- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Jayson Blair and affirmative action

The Jayson Blair fiasco at the New York Times has sparked a furor in journalism. In his second column on the incident, Clarence Page admits that affirmative action contributed negatively to Mr. Blair’s quandary (“How to survive the ‘bad news’ Blair,” Commentary, Friday). (Ironically, his prescription for avoiding a similar incident is to increase the emphasis on diversifying the newsroom: “… [T]he news business must try to build staffs that reflect … diversity of peoples and views,” he writes.)

Many people in the media are upset because Mr. Blair’s misdeeds and the Times’ mismanagement sully their profession. Suddenly, the consequences of affirmative action are hitting home. It is an outrage that Mr. Blair abused the trust of his paper but was retained in a prestigious reporting assignment for racial reasons. Yet, media commentators such as Mr. Page mostly ignore the myriad vocations poisoned by affirmative action’s grotesque mutation into racial preferences. Perhaps the Blair case finally will help the media expose how preferences have permeated society.

To speak from experience, 10 years ago, a high-tech company I know well decided to emphasize hiring and promotions of the “preferred classes.” Riding robust growth of 10 percent to 15 percent per year, management ignored fuddy-duddyish warnings about abandoning merit-based hiring and promotion. Thanks to the new practice, many old pros who had built the company have been forced out. Today — with growth nearly flat — management wonders what went wrong.

The dead hand of diversity intrudes even where the public least suspects it. A relative who attended a New Jersey medical school reports that minority students received exam questions before the exams. Officials told complaining students the school could not afford to let minority students fail.

Like other well-intentioned ideas (for example, Prohibition and public schools), affirmative action has spun out of control and is hurting us. Obsessive diversity causes mismanagement of the nation’s premier newspaper and damages journalism. Technical companies suffer damage because they hired or promoted people for reasons other than merit. Medical education standards are lowered. How many other fields have bowed similarly to diversity? What’s the next outrage?

Ultimately, preferences are harmful because they damage the credibility of public institutions, hurt innocent individuals and offend fundamental American ideals of fairness. We are a nation in which citizens are supposed to advance based on merit. The market is our determinant of competence. Wishful thinking will not change this.

When I was young, historic civil rights acts opened opportunities for minorities. Optimistic and hopeful, I believed we could work it out. But I’m older now, and I understand why the road to hell is always paved with good intentions.

ELWOOD E. ZIMMERMAN

Potomac Falls, Va.

Hong Kong open for business

The lifting of the travel advisory against nonessential travel to Hong Kong and Guangdong by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday is a clear indication that both Hong Kong and Guangdong have succeeded in getting SARS under control (“SARS ‘battleground’ continues to be China,” Page 1, Sunday).

In both places, the number of new cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome has been either zero or in low single digits for many days, and the number of recovered patients is growing steadily. Not a single case of SARS has been exported from Hong Kong recently. The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce does understand that many may have doubts about traveling to Hong Kong, but with this endorsement from WHO that Hong Kong has contained the outbreak of SARS, we want to encourage business visitors and tourists alike to consider coming back to Hong Kong.

The chamber wants our future visitors to Hong Kong to know that despite this victory, Hong Kong intends to keep up its infection-control alert and to maintain measures to ensure the good health of all who live and visit here.

For example, at all border checkpoints and at the airport, the temperature is taken of every incoming or outgoing traveler. Hong Kong has a transparent system with top-notch medical care, and readers of The Washington Times will find that citizens of Hong Kong are well-informed on preventive measures to curb the spread of SARS. We will be vigilant to ensure that you will find Hong Kong even safer and cleaner.

Furthermore, the chamber hopes that some discriminatory practices against travelers and goods from Hong Kong will be dismantled, because there is no reason — and the WHO endorses this view — either to quarantine perfectly healthy travelers who come from Hong Kong or to be suspicious about goods shipped from Hong Kong, which scientists say cannot possibly contain any virus.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s strengths as a regional business hub and its hard-earned reputation for resilience and flexibility make it as important to international business today as it was before the emergence of SARS. So, with the WHO travel advisory lifted, the chamber hopes to see many of you here in Hong Kong soon.

EDEN Y. WOON

Chief executive

Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce

Hong Kong

Not Bob Hope’s style

Since I was old enough to turn a radio dial, I have been a Bob Hope fan. He is an exemplary man who has done wonderful things for our servicemen and country.

Yet Saturday’s “Nobles and Knaves” editorial — he was the Noble, of course — does him and many who served in our armed forces a great disservice with the comment that he would not shake hands with officers and eluded them on his tours. Did Jayson Blair make up those lines?

You can find tens of thousands of men and women who saw Mr. Hope and visited with him, and you will find none who will substantiate your statement about avoiding, ignoring or eluding officers. One of the great things about Mr. Hope was that he ignored no one.

I usually enjoy The Washington Times, but this comment is an outright falsehood.

JIM MILLER

Dallas

Butterflies in the garden

Thank you for running “Backyard butterflies” (Metropolitan, May 21). Undoubtedly, a lot of time and effort was put into researching and writing this article.

Yet, I would like to stress that Washington Area Butterfly Club members do not lure butterflies to their yards to capture and kill them for collections. The caption under the picture of butterfly gardener Eric Raun with some of his specimens could lead to this false impression among hurried readers who only scanned the article.

Unfortunately, the Web address shown for the Washington Area Butterfly Club is an old address that will not work in the future. To be sure of reaching our informative Web site, please go to https://users.sitestar.net/butterfly.

We invite interested readers to join us in watching, enjoying and gardening for butterflies.

BARBARA FARRON

Member

Washington Area Butterfly Club

Washington

Cartoon short on facts

The “more right-wing than thou” comic strip Mallard Fillmore published on Memorial Day lives down to the author’s usual standards.

In a panel that lists a number of battles in which Americans fought is Verdun in 1916. It doesn’t take a historian to know that few, if any, Americans were involved in that battle because it took place more than a year before the United States entered World War I.

Once again, cartoonist Bruce Tinsley, whose “humor” qualifies as assault with a blunt instrument, has shot from the lip without bothering to ground his half-witticisms in facts.

ED KLIMAN

Lexington, Texas

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