Reality Bites Holiday Fantasies

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - December 13, 2006

Wouldn’t you know it? The week after I write about the leisurely pleasures of December, from the raising of a Christmas tree in the living room to holiday collegiate basketball to a hope-filled gubernatorial inaugural: Wham! Reality intrudes.

First, from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. There the court upheld the Kamehameha Schools’ “Hawaiians first” policy, which has effectively meant that only children with Hawaiian blood could attend the 120-year-old school.

The schools’ policy was jeopardized in August 2005 when a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit ruled that Hawaiians first policy unconstitutional on the grounds that it discriminated on the basis of race.

Last week’s 8-7 vote by a larger panel of the court recognized Kamehameha’s admission policy as necessary, in the words of Judge Susan Graber, “to correct educational disadvantages of Native Hawaiians and is intended to last only as long as they suffer that disadvantage.” Graber characterized Kamehameha’s admission practices as a “remedial policy,” and thus not a case of discrimination.

“Because the schools are a wholly private K-12 educational establishment, whose preferential admissions policy is designed to counteract the significant, current educational deficits of Native Hawaiian children in Hawaii, we must conclude that the admissions policy is valid” under federal civil rights law.

The case will undoubtedly be appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Kamehameha School officials, in their euphoria, sounded confident last week that the Supremes would let the 9th Circuit’s decision stand.

I’m hardly an expert on the federal judiciary, but it seems to me entirely possible that the Supreme Court, larded as it is with the conservative appointees of two Bushes and a Reagan, might very well hear the case. Then the outcome would be problematic, at best.

I hope, with the Kamehameha Schools officials, that last week’s decision is allowed to stand. Using federal civil rights law to dismantle the Kamehameha Schools admission policy has always seemed a perversion to me. The schools were founded at the end of the 19th century to help save an indigenous people who had been decimated by western diseases, alienated from their land, and impoverished by haole exploiters. (Editor’s note: See this week’s cover story.)

For movement conservatives at the beginning of the 21st century, largely haoles, to use that federal civil rights legislation to dis-mantle a Hawaiian school is either the most empty-headed application of American egalitarianism I’ve ever seen or an act bottomless in its cynicism.

Second, on the other side of the continent from the judicial deliberations of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Iraq Study Group - composed of gray eminences from both the Republican and Democratic parties - issued its report.

The panel, co-chaired by former George H.W. Bush Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton, joined cashiered Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, and the American electorate in calling for a change in the administration’s policy in Iraq.

Specifically, the study group recommended that all combat units should be out of Iraq by the end of March 2008 and that the Bush administration, with the president himself and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the lead, begin a concerted round of diplomacy to deal with the greater issues confronting the Middle East - as well as Iraq.

Bush, of course, in the spirit of dunderheadedness that has marked his entire Iraq and “axis of evil” adventure, rejected both the panel’s recommendation that he talk to Iran and Syria, and that American combat troops be withdrawn by 2008. He was supported by conservative gabbers and scribblers William Bennett, Rush Limbaugh and William Kristol.

On the day of Bush’s renunciation of the heart of the Iraq Study Group’s report, bombings and shootings dispatched 58 Iraqis, a roadside bomb killed five Schofield soldiers, and military officials announced a total of 11 servicemen killed.

So much for December fantasies.

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