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WHITE MEN CAN’T READ! Howard Kurtz bungles the UM facts too. At the Post, do they read their own paper?

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22, 2003

WHITE MEN CAN’T READ: It’s hard to believe, but the hits just keep comin’. In yesterday’s on-line column in the Post, Howard Kurtz misstated the basic facts about UM’s admission procedures. If this is the shape of our “liberal press corps,” conservatives can stop whining now:

KURTZ: What’s really unfair [with the UM system] is that the child of a black millionaire would get an advantage for admission, while the child of a struggling white truck driver would not. That’s why some advocates say the extra points should be based on income, not race, or colleges should follow the Texas-Florida model of automatically admitting the top 10 percent or 20 percent of each high school.
Incredible, isn’t it? According to Kurtz, “some advocates say the extra points should be based on income, not race.” But if the UM system works as described, extra points are awarded for income. Indeed, that “child of a struggling white truck driver” could get the same twenty points that the black student did. Is that system fair? That’s a matter of judgment. But these facts have been described again and again—by reporters in Kurtz’s own paper, for example. (Beyond clear articles by Post reporters, a detailed chart ran on Friday and Saturday.) Question: Do slackers like Kurtz and Richard Cohen ever bother to read their own paper?

Meanwhile, an update on Cohen’s remarkable column. Yesterday, we saw Cohen playing the “20/12” card (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/21/03). Let’s rerun his misleading passage:

COHEN: [A]ffirmative action sets one race against another. It elevates race—sheer skin color—to an importance it should not have. Under the Michigan system, an “underrepresented racial or ethnic minority” gets a 20-point bonus even if he or she is the child of a dentist or Wall Street analyst. A perfect scorer on the SAT would get a measly 12 points.
As we have explained before, the pair of facts which Cohen cites are grossly misleading (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/20/03). For the record, it seems that Cohen’s disinformation was deliberate. In his column, he cited several articles from Newsweek’s current edition, which covers the Michigan case in detail. But Newsweek—which does excellent work on this topic—includes this detailed recitation in an article by Barbara Kantrowitz:
KANTROWITZ: For undergraduate applicants, decisions are made on a point system. Out of a total of 150 possible points, a student can get up to 110 for academics. That includes a possible 80 points for grades and 12 points for standardized test scores. Admissions counselors then add or subtract points for the rigor of the high school (up to 10) and the difficulty of the curriculum (up to 8 for students who take the toughest courses). Applicants can get up to 40 more points for such factors as residency in underrepresented states (2 points) or Michigan residency (10 points, with a 6-point bonus for living in an underrepresented county). Being from an underrepresented minority group or from a predominantly minority high school is worth 20 points. So is being from a low-income family—even for white students. The same 20 points are awarded to athletes. Students also earn points for being related to an alumnus (up to 4 points), writing a good personal essay (up to 3 points) and participating in extracurricular activities (up to 5 points).
Almost surely, Cohen knew the full range of facts. He simply preferred to include the facts which mislead you. Did Kurtz also know the actual facts? Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t have a clue. But readers of the Washington Post need have little fear of confronting them

Are UM’s admission procedures fair? That is a matter of judgment. But you can’t decide if a system is fair unless you get a full set of facts. What’s really unfair is the system we live in—a system where millionaire pundits like Kurtz and Cohen keep bungling facts about crucial topics. Too lazy and indifferent to perform their real function—or deliberately lying to deceive the Post’s readers—Kurtz and Cohen disgrace their “profession.” Black and white teen-agers, working together, should reject the world these fakers leave them.

BROOKS BROTHER: Within your Millionaire Pundit Corps, the misinformation is simply unending. Writing on the UM matter, Maureen Dowd also bungles in this morning’s column:

DOWD: The president’s preferred way of promoting diversity in higher education is throwing money at black colleges, which is not exactly a clarion call for integration.
If you’ve spent ten seconds exploring this topic, you know that Dowd’s statement is weirdly inaccurate. Bush endlessly promotes an ill-advised plan, “affirmative access,” which he wrongly promotes as being “race neutral.” We’ll offer more thoughts on “affirmative access” at a later date. But what could Dowd (and her editor) think by printing this weirdly false statement?

Meanwhile, how silly can your Pundit Corps be when it wants to push preferred notions? The Corps can be very silly. On last Friday’s NewsHour, David Brooks hit Michigan hard. “The Michigan system, I think, is an appalling system. It’s discriminatory in the boldest, boldest sense,” he said. Here was the absurd explanation:

BROOKS: First of all, if you are the son of an African American surgeon, you get a 20-point advantage over the daughter of a Filipino video store manager; that’s not fair. It’s also so race obsessed. If you happen to be one of the three prized racial groups in this, or preferred racial groups, you get this 20-point advantage to get admission. But the essay part of your application is only one point. So what it says is that race is twenty times more important than expressing ideas clearly. That’s out of whack. To me that’s wrong.
But why does Michigan downplay the essay? Duh! Almost surely, it downplays the essay for an obvious reason; when admission committees get a great student essay, they don’t know if the student wrote it! Essays can reveal unique aspects of a student’s situation, but a college would be very foolish to give essays too much weight. Does UM think that race “is twenty times more important than expressing ideas clearly?” Brooks has expressed an idea that’s quite silly. UM gives 110 points for academic achievement—more than five times what it gives for race (and for other such considerations, some of which tend to favor white applicants).

Is the UM system fair? That’s a matter of judgment. But Brooks’ statement was utterly foolish. Say hello to your “press corps,” everybody!

The Daily update

LUCKY DUCKIES OF THE WORLD, UNITE: We’ve received the standard, scripted complaints about repeal of the estate tax (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/21/03). Taxing a large estate is “double taxation,” mailers said. To that, we offer incomparable replies, including “balderdash,” “who cares” and “so what?”

Is taxing an estate a form of “double taxation?” Not for the person who earned it, it isn’t. Assuming the deceased person’s income was actually taxed to begin with, it’s taxed only once during his lifetime—and it’s only taxed a second time when it’s passed on to somebody else. And for the record, “double taxation” occurs widely throughout our system. Conservative spinners only become outraged when “double taxation” affects the wealthy. If we wanted to play those silly talk-show games, we’d say this is part of the ugly “class warfare” they simply refuse to stop playing.

The point we made involves simple values. For children of the very wealthy, inheritance is a form of income. Why should firemen be taxed on the income they earn, while “lucky duckies” go free on the income they’re given? The “values” reflected by such a weird system should be plain for all to see.

TODAY’S MUST READ: Kurtz’s profile of Krugman. You know what to do; just click here. Then click the snide link, “Professor Ahab.”