US law and our international treaties against torture (Abu Ghraib can be laid to rest at his feet). And, he is the architect of the Guantanamo policies that have been systematically repudiated by mutiple federal judges.

I'd have to say thats pretty fair. He did author the February 2002 memo suggesting that the Geneva Conventions, parts of which are "obselete" and "quaint" did not apply to "enemy combatants" (A term resurrected from WWII) captured during this "War on Terror". Consequently, many prisoners have been tortured and abused in places like Guantanamo Bay's Camp X-Ray and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He also authored the Presidential Order which authorized the use of military tribunals to try terrorist suspects and supported the decision to allow foreign combatants in U.S. custody to be deported to nations that allow torture, in order to extract further information from them.

Good pick.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


What Barry Says

This is a beautiful movie. Well crafted.

Monday, November 08, 2004


Karl Rove Explains it All to You

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Still haven't found much time to write. I'll try to get some stuff out this week.

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