Archive for June, 2009

Promote racial diversity fairly

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, several white firefighters were treated unfairly by the city of New Haven, Conn., when it refused to promote them despite their high scores on a promotional exam. In a 5-4 decision handed down on Monday, the court ruled that the city should not have scrapped the test just because black firefighters performed poorly.

That decision, in Ricci v. DeStefano, was eminently reasonable. You don’t change the score after the game is over.

To begin with, New Haven shouldn’t have staked firefighters’ promotions largely on the outcome of a classroom test; there are far better ways to determine leadership skills in a fire department. Many departments test prospective leaders by running simulations of real-life scenarios. After all, giving correct answers on a pencil-and-paper test hardly proves the capacity to lead the rescue of workers trapped in a burning building.

But if New Haven’s fire department unwisely stuck with a classroom test — and …

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Those who live in glass …

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and his family are in the midst of an emotionally wrenching and deeply personal crisis. I feel sorry for them.

I’m willing to grant elected officials — including those who hold the highest office, the presidency — a zone of privacy, as long as their personal peccadilloes don’t interfere with the public’s business. (Sanford seems to have violated that standard when he flew off to Argentina, secretly, without formally turning the state’s business over to the lieutenant governor.) I don’t expect politicians to be priests.

Among some constituencies, there is the naive view that a person’s fitness for public office can be ascertained in his or her marital fidelity. But that simply isn’t so. Life is too difficult and complex for such judgements.

Franklin Roosevelt, deemed one of the nation’s best presidents, carried on a years-long affair with Lucy Mercer. By contrast, Richard Nixon is believed to have been the very soul of …

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