Code Words of the Week

Last week’s code word was empathy. I made a mistake and spent a little time reading the comments on Volokh Conspiracy about empathy. When I was done my head was swimming and I was sure that this was another Obama word that is lost in translation. The chardonnay crowd thinks the word means a worldliness quality that a judge uses when the legal procedures do not lead to a neat and tidy decision. I cringe when I refer to judges and neat and tidy decisions in the same sentence. I do not think the average person shares this same understanding of the word. For the most part they are a lot more pragmatic group. Empathy is about winners and losers. If you are a white person in court case with a black person and the judge has “empathy”, you are screwed unless there is some obvious lapses in ethical behavior in preparing the legal case. A recent example of this is the Duke lacrosse rape case with the prosecutor, Mr. Nifong, and his supporters at Duke University. It is not much of a stretch to believe that their empathy for the alleged rape victim encouraged Mr, Nifong and others into unethical behavior. If you are a black person, you are finally going to finally get the benefit of the doubt that seemed to be routinely given only to white folks.

This week’s code word of the week is “complicated”. I heard a commentator say the New Haven court case was “complicated”. After a little research I figured out that the word must translate into “everyone get’s the shaft”. The New Haven case is a sad story with an ugly ending. On one hand the city, New Haven, tried to create unbiased system for determining whom to promote. They paid an outside contractor $100,000 to construct the test. Although they do not say it aloud, New Haven probably expected this extra expense was worthwhile if it was both fair to all parties and kept New Haven out of lawsuits. Well, the test did not work as expected. The minorities were under-represented in the test results. Confronted by a potential lawsuit by the under-represented minorities, New Haven felt obligated to throw out the test results and take their chances that the people who passed the test would not sue them. The people who passed the test and were now being denied their promotion sued. Without a doubt New Haven is the biggest loser in this sad affair. Everything went wrong and they are paying a very steep price.

One of the more interesting losers in this affair are the under-represented minorities. They failed to get enough people to pass the test so the city could avoid lawsuits. Now the city must re-design the test so a suitable representation of the minorities can pass the test. Yea, it will be a quota system in every way except by name. Those lucky few who do pass the second test will now suffer the stigma of a tainted victory and have the opportunity to work with bitter co-workers. Wow, I bet a few of them will wish they busted the books a lot harder before the first test.

In an unbiased world the people who passed the test would be the only winners. It ironic that of the three parties involved, these folks were the only folks who did their part well and their is no reward for a job well done. In this increasingly politically correct world, the failures of New Haven and the under-represented minorities demand that we fail the only party who did their part well. This reminds me of a King Solomon story about a child  that was claimed by two women as their child. Unable to break the deadlock between the two women, King Solomon threatened to cut the child in half. At this point the real mother stepped forth and gave up her claim so that her child would live. At last King Solomon had the proof he needed to identify the correct mother. This story is often repeated as an example of Solomon’s great wisdom. On the other hand we will never know whether King Solomon would have cut the child in half if the real mother had not committed the greatest sacrifice. In the New Haven case the courts have affirmed New Haven’s right to cut the child in half and we are all supposed to be happy. I guess this is what commentator meant by “complicated”.