Two stubborn individuals have done more than anyone to slow the Obama political juggernaut over the last month— Frank Ricci and James Crowley.
Ricci, of course, is the New Haven, CT fireman whose June 29th Supreme Court victory, overturning Sonia Sotomayor's decision in favor of cheating him out of his hard-earned promotion, put the damper on her Senate hearings. Her rebuke by the Supreme Court in Ricci transformed her hearings from a celebration of the first Latina nominee into a dismal, hunkered-down exercise in dissimulation and damage control.
And Crowley is the Cambridge, MA policeman who showed the character and courage that past targets of Two Minute Hates like geneticist James D. Watson and Harvard President Larry Summers fatally lacked when Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard African-American Studies impresario, threw an unprovoked temper tantrum and falsely accused Crowley of racism.
At Thursday's press conference, Barack Obama, in a textbook example of racial prejudice, essentially prejudged the Gates-Crowley confrontation based only on Gates' side of the story—plus the President's own abundant (but generally better-concealed) personal resentments about race.
Any white bigshot would have wilted under this double-barreled attack. But Crowley simply stood his ground. On Friday, Obama blinked first.
Interestingly, both Ricci and Crowley are not the kind of folks the Republican Party has focused upon representing in the 21st Century. They are Northeasterners, civil servants, and union men. Indeed, their unions' strong opposition to the racial spoils system and to racial blackmail has been one of the keys to their fortitude.
The Bush Administration systematically worked to alienate men like Ricci and Crowley, who had worked hard to pass civil service exams.
For example, on May 21, 2007, the Department of Justice filed suit in the name of Bush crony/Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales charging the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) with violating the 1964 Civil Rights Act:
"… the United States alleges that defendant City of New York's use of two written examinations on a pass-fail basis, as well as its rank-order processing of applicants, in the screening and selection of applicants for appointment to the rank of entry-level firefighter, has resulted in disparate impact upon black and Hispanic applicants, is not "job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity" and does not otherwise meet the requirements of Title VII.[USDOJ Offical complaint, PDF]
In other words, blacks and Hispanics did worse than whites on the blind-graded written tests about firefighting given in 1999 and 2002.
That's it. That's the extent of the Bush Administration's evidence for discrimination by the FDNY.
Now, it is true that the Fire Department of New York is mostly white. Judging from their pictures, I would estimate that ten African-American firemen died at the World Trade Center on 9/11, along with perhaps twelve Hispanics, zero Asians, and 321 white firemen.
Recently, Peter Brimelow has been bugging me a lot about updating my "Sailer Strategy" analysis of how the Republican Party can cope with the worsening demographic balance caused in large measure by the lax immigration policies favored by GOP leaders such as Karl Rove and John McCain.
Well, Ricci and Crowley are part of the answer. The release of the 2008 Census survey of voters confirmed that Barack Obama motivated minorities to go to the polls, but that, in contrast, McCain turned off whites. The Associated Press reported on July 20, 2009:
"For all the attention generated by President Obama's candidacy, the share of eligible voters who actually cast ballots in November declined for the first time in a dozen years. The reason: Older whites with little interest in backing either Barack Obama or Republican Sen. John McCain stayed home. … Ohio and Pennsylvania were among those showing declines in white voters, helping Obama carry those battleground states. "[U.S. vote rate dips in '08, older whites sit out]
McCain's teaming up with Ted Kennedy to write the failed 2006 amnesty bill, and his refusal to mention Obama's obvious weak points, such as his support for racial preferences and the $53,770 he donated to Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. from 2005-2007, were disastrous.
I'll write up my Grand Plan to keep America from turning into a one-party Greater Chicago soon. (I promise!).
But may I suggest, though, that as a tiny first step in forming a potentially winning coalition, Republicans stop and rethink whether their President should have attacked the Fire Department of New York as racist?
Sure, these firemen are highly paid civil servants with a pushy union, and they're New Yorkers to boot. But … 343 of them gave their lives on 9/11.
Last Wednesday, July 22, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, a Clinton appointee, gave Bush a belated going-away present by swallowing the Gonzales Department of Justice allegations wholesale and deeming FDNY's 1999 and 2002 paper-and-pencil employment exams discriminatory against minorities solely on the grounds of Disparate Impact.
Garaufis's opinion is an amusing compendium of the sophistries that comprise the conventional wisdom of Disparate Impact legal theories.
The judge found the tests discriminatory despite being unable to find any evidence of actual discrimination. Even John Coombs, the head of the plaintiff, the black firefighter's Vulcan Society, couldn't identify specific problems. Newsday reported:
"Asked to point out questions he considered discriminatory on the exam, Coombs said, 'I'm not going to answer that. It's irrelevant.' He added, 'It's a bad exam when the exam gives you … results that are abysmal for diversity.' [Federal judge calls FDNY recruiting exams discriminatory, By Michael Frazier, July 25, 2009]
Judge Garaufis allowed Coombs' Vulcans to join the case midway through. Yet, he banned the main union, the Uniformed Firefighters Association, from participating even though they argued that New York's Bloomberg Administration was too politically ambivalent to adequately defend firemen's interests.
Stephen Cassidy, head of the UFA, pointed out:
"Basic intelligence is an important asset for firefighters, and ignoring that fact will imperil the safety of the firefighting force. … The job requires not only physical strength, but also an alert and keen mind. … Firefighters are now extensively trained to deal with hazardous materials, possible terrorism and environmental issues unknown years ago. …There is no doubt that intelligence and ability to read and understand are important traits for firefighters."
The predictive validity of written tests for performance on jobs much like firefighting has been documented by many decades of study by the U.S. military. But the Judge mentions none of this overwhelming evidence.
Garaufis's decision in Vulcan may seem bizarre in the wake of Ricci. But as I've pointed out, it's much easier for the government to discriminate against whites before they have been hired and get union and civil service protections.
The Bush Administration's claim that the test "is not job related for the position in question" was laughable. Each question is flagrantly job related. (You can see the 1999 and 2002 tests here.)
Thus Diane Cardwell of the New York Times reported on July 23 in Judge Finds Racial Bias in Fire Dept. Recruiting:
"New York City used tests that discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants to the Fire Department and had little relation to firefighting, a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled on Wednesday."
Yet, Cardwell's accompanying feature article in the same issue of the NYT, Racial Bias in Fire Exams Can Lurk in the Details, included numerous complaints that the problem with the FDNY test was that it had too much relation to firefighting:
"… firefighter entrance exams have tended to favor applicants already steeped in the ways of the job, like 'people whose dads and uncles are firefighters,' said Richard Primus, [Email him]a professor of constitutional law at the University of Michigan. … Besides, Professor Primus added, some of that knowledge is not needed to become a good firefighter. "… some of it tends to be knowledge that "firefighting junkies have, even though it is not really necessary for fighting fires.'"
Those darn "fire buffs" keep studying in their spare time how to save our lives. It's discriminatory!
Cardwell's explanation in the NYT of what's wrong with the test can most charitably be read as heavy sarcasm:
"Each exam consists of 85 multiple-choice questions about firefighting practices: the order in which a firefighter should don gear in an alarm; what the rear of a building would look like, based on its facade; the right situations in which to say 'mayday' rather than 'urgent' over the walkie-talkie.
"Nevertheless, a closer look shows that the exams also required applicants to read and understand long passages, often containing technical terms, and then answer questions about them." [Italics mine.]
"One question, for instance, follows a 250-word description of the use and maintenance of portable power saws …"
I'm sorry, but portable power saws, especially the hellacious ones used by firemen to cut through steel and concrete, come with massive instruction manuals much longer than 250 words (owing to decades of product liability lawsuits, as the judge should know).
Why? Because portable power saws can be insanely dangerous. When a relative of mine was a teenager, for example, his chainsaw hit a nail buried in a tree and bucked back into his face.
If an applicant can't make sense of a 250-word text about power saw maintenance, he might well wind up on lifetime disability.
Let me explain how the FDNY hiring process worked in 1999 and 2002. (For 2007, even before the Bush Administration sued, the written test was dumbed down to increase diversity.)
A lengthy, intensive system produced quality firefighters with high esprit de corps. (John Derbyshire once told me that in his Long Island neighborhood, blue-collar women consider FDNY guys the most desirable catches as husbands; they tend to be more stable than the similarly well-paid NYPD.)
All applicants took the intensive 50+ page written test. (Study guides were provided beforehand.)
Why start with a written test? They provide a cheap and fair way for the city to drop the deadwood early in the hiring process. Also, rank-order hiring based on test scores speeds up the training of the smart guys who would make good supervisors later in their careers.
For applicants of middling intelligence, those who study firefighting hardest do best. This weeds out those who are either lazy or not committed to firefighting as a career. Moreover, encouraging applicants to study on their own before taking the test gets the winners through the expensive Fire Academy faster.
Everybody who attained the passing score (which was a large majority of test-takers) was invited back for a more expensive physical performance test (sort of like the one that Kevin James failed in his attempt to become a New Jersey state trooper in the opening scene of last winter's hit movie Paul Blart, Mall Cop).
Scores on the written and physical tests were then averaged and the best performers were called in for medical, psychological, and background checks. The survivors were invited to enroll in rank order at New York City's 27-acre Fire Academy on Randall's Island.
In 1999, 90 percent of whites, 77 percent of Hispanics, and 60 percent of blacks scored high enough on the written test to qualify for the physical test. If you use Excel's Normdist function, you'll see that the white-black gap is a (very standard) one standard deviation. The pseudonymous statistical analysis La Griffe du Lion has dubbed this one standard deviation white-black gap the Fundamental Constant of Sociology. The white-Hispanic gap was 0.54 standard deviations, which is about normal, too.
In 2002, the passing score was lowered from 85% to 70%, presumably to get around the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's notoriously innumerate Four-Fifths Rule. This says that burden of proof is on the employer to disprove illegal discrimination if the lowest scoring group doesn't pass at a rate at least 80 percent as good as the highest group. That incentivizes employers to lower standards.
Sure enough, the white passing rate to 97 percent, the Hispanic rate to 93 percent, and the black rate to 85 percent. (Hey, EEOC, 85 percent divided by 97 percent is over Four-Fifths!) Yet the racial gaps in standard deviations were only a little narrower (white-black 0.85 and white-Hispanic 0.45).
Obviously, a test that only three percent of whites flunked is not a very hard test. Still, the good news about the FDNY was that it continued to hire in rank order, so that it got the cream of the crop. In contrast, Chicago, in its efforts to avoid being charged with Disparate Impact, has made the fireman's hiring test so easy that 96 percent of whites pass; and then hiring is done by lottery. (Or, as cynics have suggested, hiring might be done in order of the applicant's number of dead relatives who voted for Mayor Daley in the last election.)
Disparate Impact theory is a cover story for corruption, incompetence, and innocent people burning to death.
No wonder the Bush Administration was for it.
No wonder there's not a McCain Administration.
President Obama's press conference should have stimulated the Republicans into waking up to a winning issue.
But, judging by their history with the FDNY, they'll likely blow it again.
[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]