Boom and Bust

Someone at work pointed out a very interesting graph created by Robert J. Shiller, a Yale economist, comprising an index of American housing prices for the past 116 years. Click the graphic below to see the full-size image.

The black line tracks the resell price of existing homes since 1890, adjusted for inflation. Notice that since about 1997, the resell cost of homes has nearly doubled? Will we have a price correction like the ones after the booms in the ’70s and ’80s, or have we hit another plateau like the one after World War II? We are a more populous nation now than we were in the 1950s, but we also have 50 years of new home construction. So why the sudden ramp-up of housing costs?

Personally, I blame pump-and-dump schemes as espoused by people like Carleton Sheets. Sheets and others encourage people to jump into the housing market with no money down, then turn around and sell the property for more than their purchase price. Lather, rinse, and repeat, repeat, repeat. But what actual value is added to a property this way? Or is this just a way for people to make a quick buck by being middlemen? I think it’s all about the money, but I have long disliked these schemes.

Immanuel Kant developed a formula to determine whether or not any given action was moral or immoral. Here’s how Wikipedia defines it:

1. Find the agent’s maxim. The maxim is an action paired with its motivation. Example: “I will lie for personal benefit.” Lying is the action, the motivation is to get what you desire. Paired together they form the maxim.
2. Imagine a possible world in which everyone in a similar position to the real-world agent followed that maxim.
3. Decide whether any contradictions or irrationalities arise in the possible world as a result of following the maxim.
4. If a contradiction or irrationality arises, acting on that maxim is not allowed in the real world.
5. If there is no contradiction, then acting on that maxim is permissible, and in some instances required.

To sum it up in simpler language, you must ask yourself the question, “How would the world be if everyone did what I’m thinking about doing?” If the world would be worse if everyone acted in a particular way, then that action is not moral; conversely, if the world would be better, then the action is moral and advisable. In the Wiki example, if everyone lied for personal benefit, the world would be worse since we couldn’t trust anyone, and our society runs on trust. So would the world be better if everyone engaged in pump-and-dump plans as espoused by Carleton Sheets? I say it would be worse since it would jack up housing prices to even greater heights, and it is hard enough already for people to break into the housing market for the first time. As long-time renters, my wife and I certainly don’t want home ownership to become any more difficult to attain.

Then again, I have to ask myself whether it’s even worthwhile to aspire to home ownership when some bureaucrat could take my real estate away on the slimmest pretext, thanks to the Supreme Court’s buttheaded ruling on Kelo vs. New London. If everyone were to use the Kelo decision to take people’s homes, the world definitely would be a worse place. Time for the Supreme Court to reread their Kant. And speaking of philosophers in general and Kant in particular, the following Monty Python song always pops into my mind. Warning: potty-mouthed Eric Idle about 60 seconds in.

All together now: “Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimmanuel Kant was a real pissant…”

The Good and Bad of Election Laws

There is good and bad news about the upcoming election. The good news is that there are only a few more days until the election, which means the campaign ads will go away soon. The bad news is that we only have a few days before the election, and we’ll have to live with the results for the next two years. I’m more than ready for the constant polling calls to stop:

Annoying pollster: “If the election were held today, would you vote for the Democrat or Republican candidate for governor?”
Annoyed me: “Neither, because I’d be unaware that the election had been changed from Nov. 7th.” *click*

[As the person fielding most of these calls, I'm getting reeeeeeally tired of 'em. My response to a recent call:
Clueless shill: "Hi, I'm (name) from (annoying organization) and I know you've been getting a lot of political calls, but--"
Me: "You're right, I have. Goodbye." *click* --TPK]

Speaking of things annoying, Oregonians mail in their ballots. There is no going to your local precinct to vote for the people you want to represent you. Instead, we vote by mail for our candidates of choice, hoping that our votes are not overshadowed by those of illegal voters. And it’s trivially simple for someone to register illegally here in Oregon. Here are the options you can use to identify yourself as an Oregon voter if you don’t have a valid Oregon driver’s license, ID, or Social Security number:

If you do not have a current, valid Oregon DMV Driver’s License/ID or a Social Security number, you must affirm this on the voter registration card, and if you are registering by mail, you must provide a copy of one of the following:

• valid photo identification
• a paycheck stub
• a utility bill
• a bank statement
• a government document
• proof of eligibility under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) or the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act (VAEH)

And all these documents prove U.S. citizenship and Oregon residence? Hardly! But these are the “new laws” that require people to identify themselves with one of the above by mail. Previous laws were even less stringent, if I can use that word to describe this lax law. Saying there is voter fraud in Oregon is like saying there are hemp products at Burning Man. It’s not a question of “if,” but a question of “how much.”

But not all the voting news is bad. The Supreme Court has allowed an Arizona law requiring photo ID at the voting booth to take effect for the 2006 election day. Proposition 200 was passed in Arizona in 2004, but the 9th Circus Circuit Court of Appeals put the kibosh on voter ID for two years. Requiring a photo ID is too much of a hardship for the poor and/or elderly, don’t you know. But is it really? Here’s the final paragraph from the news article summing up the Supreme Court’s action:

In order to cast a ballot at the polls, voters must show a photo ID with current street address or two forms of identification, such as a utility bill or car registration, with name and street address.

So if you don’t have a photo ID with current street address, such as a driver’s license, then two forms of identification are good enough. Pray tell, where is the hardship in providing a utility bill? I guess it’s a difficult thing if you are an illegal alien, but it’s not that much of a hardship for a legal resident.

And legal voting should be something we encourage.

An 8-0 Supreme Court Ruling on Military Recruiting

With a unanimous vote, the Supreme Court overturned the Third Circuit District Court’s previous ruling on the Solomon Amendment. The Solomon Amendment says that colleges and universities that take U.S. government money must allow military recruiters on campus.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that colleges that accept federal money must allow military recruiters on campus, despite university objections to the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays.

Justices rejected a free-speech challenge from law schools and their professors who claimed they should not be forced to associate with military recruiters or promote their campus appearances.

“The Solomon Amendment regulates conduct, not speech,” Roberts said. “It affects what law schools must do — afford equal access to military recruiters — not what they may or may not say. ..(It) neither limits what the law schools may say nor requires them to say anything.”

“We have held that high school students can appreciate the difference between speech a school sponsors and speech the school permits,” he wrote, referring to a decision that allowed a Bible study group to meet on campus at a high school. “Surely students have not lost that ability by the time they get to law school,” Roberts said.

Let me say again that this was a unanimous decision. This is the Supreme Court calling the U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania a bunch of legal hicks.

To quote the old truck in Pixar’s upcoming movie Cars:

Let Freedom Ring!

On July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress declared that the political ties between the thirteen colonies and England were sundered. We look at July 4th as the birthday of our nation, but it took years of fighting to force Britain to recognize our separation and independence from them. Our Constitution was ratified in 1789, and our nation has been running under the Constitution for the two centuries since.

The Constitution is what gives the federal government power, and it was a radical change from the way governments had been previously set up. Before the writing of the Constitution, power was seen to flow from the ruler(s) to the people only as the rulers saw fit. But the Constitution recognizes that all power and authority resides with the people, and that we the people grant power and authority to the government to act in our name. Americans are citizens and the source of power in the U.S. Britons are subjects, and the crown and government rules them. That is a major difference.

We are sovereign and should not be subject to the government, other than in those narrow areas where we the people granted the government power. An American citizen cannot make a treaty with another nation; that is a power we granted the government, and you can read what authority to make laws we granted the Congress in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. That section outlines those few areas where Congress may legislate. But it is in the nature of people and bureaucracies to take more power for themselves over time.

The members of Congress were told that they have power “To regulate Commerce … among the several States,” but this means that commerce within a state is not in their purview. But that limitation doesn’t matter to Congress — all they have to do is expand the definition of interstate commerce. If I use electricity in my business (and who doesn’t?), Congress feels it may legislate my small shop because the electricity could have come from a plant in another state.

Recently we saw that the Supreme Court declared that home-grown and home-consumed marijuana somehow counts as “interstate commerce” because the patients are not buying their weed from out-of-state growers. Using this same logic, I am affecting every other state’s economy by not buying items from them.

There is a joke among us geeks: “2 + 2 = 5, for very large values of 2.” And if you are free to define what 2 is, you can make this equation true. The Supreme Court has already done so with their definition of what constitutes “interstate commerce.” As a common plebe who isn’t as wise and educated in the nuances of the law, I understand interstate commerce to be the buying and selling of stuff (that’s the commerce part) that is done across state lines (that’s the interstate part). But my definition just isn’t sufficient for the nine Justices in black. A person can be taking part in interstate commerce if he is buying or selling something within a state, but which would affect someone else in another state. The camel’s nose of interstate commerce has allowed the entire camel, his family, the Congress, staffers, and parasitic hangers-on to enter the tent. It’s a bit crowded now, so the Supreme Court has tossed out some freedoms to make room. I hope you don’t mind, but it’s what happens when people change the definition of words.

And speaking of the Supreme Court, they hit the news again recently with a new ruling. The Fifth Amendment ends with “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

This taking of private property for public use is called “eminent domain,” and it has been used in our nation’s history to get the land needed for highways and railroads. It has been used to take both public and private land from the state of Utah to create the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The need to take the land from the former land owners must be justified by the nebulous “public good.” Ordinarily this means making a public road that the majority of people will use. But in the case of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the public good was paying back the environmental nuts who supported President Clinton, and permanently putting off limits the only known American deposits of low-sulfur coal. But I digress.

“Public use” means something. And it most certainly does not mean taking the property from one private person to give to another private person with the expectation that the government doing the taking will get more tax revenue after the transfer. But five Justices, specifically John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Anthony Kennedy, saw the redistribution of private property from one private person to another as a public good. The Ornithophobe does a grand job of summing up the decision this way:

Imagine it. Your home brings in say, \$800.00 a year in taxes. That same property, commercially zoned, could be worth three times that in tax revenue, to say nothing of the economic impact of additional job revenue. THERE IS NOW NOTHING TO PREVENT THEM FROM SEIZING YOUR HOME, AND GIVING IT TO A BUSINESS/DEVELOPER/CORPORATION. That’s what this decision means. You no longer own your own home. You have it conditionally on the sufferance of your local government, and if they so choose, they can take it. For any reason, or no reason at all.

I have come to the realization that this one Supreme Court decision has destroyed private property ownership in the United States. Thanks to these five Justices, you no longer own the land you are living on — you are merely a steward holding the land until the government sees fit to take it from you. Sure, they are supposed to give you “just compensation” for the snatched land, but that’s not been true for many decades. It is common for a city to condemn the building, regardless of its condition or worth, before exercising eminent domain. This makes the building essentially worthless, so any evaluation of the property value is on the land only. My wife wondered if this Supreme Court ruling would have an effect on housing costs in this nation. After all, why buy a home when some local government could jump in and take it for some nebulous public good at any time?

The Constitution means something, and it isn’t as confusing as four men and a woman may think it is. Had this ruling come down in 1775, it would have been included in the list of objections against the British government as outlined in the Declaration of Independence. And it is possible that a hot-headed band like the Boston Tea Party could have visited their displeasure on anyone who would be willing to condone the taking of one man’s property to give to another.

But this happened in 2005, where we have grown ever more tolerant of government excesses. And while today is Independence Day, I fear that in too many ways we are far from free from tyrannical government.

When States and D.C. Collide

The Supreme Court recently ruled that federal marijuana laws trump state laws, so if a state like California or Oregon passes a law allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for medicinal use, federal agents can thumb their collective noses at the state laws and arrest the medicinal pot-user for violating federal laws.

When I first heard the Supreme Court decision announced on the radio, I nodded my head and agreed with the decision. After all, federal laws do trump state laws. That’s how our system works. But later I read more about the actual case and the judges’ arguments, both pro and con. Armed with real knowledge rather than sound bites, my thoughts on the decision changed.

There are currently eleven states that have medical marijuana laws: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Arizona is unlike the other states in that it doesn’t have a process in place to handle medical marijuana. These laws have either been passed by the state legislature, or were initiatives passed by the voice of the people.

Starting in 2001, federal Drug Enforcement Agency officers started to raid and arrest people in California who had been granted marijuana by doctors. Angel Raich was arrested because she had marijuana to treat her brain cancer, and she sued then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, arguing that the Federal Government had no right to prosecute in this state issue. Federal attorneys argued that the Federal Government did have authority to override state laws. And six of the nine Supreme Court Justices agreed with the federal lawyers.

Now that we know a bit more about the argument behind the case, we have reached the crux of the matter — when the state and federal laws are in conflict, which one has priority? The answer is simple — the federal laws trump the state laws when there is a conflict. But there is one important hurdle that must be crossed by the federal laws before they can push the state laws aside — the Constitution must grant some branch of the Federal Government power and authority over that issue. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution outlines the powers of the Congress and what they may make laws about. Go read that part of the Constitution and find the part that grants the Federal Government the right and authority to trump the states’ medical marijuana laws. Go ahead and read it. It’s only 416 words long. I’ll wait here.

Done? Good. Did you find the part that grants the feds the right to snub the states’ medical marijuana laws? You probably missed it because it doesn’t appear to apply the first time you read it. The key part is known as the Commerce Clause, which reads, “To regulate Commerce … among the several States…” You may ask yourself, “Self, what does Joe Sickly getting marijuana seeds from his doctor, growing some plants for himself, and smoking it at home have to do with interstate commerce?” After all, at no point do money or goods flow across any state lines, and isn’t that what interstate commerce is supposed to be? You may think that, but such a simplistic definition just won’t do if you are one of the six learned masters of the law who sit on the Supreme Court bench and who ruled against Angel Raich.

The majority of the Supreme Court justices in their combined wisdom declared that because Joe Sickly is growing his own weed, he is affecting — by not spending money — the illegal drug dealers who grow and transport marijuana across state lines. So the six in robes said that Joe Sickly’s home-grown leaf is affecting interstate commerce. By this logic, I could claim that my working in one state affects every employer in every other state because I am not working for them. With convoluted logic like this in place, there is no limit to any aspect of your daily life that the Federal Government could not legislate and control.

If the Commerce Clause can be twisted to grant the Federal Government power and authority over something as truly “home-grown” as medical marijuana, then we no longer have fifty states and the old concept of federalism has vanished. The Federal Government could justify writing and enforcing any law about any aspect of our lives, and the Supreme Court could support the federal laws because of a warped reading of the Commerce Clause. If this is the way the U.S. runs now, we have one monolithic Federal Government that can govern every aspect of our lives, and the fifty states are nothing more than dotted boundary lines with no authority any more. This would also mean that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments have been nullified by the Federal Government. Federalism has died, and we have a single centralized government that controls all.

Justice Clarence Thomas spots the monster loophole of the Commerce Clause in his dissenting statement:

Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.

I’ll say it again — we need judges who will judge the law as it is written. We need judges who will not create new and expanded definitions of the phrase “interstate commerce.” We don’t need judges who look to international consensus to tell us what the U.S. Constitution means. We need judges who will look at the Constitution as a document that means what it says, and not what it can be twisted into saying.

The Senate and Judges

(BORING GOVERNMENT ARTICLE ALERT! If you are frustrated to tears with governmental inner workings, skip this and read something funnier.)

The U.S. Senate is in a tizzy. Well, more accurately, the Democrat senators are in a tizzy. You see, the President has the Constitutional responsibility to select people to fill roles in the judiciary, but the judges need to be passed to the Senate for “Advise and Consent.” It only takes 51 votes of the current 100 senators to confirm the nomination. That’s all it takes, and the Constitution is mute about the need for more than a simple majority to confirm a judge. There are other instances in the Constitution that require more than a simple majority of the Senate. Amendments, treaty ratifications, and impeachment convictions are three examples of votes requiring more than a simple majority. The passing of a law, as well as the confirmation of a judge, only requires a simple majority–51 votes.

Some things don’t appear in the Constitution which are part of the internal rules and procedures of the Senate. A classic example of this is the motion of cloture. Members of the Senate may debate about the nature of a bill before them and, normally, speak for as long as they wish. To move from this discussion phase to an actual vote requires a procedural act of the Senate and the agreement of 60 senators. When a motion for cloture is proposed, there are some limits imposed upon the senators about the bill. Each senator may only address the Senate twice about the bill in question, and each senator may only talk for one hour in total. There is also a 30-hour limit imposed. Once the 30 hours have passed, the vote on the motion of cloture is taken. If there are 60 or more votes, the bill may be actually voted on. It then requires only 51 votes to pass the bill.

Another particular aspect of the Senate workings is the filibuster. A senator may stand and discourse on the subject at hand, or on any other subject he chooses. In fact, if he follows the rules of debate, he can talk for as long as he is able to do so. At times when a band of senators are riled up enough against a bill, they could gang up to drag out the Senate procedures to delay a bill or even prevent it from being voted on altogether. This fit with the Senate idea that any senator could stand and talk about any subject: favorite recipes, quotations from the phone book, your dog Billy, or even the bill at hand. In the 1930s, Senator Hugh B. Long used the filibuster to delay and stop many bills with his recipes and readings from Shakespeare. His longest filibuster lasted 15 hours. The longest filibuster on record is held by Senator Strom Thurmond, who held the floor for 24 hours and 18 minutes when debating against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

But the most famous filibuster of all time didn’t happen in the Senate. It isn’t even real. It comes from the Frank Capra movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, where Jimmy Stewart pleads passionately to his colleagues, talking himself hoarse as he stands alone against the rest of the Senate. The movie suffers from one factual goof–it couldn’t have happened that way. Back in 1917, the Senate adopted Rule 22 that allowed for a motion of cloture to stop a filibuster if enough votes were gathered. The days of a lone senator being able to stand up, blather on, and stop the rest of the other senators from proceeding were gone with the adoption of that rule. Since 1917, the Senate rules about debate have changed many times. What do the filibuster and the motion of cloture have to do with the Constitution? Well, actually, neither one appears in the Constitution as they are both part of the internal rules voted on by the Senate for its own purposes.

Why do I bring this stuff up? Because many Democrat senators are currently riled up over a proposed change to the Senate internal rules. To put it simply, it takes 60 votes to pass a motion of cloture, but only 51 votes to pass a bill or confirm a nomination. The new rules would apply only to judicial nominees. It would still require the 51 votes to confirm that person, but it would make it easier to pass a motion of cloture. The first motion would still require the 60+ votes. The next would require less, and the next even less. I believe it is the fourth motion of cloture for a nominee that requires only 51 votes to pass. And at that point, the vote for the nomination could proceed. This proposed change in the rules has been called the “Nuclear Option”–a poor choice of words. The change is being proposed because the most important judicial nominees have consistently been held up by Senate Democrats. With the possibility of multiple Supreme Court positions to be filled in President Bush’s last term, the Democrats don’t want to make this process any easier for the Republicans.

On March 16th, moveon.org held a rally with several Democrat speakers (full transcripts here). Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia said the following:

An ill wind is blowing across this country. That wind sows the seeds of destruction. Our Constitution is under attack. We must speak out. We must kill this dangerous effort to rewrite our precious Constitution. Your freedom of speech is in jeopardy. Your freedom. My freedom of speech is in jeopardy. Some in the United States Senate want to bully the American people and the Senate and force feed us far right wing judges. We cannot let them do it. Don’t let them do it. Speak out. Tell the people. Get the people. Get the people. We cannot let them do it. Their view of the Constitution is based on the opinions of a fancy Washington law firm. Our view, your view, of the Constitution is based on the plain words of the framers who wrote that Constitution.

The opponents of the filibuster, the opponents of freedom of speech, say that we don’t need 217 years of American history. Oh no. According to the opponents of the filibuster, 217 years of history is a bore. It’s simply passe. Old hat. Well they say the Constitution is stale bread. The opponents of free speech see no need to rely on Jefferson. To rely on Franklin. To rely on Madison. To rely on Hamilton. They want to nuke. Nuke. N-U-K-E. They want to nuke debate in the Senate, and stand the Senate rules on their head.

I find it interesting that a Democrat would call for “plain words” to understand the Constitution. It really isn’t that hard to understand, but it is a pity that the Supreme Court doesn’t agree. They have been ignoring what the Constitution says, relying on the opinions and laws of other nations to make some of their recent decisions. But what Senator Byrd failed to say was that he, himself, led the charge to change the filibuster rules four times when he led the Senate. So much for 217 years of history.

Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton claimed to be able to read the minds of her Republican colleagues, and messed up a movie reference for good measure:

You know, I serve with a lot of Republican Senators with whom I have worked. Some much to my amazement, to tell you the truth, that I am working with, on issues that are important to New York and America. I know that a number of them have serious doubts about the wisdom of this. They know kinda deep down in their gut this is not a good thing to do. To upend the way the Senate has operated, just because you can for sheer political power? For partisan advantage? To basically end minority rights? To go ahead and consign Mr. Smith Goes To Washington to the dustbin of history?

I have already pointed out that the unlimited filibuster died in 1917, but that doesn’t stop people like Senators Byrd and Clinton from pretending otherwise as they talk about Frank Capra’s fictional movie and the equally fictitious claim of 217 years of unchanged filibuster history. But Senator Barbara Boxer really takes the cake as the senator who speaks the plain truth about what the Democrat senators have been doing.

Why would we give lifetime appointments to people who earn up to \$200,000 a year, with absolutely a great retirement system, and all the things all Americans wish for, with absolutely no check and balance except that one confirmation vote. So we’re saying we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required. That isn’t too much to ask for such a super important position. There ought to be a super vote. Don’t you think so? It’s the only check and balance on these people. They’re in for life. They don’t stand for election like we do, which is scary. [emphasis mine]

So much for the vaunted Constitution and history! Senator Boxer thinks that the judicial nominees with whom Democrats disagree should require 60 votes instead of the Constitutional 51, solely because Democrats want it to be the case. Listen closely–you can hear the Democrat cry of “Waaah! We’re not in power!” wherever you live.

The judicial farce surrounding the Terri Schiavo case has shown a desperate need for judges who understand the Constitution. When Congress passed the bill that President Bush signed into law, telling the federal courts to look into the Schiavo case de novo, rather than doing what Congress had the authority to tell them to do, the judges went against the will of our elected representatives. America needs judges that will look at the Constitution and base their decisions on what it says–not what they think it says, or what they think it ought to say, or what other people in other countries think, but what the text actually says. Sadly, it appears there are not enough senators with the necessary backbone to make the “nuclear option” a reality. This means that the Democrats will be able to continue slowing down the process of swearing in important judges, just because they disagree with them.

Addendum (5/26/2005): The Republicans and Democrats have reached an agreement that has put aside the nuclear option. I wish the Republicans could have held together, but some squishy types failed to come through for the party. Democrats promise suggest that they won’t mount a judicial filibuster unless there are extraordinary circumstances. But they don’t state what those are. Anyone taking bets on how long the Senate goes before the Democrats threaten to filibuster another nominee? Cox and Forkum do a good job of outlining what “extraordinary circumstances” means to Democrats.

Diversity for Diversity’s Sake

A common catch-phrase among certain crowds is “Our strength is our diversity,” or the reverse, “Our diversity is our strength.” It has become a self-evident, unquestioned concept in recent years. But is this really a hard and fast rule that we should use to govern our lives?

Certainly there are some valid reasons to seek out diversity. Lack of diversity, for instance, is one objection to cloning animals on a large scale. If one animal in the cloned herd is susceptible to a disease, then all of the animals are susceptible. One nasty contagious bug and you have lost your entire flock of cloned sheep. In this case, the flock’s diversity is definitely the flock’s strength. Does this concept apply to other aspects of human life?

The University of Michigan has hit the news twice this year regarding Supreme Court decisions dealing with diversity. The Supreme Court rulings did not make sense to me, since they tossed out a clearly-defined form of discrimination but upheld a sneaky and underhanded form of discrimination. I figure if we must have discrimination to provide diversity, it would be better to know beforehand how that discrimination will work. That may make sense to me, but not to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s opinion basically stated that the need for diversity in our society outweighed the 14th Amendment’s right to equal treatment under the law. Is diversity really that important? Will I learn chemistry better if the person sitting next to me in class is a different race, age, or gender? How, exactly, does the different skin color of the person next to me make me a better student of inorganic chemistry?

In a scene from the movie Joe vs. the Volcano, Joe’s boss Mr. Waturi asks repeatedly in a phone conversation, “I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?” Since the University of Michigan was favoring minority applicants over those with higher GPAs and test scores, the university was in essence saying that it valued enrollment of minority students more than it was concerned with their preparedness and readiness to succeed in college — that it was more concerned about minority students “getting the job” than being able to “do the job.” And yes, minority drop-out rates are greater in schools that give preference to race over ability. Do you notice the racism the University of Michigan is displaying? It is not asking for the best and brightest students. If you happen to be a minority, you are not held to the same standard as others who apply. The University believes that you cannot possibly do as well as other students, so it condescendingly lowers the bar to allow you in. Are you comfortable with the thought that the University of Michigan believes you are incapable of competing with other students because you are part of a minority group? This is racism.

I am not saying minority students are any less able, but if a school sets a standard of a cumulative SAT score of 1300 for entrance and lowers the requirement to 1000 for a specific group, then we should not be surprised to see that second group struggling with performance in school. This bar-lowering does not have to be associated with race. For instance, most prospective firefighters are required to lift a 150-pound load and carry it at least 500 yards; if that requirement is lowered or ignored for female firefighters, the end result will be a number of firefighters who could not successfully pick you up and carry you out of a burning building. Would you be comfortable with that if you were trapped in a burning house? Has a sexually diverse workplace made the firefighters better at their jobs? It has not if the basic requirements have been lowered just to promote diversity. The principle is sound — if you lower expectations, you will get less skilled people.

Since the last paragraph discusses generalities, let me use a specific example of diversity run amok. Opinion writer Michelle Malkin wrote about how discrimination in the name of diversity has affected two people. Patrick Chavis was admitted to the University of California-Davis medical school under a special quota program for minorities. Allan Bakke, who had higher scores than Chavis, was not admitted because he did not have the right skin color. Both Sen. Ted Kennedy and Jane Fonda’s ex-husband Tom Hayden stood up for Chavis and praised the decision to admit him over some other guy because of his minority status. Sen. Kennedy proclaimed that Chavis was “making a difference in the lives of scores of poor families.” And what a difference he made.

Malkin proceeds to describe the nature of the “difference” Chavis made: “An administrative law judge found Chavis guilty of gross negligence and incompetence in the treatment of three patients. Yolanda Mukhalian lost 70 percent of her blood after Chavis hid her in his home for 40 hours following a bungled liposuction; she miraculously survived. The other survivor, Valerie Lawrence, also experienced severe bleeding following the surgery; after Lawrence’s sister took her to a hospital emergency room, Chavis barged in and discharged his suffering patient — still hooked up to her IV and catheter — and also stashed her in his home. Tammaria Cotton bled to death and suffered full cardiac arrest after Chavis performed fly-by-night liposuction on her and then disappeared …. In 1997, the Medical Board of California suspended Chavis’ license, warning of his ‘inability to perform some of the most basic duties required of a physician.’”

Here is the liberal Left’s poster boy for diversity through discrimination, performing horribly. Chavis has since died, the victim of a shooting, but who knows how many people continue to suffer or who bear the scars of his ineptitude? Tell me honestly, which doctor would you choose to perform emergency open-heart surgery on you: the surgeon who was top of the graduating class, or the one who got into medical school not because of fine skills or good grades, but because of skin color or gender?

I like diversity. Without it, my life would be one boring continuous slog through sameness. I love different foods, different people, different scenery, different experiences. But this diversity comes because I desire it — there is no need for some bureaucrat to mandate it into my life. True diversity comes from the freedom to choose the best. During the years I worked for Microsoft, I became friends with team members from Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, Ireland, Italy, England, Syria, Canada, and all over the United States. These talented men and women were picked because they excelled in their chosen profession, not because of their looks or background. And because the best people were picked for the job, the natural outcome was a wide diversity of people, ideas and backgrounds. It was freedom, not the underground racist cry for diversity at all costs, which made this possible.

Addendum: In November Sen. Edward Kennedy, booze-hound, bad driver, and liberal Democrat from Massachusetts said that the Democrats will “continue to resist any Neanderthal that is nominated by this president.” When Sen. Trent Lott made some off-the-cuff joking words about Sen. Strom Thurmond at his 100th birthday celebration, the liberal Left burst a major artery with outrage. Oh, the venom that dripped from leftist pens and lips as they attacked Lott for praising someone who was once a segragationalist. Oh, the humanity! So Lott, as Republicans tend to do, fell on his own sword and stepped down as the Majority Leader of the Senate.

Now we have some hateful words spoken in dead earnest, and you barely hear a comment about it. Here is a quick and dirty search I did on “Lott Thurmond” and “Neanderthal Kennedy” looking just for these issues:

 Kennedy Lott CNN 0 40+ CBS News 0 1 MSNBC 0 2 ABC News 0 20+ FOX News 2 20+

Notice the trend here? I thought you might.