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Does Affirmative Action hurt real people?

Meet Meaghan Cheung, whom Lawrence Auster succinctly calls "the SEC's female Inspector Clouseau." Read about how Cheung gave Madoff a clean bill of health despite explicit warnings from Henry Markopolous. Read about how Markopolous wrote in an e-mail, "In my conversations with her, I did not believe that she had the derivatives or mathematical background to understand the violation." Then read about how Cheung's response to all of this is not to say, "Gee, did I really know what the heck I was doing?" but rather is to break out the violins, appeal to chivalry, and tell the New York Post how she burst into tears on the airplane with her children when she read about Markopolous's e-mail in the New York Times. She also tells us about how hard she's worked for ten years for her career and reputation and how this has destroyed her reputation in a month. And how.

Do I know for a fact that Cheung got where she is by affirmative action--somewhere along the way, perhaps at multiple points along the way? No, in the sense that I have no other specific evidence about Cheung. But I have seen so many cases in academe of women who are given a pass, who are pushed ahead above their level of competence, and I can only imagine how much stronger the pressures for that sort of thing must be in government. And whom does it hurt? Maybe now we know.

Comments (21)

It has profoundly affected my life. There was an incident involving a functionally illiterate black girl, a select position in a Master's of Public Health program, and my wife. The costs were tremendous, in fact permanently life-altering.

Which is why I was so relieved when Sandra Day O'Connor declared that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and 1965 Civil Rights Act would, after perhaps another 25 years or so, render that sort of thing quite illegal.

That she was so quick to resort to the "imagine how I feel" whine casts a lot of doubt that this person went many places in life on the strength of her talents and character and her relentless determination.

If she can't handle the mild inquisitions of journalists, how was she supposed to combat the blusters and bluffs of fraudsters?

It's interesting to think that the proximate cause of the failure of the authorities to detect and stop Madoff's monstrous fraud was affirmative action for women.

Just as the initial cause of the mortgage and finance disaster was affirmative action for blacks and Hispanics.

How likely is it that liberals (including Republican liberals) will admit these things, given that the admission would discredit the organizing principle of modern liberal society?

I fully admit that this is conjectural. Much more conjectural than the connection between the mortgage collapse and ACORN. And there have been plenty of bumbling male bureaucrats in the history of the world. _But_ Markopolous's e-mail is striking. And one thing that is striking about it to me, speaking anecdotally, is the sense one gets that Markopolous saw a woman who was not competent to make the evaluation that needed to be made and who didn't know or admit that she wasn't competent and wasn't going to get the help she needed. In the interview Cheung says that they have "experts to help them." Maybe she got "expert" advice and the experts, too, were bamboozled. But I'm suspicious. I've seen things like this happen before: Women in important positions who feel defensive and do not want to admit that they are bluffing, that they don't know enough, don't want to yell for help. In a position like hers, that sort of attitude could cause a lot of harm.

But I stress again that this is conjecture.

I (a white male) was rejected from medical school because of AA. My black female friend saw my application, transcripts, etc. and told me that many of her black friends got into medical school with half the qualifications. AA is a terrible, pernicious thing. It is hard to shake the sting of being personally affected by this.

But hasn't datedog heard that we're beyond race now?

Of course, that notion is immediately shown to be a fraud by the fact that, duh, all the race-based programs in this country remain in place and, apart from Ward Connerly, there's not the slightest intention or effort to get rid of them.

What happened to datedog stings because it is an injustice, real injustice. Modern liberalism, group equality liberalism, means the end of justice and even of the belief in justice. That's why almost everyone has accepted it.

The system of minority race preferences will be overturned when white peoiple finally get angry--righteously, uncompromisingly angry--at the INJUSTICE of it. Not until then.

Daledog, why would you blame your not getting into medical school on a few black students that comprise any medical school class at a given time, when you have so many legacy admissions like George Bush who get into competitive programs only because their forefathers went there. They are the ones that have been given preferential treatment for generations, why not fight for their seats, there are more of them than there are blacks in any program.

I have no idea where your "black" friend's friends went to medical school, but the blacks at my medical school were not only smart but also tended to be more empathic than the rest of us. Take responsiblity for your own shortcomings, fight those that are truly oppressing you and leave black people alone. They have fought hard to have the opportunities that they were unjustly denied for so long. I guess it is human nature to pick on those that you wrongy perceive to be weaker, while letting the real culprits continue to take advantage.

Ella, affirmative action equals lowered standards for non-whites, which means positive discrimination against whites as whites. Your anecdote about knowing some smart blacks does nothing to change this basic fact, which you seem not even to appreciate or acknowledge.

When I was contemplating writing this post, I was reminded of a story I read in Reader's Digest a long time ago. (I wonder if they'd print it now.) It was an anecdote about a prof. of some extremely hard subject--physics, I think--who had a class in that subject that for some reason had a large proportion of pre-med students. At one point a trollish student spoke out of turn and said, "What's the point of this stuff, anyway?" Words to that effect. And the professor, without missing a beat, said, "To save lives." Everyone was baffled, so the prof. went on to explain how even things that don't seem immediately relevant to some practical end (like being a doctor) help to screen out the weaklings of the pack, as it were, so that only the sharpest end up in crucial areas like medicine.

Being empathic is all very well and good, but I'll trade it any day for a person who knows what the dickens he is doing in his job. And the same is, obviously, true of an SEC inspector. And I'll bet we would hear about how much more "empathic" women are, too.

I should have mentioned that my black friend was talking about the same schools that I applied to in Illinois. It's not as if I was comparing my rejection from Stanford to a black applicant with lower qualifications being accepted to a medical school in Granada. I did have some basis for comparison. Also, who said I was blaming blacks? Who can blame anyone for getting a leg up on the competition because they were born with the correct skin color?

Ella, what kind of argument was that? Were you even intending to be persuasive or just smugly dismissive of someone who believes he was treated unfairly?

If I were feeling particularly mischievous, I would remark on the fact that she went to Yale instead of Harvard. :)

But in the interest of giving at least some air of objectivity, my impression is that certain schools tend to encourage an exaggerated sense of a student's competency, often to the point that graduates believe that no work product they produce could possibly be inadequate. It's not even that they won't ask questions for fear of appearing weak, but rather that there is such a sense of overweening confidence that they don't perceive the need to do so. Her reaction of (apparently) unfeigned shock seems to be more along the lines of "Mistake? How could *I* make a mistake?"

Put it this way: I have talked to more than one engineering manager whose department or company had a "Don't interview at Stanford" policy. The reasons for those policies were quite consistent: the interviewees had the attitude that they were doing the company a favor to work for them, they expected compensation far out of line with their experience or value, and they took a longer time to actually become valuable contributors because they didn't come in with the attitude that they needed to learn how to do their jobs in order to become good at them. Given my experience, which has included some backhanded compliments to the effect of "Wow, you're a lot easier to work with than I would have expected from your resume," I don't think the phenomenon of Ivy League-o can be easily discounted in general, and it sure seems to fit this case.


If I were feeling particularly mischievous, I would remark on the fact that she went to Yale instead of Harvard. :)

This is one fine remark, especially coming from a Crimson.

Also, might I note that you had, in fact, made such remark contrary to what's said in the above preface?

Moreover, I should counsel you take care of any seemingly insidious intimation concerning the Yalies, as this blog (at least, in my estimation) remarkably and supremely consists of conservative devotees dedicated to the pristine memory and politics of the Great Bill Buckley, an alum of that fine institution (or so it is said), and fervent admirers such as these might not take too kindly to remarks suggestive of anything short of fawning either by association or otherwise.

I'm not a fervent admirer of Bill Buckley. But perhaps now is not the best time to say so.

That's a very interesting different take, Jonathan. It had not occurred to me. I suppose what I noticed most of all was a) the fact that she _didn't_ appear to have the necessary knowledge and b) the whining about all the personal implications of this for her life. Those seemed "feminine" to me.

Also, might I note that you had, in fact, made such remark contrary to what's said in the above preface?

Oh, I thought that my last sentence would have intimated that I was not excluding even my own Ivy League institution from this list. If there is any doubt, everything I said *definitely* applies to Harvard grads.

And yeah, yeah, both places have definitely graduated some good conservatives, but if you want a *real* conservative school that is also an academic heavy-hitter, then clearly Texas A&M, proud home of Yalie George H.W. Bush's Presidential Library, is the best choice.

That's a very interesting different take, Jonathan. It had not occurred to me.

Perhaps I'm just cynical because of my own experience. For instance, I was TAing a vector calculus class at Harvard, and a student and I got to talking about how I ended up at HLS. When I mentioned that I been a physics major at A&M, she said "Oh, yeah, I can understand that. Go to a state school, take it easy, have some fun." I kinda chuckled and said "I'm pretty sure the laws of physics are the same at a state school." But you have to sympathize a bit, because in high school, where you go to college is *such* a big deal. And these 18-year-old kids (if that) that get in are constantly told that the future of the world is basically resting on their shoulders. That's bound to be a hard thing to get a handle on at that age, and I imagine plenty of them never quite do get a handle on it.


I see that you seem to have caught the gist of those teasing remarks. In any case, glad to have you onboard!

I'm no admirer of Buckley, either. And if you say, "Reagan!" and sit back waiting for me to swoon, you'll have a long wait.

Affirmative action has been a disgrace. What angers me most is how it has been imposed upon us by White Congressmen and Senators who never work with or live among blacks.

There are a lot of good comments on this post about how real people have personally been effected by losing opportunities they were qualifed for to people whose best qualification for the job was that they were black. How about when you work among a few blacks who know they are a protected class and it's harder to fire them how about that? Morale is low. It sucks to see black employees get away with being rude and being slackers.

Civil service workers used to be people who cared and who wanted to work. Go into a county courthouse or DMV office in Alabama or Florida. Blacks who staff these jobs have jobs for life and no motivation to actually work.

It's bad too when black companies get favorable treatment in bidding for contracts. Then whole businesses and communities suffer. End affirmative action.

I recently moved to Atlanta, and after a year, have not been able to find a single job having literally applied to any kind of retail, warehousing, fast food, dishwasher job you can think of. I have only worked two jobs since I was 15 years old, staying nearly four years at each, and left on the best of terms. Since last year I have only been on two interviews and felt that I had done extremely well on both. However, I can never get a call back, and when I call them, they always give the "We are still doing interviws." song and dance. When we go anywhere around here, you never see a white person working. Everyone is hispanic, asian or of African descent. It's quite ridiculous. The only white people seem to be the police and those are few and far between.

The economy isn't helping this situation either. Tax breaks for comapnies that hire minorities HAS to be stopped. I feel that this is the reason I have not been hired. Literally 250+ applications, and only two interviews? Something doesn't add up. I've even applied for McDonald's that were actively hiring on various occasions and have heard nothing. You would think that four years at Chick-Fil-A more than qualifies me for working in fast food. AA is ruining this nation. What ever happened to hiring someone based on their ability and willingness to put forth 110%?

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