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Shopping with Kelly Framel, the Blogger Behind The Glamourai

When Kelly Framel started the style blog The Glamourai in the fall of 2008, she only intended for her closest friends to know about it. Working as an assistant designer for the luxury label Naeem Khan, she considered her anonymous blog something she did on the side for fun. So when another blogger linked to The Glamourai and used Framel’s real name, she didn’t see the good that could come of it. “I was in tears the whole day!” she recalls. “I was so embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone in fashion to find out about it. I thought I would never be taken seriously again.”

Framel, of course, can dry her eyes now. The 27-year-old Austin native, who moved to New York in 2005 after graduating in apparel design from the University of Texas, has turned The Glamourai into a full-time job, working nonstop to keep up with all the offers that come her way as a member of the fashion-blogger elite. She has designed a purse for Coach (which sold out in a few short days), modeled in an ad campaign for Forever 21, styled the windows at Dolce&Gabbana during Milan Fashion Week, and recently had the “surreal” experience of seeing her face atop a taxi advertising Glamour’s new Young and Posh Blogger Network, which she regularly contributes to. In addition to having an innate sense of style, the fact that she also happens to be extremely photogenic—with long limbs, huge blue eyes, and a teensy waist—doesn’t hurt, either.

When she meets us in Greenpoint to do a little spring shopping, she confides that she’s “really panicked” about what to wear to her first major television appearance, on the interior-design program The Nate Berkus Show, an Oprah spin-off. Entering the affordable boutique Alter (140 Franklin Street, Brooklyn, 718-349-0203), she quickly spies a beige dress by C. Luce with a big bow at the shoulder for $85. “I’m a sucker for anything with a bow,” she says. Before trying it on, she stops to pet her big-eared papillon, Bunny, who squirms with delight in the arms of Savannah White, her personal assistant. White helps with Framel’s jewelry line (sold on The Glamourai), schedules appointments, and opens fan mail for both Framel and Bunny. “That’s a real fan club when they start sending your dog gifts,” White says.

Though the dress is a perfect fit, she wants to keep looking and teeters outside in her four-inch L.A.M.B. wedges. A dapper-looking man in a suit brazenly approaches her and asks her on a date to see the Broadway play Good People that night. “Frances McDormand is in it,” he says, trying to sell her on the idea. But she politely declines.

Framel and White giggle over the proposition as they head down the block to In God We Trust (70 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-389-3545), which stocks its own vintage-inspired line as well as clothing by indie designers. Taking a couple pieces into the dressing room, she first steps out in a billowy, cropped blouse designed by the store for $220. Bunny wags her tail with approval. “I love the whole cropped shirt thing from last spring,” she says. “I love how it’s oversized, but you can still show your shape a bit, so you get the best of both worlds.” She pops back into the dressing room and reappears wearing a jaunty dress with front pockets and flutter sleeves by local designer Dona Monroe for $380. “I love the pockets on this!” she squeals. “I love this sort of 1940s thing for spring.”

Not ready to commit to a dress just yet, however, Framel and her entourage drive down to Williamsburg. Framel, who sewed all her own clothes in high school, says she attributes her creativity and thriftiness in part to her mother, who would take her to Goodwill as a child, give her $20, and challenge her to come up with a unique outfit. Still a bargain hunter, she says she’s a regular at the used-clothing warehouse Beacon’s Closet (88 North 11th Street, Brooklyn, 718-486-0816).

Bounding from the car on a skull-and-crossbones leash, Bunny leads the charge to Sir (129 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-384-0700), which carries a mix of vintage and its own line. Admiring a rack of see-through gowns in lace and organza, Framel admits she’s going to have trouble with the spring trend for sheer skirts. Her anxiety stems from the time she wore a nude bodysuit under a sheer dress. “I was getting the most uncomfortable stares,” she says later. “People literally thought I was naked under it. I’ve never had a more mortifying day.”

Still empty-handed, she cuts across the street to Jumelle (148 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-388-9525), a favorite of hers for its selection of “beautiful, well-made clothes” that “feel like something you’ve had in your closet forever.” Pulling out a floral Cacharel skirt for $425, she holds it up to her waist. “A big, full-circle skirt with a tiny waist is flattering on absolutely everybody,” she says. “And the bigger the skirt, the smaller your waist looks by comparison—so it’s a neat little trick. I think I’ll have to wear a big skirt, so it will make me look my best on camera.”

White shakes her head at her boss’s concern that the camera will add unwanted pounds: “She’s, like, literally tiny.”

“But it’s a whole other thing to be on TV!” Framel counters.

She puts the skirt back and, after trying on a khaki Steven Alan blazer for $385 that she adds to her “maybe” list, moves on to the jewelry shop Catbird (219 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-599-3457). She slips a delicate ring by Lauren Wolf on her finger and admires it. “I’ve been wearing big jewelry for so many years, but now I just want simple things,” she says.

That is, until the shopkeeper brings up a box from the basement containing the shop’s latest acquisition: perhaps the biggest, gaudiest necklaces Framel has ever seen, made of colorful ribbons, agate, and glass from Turkmenistan. She throws two around her neck. “These are so Iris Apfel!” she says, referring to the eccentric octogenarian and Framel’s “ultimate fashion idol.”

“Can I get this one?”

“Of course!” the shopkeeper says.

“Do you need me to take it off?” she asks.

“No, not at all.”

“Sold!” Framel says and hands over her credit card. “So much for my simplistic urges,” she laughs. “I gave that up
pretty quick.”

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Whistlin’ Dixie’s Texas Tavern on Eleventh Avenue

The last time I was in Texas, I felt like a novelty item. “She lives in New York City!” exclaimed this woman who’d dragged her sister over to meet me, as though she’d happened upon a bearded lady or the One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater.

Perhaps that saying about needing a passport to leave the Lone Star State isn’t so far off.

As if traversing the open plains themselves, the walk to Whistlin’ Dixie’s Texas Tavern (714 Eleventh Avenue) was so far west we may as well have crossed a border. “Is that the Alamo?” I wondered. Ah, no, it’s the U-Haul rental facility. But perhaps after a few Diablo Margaritas, that might change.

Now, the good old boys of Alabama sang: “If you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band.” I wouldn’t worry so much about the fiddle, but if you’re headed to Whistlin’ Dixie’s, you gotta bring some friends. Though tumbleweed could seemingly blow down quiet Eleventh Avenue, inside was a decent venue to hold a large, no-frills gathering. Along with a picket fence, five flat-screen TVs bordered the range, which was further adorned with kitschy paraphernalia—Texas license plates, a Tequila Mockingbird book jacket, cowboy photos, etc. The mounted longhorn head presided over the scene as classic rock blared and beer-pong skills were refined in the back room. Thirtysomethings walked around with pitchers of Bud in hand, as blissfully happy as college freshmen who’ve never experienced the confines of a cubicle.

Though a Corona would’ve been more fitting, I ordered a Blue Moon—hey, at least the slice of orange brought out the hanging University of Texas flag’s colors. And in a city where people don’t bat an eye at $7 beers, this puppy was only four bucks: Everything is better in Texas. (Note to those whose wallet resembles a ranch hand’s: Cheap drink specials are offered every night of the week under thematic names like “Wild West Wednesdays.”) And if a few brews start to lube the appetite, Dixie’s menu offers an array of Tex-Mex grub—though grub may be the operative word, it’s hard to go too wrong when salsa is involved. Selecting among the “To Kick It Off Y’all” appetizers, my friend had the Bite-Size Sizzling Fajitas ($6.25), which served their purpose.

Would I wave my pom-poms for this spot, like the Cowboys cheerleader featured in framed photos on the wall? Not exactly, but grabbing a beer is grabbing a beer. Back out on deserted Eleventh Avenue, we rounded 52nd Street and headed toward Tenth. Is that the Alamo? Ah, no, it’s a gas station. In the words of George Strait, I actually found myself longing for a night where “The prairie sky is wide and high. [Clap, clap, clap, clap.] Deep in the heart of Texas.”

More Wild West locales

Rodeo Bar

Though it can’t help but be cheesy, this Texas-themed bar (complete with free peanuts and honky-tonk piano) has enough down-home country charm to lasso in the crowds. 375 Third Avenue, 212-683-6500

Double Down Saloon

“What’s in your Ass Juice?” is a hard question to ask with a straight face, but we wanted to know what we were in for when ordering this East Village spot’s dubiously named shot. We kind of liked the fruity-tasting $3 Ass Juice; the actual bar we’re still not sure about. A beloved Las Vegas sleaze spot since 1993, the Double Down has opened a second location on Avenue A with the same murals, reminiscent of ’60s Playboy comics, that cover the original’s walls, not to mention the same “You puke, you clean” motto. The New York location carefully replicates the endearing qualities of the original, from the rockabilly clientele to the drinks, like the Bacon Martini ($6), which you wouldn’t dream of ordering until after you’ve had a few. 14 Avenue A, 212-982-0543

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Gleaming Beneath the Cube

Once upon a time—say, a little more than 20 years ago—Michelle Shocked was known as Michelle Johnston. And after graduating from the University of Texas, the young woman headed west with musical instruments in tow, and performed in a street band up and down the coast of California. “When I used to play with them, I had a little, teeny-tiny voice,” she says. “And now, between singing in a rock band and singing with a gospel choir, I was louder than that police siren. Did you hear that?”

Yes. Yes, I did.

Beside Tony Rosenthal’s Alamo (a/k/a the giant rotating cube near Astor Place), Michelle and Michael Sullivan (a/k/a Reverend Busker, a Shocked friend and street-corner accomplice) perform for nearly an hour. The set list includes Michelle’s “Fogtown” and “Cement Lament,” Michael’s “Becky’s Tune,” Hank Williams’s “Jambalaya,” and Randy Newman’s “Baltimore,” among others. Change accumulates in Michael’s guitar case, and with every turn in the traffic light, a new round of boot jockeys and busses—the M1, M2, M3, M8, and M14A—rumble by.

“In those days,” she says of her California years, “I wasn’t on a career track. I was a romantic poet, but I considered myself a political activist. And there was so much compatibility. It was a sustainable way to be a political activist.” That is, until a man named Pete Lawrence had the audacity to field-record the post-feminist folk singer somewhere near Kerrville, Texas, (hello, 1986 debut The Texas Campfire Tapes) and make Michelle Shocked an indie sensation in Great Britain (hello, “international star”) before she even knew she had a record out.

Shocked’s accidental career now stands at a dozen albums (count the live gospel ToHeavenURide as the latest) and more than a few memorable tunes, like “When I Grow Up,” which manages to somehow summon an acoustic breath of grounded whimsy appropriate for a young woman looking west while her feet are planted in Texas. And then there’s “Street Corner Ambassador,” the one song from 1996’s Mercury Poise disc (call it an early greatest-hits collection) that makes its way into Michelle’s Astor Place set.

For this, the guitars are laid down, Reverend Busker stands to the side, and Michelle does the solo thing a ca-fucking-ppella. She hits (hits, I say) the chorus, hard, then does so again:

And it’s toss into the old tin cup
A shiny copper penny
Sing along that old refrain
Can you spare a little change, man?
Can you spare just a little change?

Police sirens don’t stand a chance. And when she’s done singing with a voice now oh-so-much more than “teeny-tiny,” Michelle Shocked unabashedly works the line of her concrete congregation, hat in proffered hand. It’s something she hasn’t done in years. It’s something she likely won’t do again. “Once you’re Michelle Shocked,” she says, “the context is entirely different. I’m very self-conscious now. The context has changed so much that you can’t go back. You can’t go back to that.”


Rob Trucks’s “Possibly 4th Street” expositions, in which he invites big-shot musicians to perform live and impromptu somewhere in New York City, run frequently at the Voice music blog Sound of the City; check there for video of Michelle Shocked at Astor Place.


Michelle plays the Highline Ballroom December 9, highlineballroom.com

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‘The Quiet’

What if it’s not cell phones, iPods, MySpace, and whatever that’s keeping the teen demographic out of movie theaters? What if, instead, it’s the movies’ endless reduction of their complex, muddled, and—gasp—occasionally enjoyable lives to a bunch of recycled social-problem clichés? Directed by Jamie Babbit from a capable but glib screenplay by Abdi Nazemian and Micah Schraft, this emotionally loaded melodrama turns on the lives of two adolescent girls (sharply played by Elisha Cuthbert and Camilla Belle) at once divided and united by dark family secrets in common. Before you can say “Child Welfare Services,” sexual abuse, pill popping, cruel peer groups, and (to gild the lily once and for all) physical disability rain down on these two unfortunates, with homicidal tendencies lurking in the wings. The Quiet has an excellent supporting cast in Edie Falco, Martin Donovan, and Katy Mixon, in a minor but more interesting role as the school vixen, and is competently, even lyrically, directed in high definition by Babbit (with input from students at the University of Texas). But thematically the movie never reaches beyond the ready-for-prime-time mentality that specializes in psychological shorthand.

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Letter From Lockhart

I’m pretty sure I’m not the first person to have pigged out at three barbecues in Lockhart in the space of one hour. This central Texas town trails along Highway 183, culminating in one of the prettiest Victorian courthouse squares in the state. According to one local guide, it was the site of more Wild West shoot-outs than any other town in Texas. It’s also the epicenter of Lone Star barbecue, the place where its ancient principles are most clearly and forthrightly espoused. Thus the ‘cue is heavily smoked over post oak (and traditionally also mesquite) for about five to 14 hours, and delivered in Spartan fashion on brown butcher paper. Unadorned by sauce, the sole seasoning is a rub of coarse salt and crushed black peppercorns, applied before the meat is plunged into waist-high brick pits. Sold by the pound ($7.90 to $9.90), the ‘cue is accompanied by your choice of soda crackers or sliced supermarket white bread. A separate concession in the dining room offers nutty extras, including kosher dill pickles, raw onions, blocks of cheddar, pickled jalapeños, and ripe avocados. Do with them what you will.

Though you can also get pork ribs and pork chops, the emphasis is on beef, most especially brisket (“fat beef”) and shoulder (“lean beef”). Also known as “clod,” the latter resembles a clod of earth from the surrounding cotton fields in its humpy blackness, and tastes something like smoked roast beef. Another specialty is sausage, in spicy or mild rings (usually $1.75 each). The sausage is grainy, beefy, and so loosely packed that the stuffing sometimes slides out as you cut into it. One of the Lockhart barbecues, Black’s, is comparatively new. Dating to 1932, it caters to townies, who love the wood-paneled dining room for its football team photos, hunting trophies (including a rare stuffed jackalope), and long buffet, stocked with mayo-drenched salads, several types of Jell-O, and plastic-wrapped slices of pie. In spite of the wimpy ’50s sides, Black’s barbecue is formidable, especially the pink smoky pork ribs and the tender brisket. Note that the two older establishments—Smitty’s and Kreuz Market—eschew such culinary fripperies as Jell-O and vegetables.

I’d gone to Lockhart in the middle of the mild Texas winter—when the cedar trees are thickly coated with red pollen, leading to a local allergic malady called cedar fever—to assay the progress of the older establishments, which date to 1900. Six years ago they were a single entity, a barbecue named Kreuz Market attached to a butcher shop of the same name in an old brick building just off the square. In 1999 an internecine squabble between an inheriting brother and sister—the gal was bequeathed the real estate and the guy the barbecue trademark—led Kreuz to relocate to a hulking new premises on the highway, with a parking lot boasting a special section for tour buses and campers. The old space, renamed Smitty’s, forged onward as a separate entity.

Smitty’s looks nearly the same as when it was Kreuz, except it’s been denuded of the few decorative curiosities I remember when I first ate there as a University of Texas student, including a map of Texas made of rattlesnake rattles, and a rattlesnake skin that measures nine feet. Under the snake was a sign noting that two kittens were found inside when the creature was cut open. “And no,” the caption wryly observed, “they weren’t still alive.” A walk down a hallway smoked the color of tobacco leads to a counter where the ‘cue is sold. Four pits line up behind the counter in an L shape, with open fires blazing at both ends. In a marvel of 19th-century engineering, a draft draws the smoke through the pits by a cunning series of flues.

In spite of its modern architecture, Kreuz smokes meat in the age-old fashion. And in the last six years, the building has become almost venerable. It has long been the habit of barbecue aficionados, when approaching an unfamiliar establishment, to go around the back and examine the woodpile. If the pile is small or nonexistent, it suggests that an electric or gas cooker is being used. That means go on to the next joint. You don’t even need to go around back at Kreuz, since it flaunts an adjacent woodlot that looks to be about an acre in size, with stacks of hardwood teetering to the horizon. Inside there’s an intimate dining room with about 20 tables, used by folks eating barbecue on weekdays, when Kreuz closes at 6 p.m. Wrapping around is a much bigger and less inviting room, which entertains the crowds who drive from Houston or Dallas on weekends to sample the barbecue. At the end of the smaller dining room, the rattlesnake artifacts have been carefully reinstalled.

In the space of a week—with a visit to a ranch near Junction, Texas, in between—I ate twice each at Kreuz Market and Smitty’s. As a general observation, I’d say that the clod at both places is less fatty than it was a decade ago, and needs to be eaten right out of the pit so as not to seem dry. The brisket, however, is still gloriously greasy. It was slightly better and smokier at Smitty’s, where, as ‘cue hit paper, a penumbra of beef fat began to creep outward. I thought the sausage was better at Kreuz Market, and so were the pork ribs.

Still, just to be sure, the next time your route takes you through Lockhart, you’d better try both. And don’t miss Black’s, either.

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The Tip-Off: Bikes!

“The lives and liberties of Americans are protected by the Patriot Act,” Attorney General John Ashcroft said recently. He added, “We are using proven crime-fighting tools to win the war against terrorism, while protecting our constitutional rights. We are preserving lives and liberty.”

That’s exactly what the alert cops standing in the Arlington, Texas, police parking lot thought they were doing when on a recent Saturday they spotted two young men on bikes approaching. And when the two claimed to be students from the University of Texas who had lost their way trying to find a climbing gym, the cops knew something was wrong, got on the radio, and sounded the alert. “I heard the male officer say into his radio that we are Pakistanis,” Pavel Lachko told the Dallas Observer. “We said, ‘No, no, no. We are not Pakistanis. We’re Russians.’ ” And, indeed, Pavel Lachko and his friend Boris Avdeev claimed to be Russian students studying at the University of Texas.

Understandably, the police officers thought the men were trying to pull a fast one, and they weren’t going to fall for it. They slapped the cuffs on the would-be terrorists, charging them with criminal trespass. Then they called in agents of the Department of Homeland Security for a proper interrogation. When the department agents determined the two actually were graduate students here on legal visas, they were released on bail. The charges are still pending and the cops think they were in the right. “We take building security extremely seriously in the wake of 9-11,” Sergeant Will Johnson, an Arlington police spokesman, explained. “We follow the directions and information provided by federal authorities. One of the precautions taken is to ensure that the security of the police department is maintained.”


Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel

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The Really World Wide Web

The last place to look for worldwide news is the mainstream American media. Instead, turn to the Web, where you can skip weeks ahead of our lame excuses for international reporting and, in a kick-ass minute, find out what’s really going on.

Though nothing has ever matched the BBC’s radio bulletins of the World War II blitz of London, when whole families huddled around the radio and strained to hear Edward R. Murrow’s reports over the exploding bombs, a mix of independent journalists and major media outlets have begun to create a new kind of reportage online, one that in tone and scope sets the stage for the future.

BBC.co.uk: During last year’s war in Kosovo, the British news corps’s speedy headline service far outpaced the efforts of the Associated Press’s stodgy dodgers. The BBC is a little centrist for some tastes, but it’s strong on breaking stories.

www.theguardian.com: This is the home of Britain’s Guardian, the most sensible paper in English.

Independent.co.uk: Another British paper, the Independent is unbeatable for foreign reporting.

Itar-tass.com: This press agency had the goods on Russian military operations during the Kosovo conflict and diplomatic bickering from the unhappy campers in NATO, namely the Italians.

www.Stratfor.com: When the bombs fell over the Balkans, this site lobbed hour-by-hour (sometimes minute-by-minute) intelligence takes.

B92 Radio: Banned from Belgrade, this station was picked up and broadcast online at freeb92.net by Dutch backers. It provided lengthy reports on the toll of bombing within Yugoslavia.

Perry Castañeda Library Map Collection: Hosted by the University of Texas, this Web-based archive filled the gaps in online Kosovo coverage by providing aerial and ground maps that allowed the viewer to plot the course of any military maneuver, whether it came up from the southern staging points in Albania or swept down out of Hungary. Found at http://www.lib.utexas.edu/Libs/PCL/Map_collection/Map_collection.html.

Russia List: David Johnson’s daily listserv dishes out the most pointed stories from Moscow and the republics of the former Soviet Union. Johnson, an inspired researcher who works days at the Center for Defense Information, includes mercifully small doses of windy rent-a-professors.

He also compiles a weekly edition called the CDI Russia Weekly. Both are free. Just e-mail a request to djohnson@cdi.org. Back issues of the CDI Russia Weekly are available at cdi.org/russia.

Themoscowtimes.com: This English-language paper has been around since 1992, delivering news on everything from soccer to economics.

Russiajournal.com: An English-language business rag, The Russia Journal covers subjects from commerce to defense and politics.

International War and Peace Report: Found at iwpr.net, this site tracks what’s going down daily in places like Chechnya, where guerrillas continue to fight a dogged, determined battle. The Report is also strong on the continuing nightmare in the Balkans.

Russiatoday.com: Part of the up-and-coming European Internet Network, Russia Today offers a combination of news, analysis, and chat rooms.

Centraleurope.com: For most Americans, Europe stops at Vienna. But that’s where the new Europe actually begins its wild ride down the Danube all the way to Istanbul. Central Europe, a sister publication of Russia Today, offers the same mix of breaking headlines and cultural information, but with an eye toward countries like Hungary, Slovenia, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

Insidechina.com: Another European Internet Network site, this one covers Chinese news, from politics to defense.

Central Europe Review: Found at www.tol.org, this weekly journal covers politics and culture, with an intellectual bent.

Central Asia Caucasus Analyst: This Johns Hopkins journal is a tad stuffy, but it’s a great source for information on the developments in the Caspian Sea region, where Kazakhstan recently confirmed a huge oil find, shoving the Middle East into the background. Found at www.cacianalyst.org.

Eurasianet.org: The nonprofit foundation has its own take on the Caspian Sea oil play, and a ticker that at least makes a stab at providing news.

Reuters.com: Instead of watching the AP wires, keep a sharp eye out for this news agency’s terrific regional reports.

Agence France Presse: Like Reuters, www.afp.com is a strong source for speedy foreign reports.

Bellona.no/e: An English-language version of a Norwegian site packed with information on antinuclear issues.

Vshiva.org: The American press barely reports on the international revolt against the financial practices of Western banks in the developing world. To follow the fight, head to Vandana Shiva’s Delhi Web site, which can give you a whiff of the revolution straight from the small farms of the subcontinent where it flourishes with an intensity seen nowhere else in the world.

Focusweb.org: Walden Bello is probably the single most important figure in describing the effects of international financial capital on developing economies, especially those in Asia.

Africanews.com: Forty news organizations contribute to this site. The best of them is the Dakar-based PanAfricanNews Agency.

www.Politicalresources.net/africa.htm: This portal opens a door to all things African, including the Norwegian Council for Africa’s must-read Index on Africa.

Latin American Network Information Center: This portal, hosted by the University of Texas at lanic.utexas.edu, is the best bet for sorting out news and issues concerning Latin America.

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Cheryl Hopwood vs. State of Texas

When University of Texas law professor Lino Graglia said publicly that black and Mexican American students are not “academically competitive” with white students at elite universities, there descended on him a firestorm of rage and contempt. The extent of student anger is evident in the photograph accompanying this column, but most of the faculty and administration–along with Mexican American legislators–were just as furious.

The anger, however, went deeper than Graglia. In March 1996, the University of Texas had been stunned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’s decision (Hopwood v. State of Texas), which ruled that the university’s law school could no longer use race as a factor in admissions.

If left unreviewed by a superior court, that decision would eliminate all affirmative action admission programs in higher education within the Fifth Circuit.

The University of Texas, which had a great social and emotional investment in its affirmative action program, appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, which refused to review the Fifth Circuit’s decision. That didn’t mean the High Court necessarily agreed with the abolition of racial preferences in the law school. It meant that the Court was not ready to decide the merits of that particular issue in the case as presented. So the Fifth Circuit decision applies only to Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi–the states covered by the Fifth Circuit.

I knew something of the affirmative action program at the law school even before the court case. An official of the university told me about it, and I was surprised that all these legal scholars had so carelessly violated the ruling in Bakke, the Supreme Court’s precedent in affirmative action cases on the college level.

In Bakke v. Regents of the University of California (1978), the Court was divided four to four on the issue of affirmative action. Lewis Powell cast the deciding vote, and his opinion influenced graduate schools across the country in their affirmative action practices.

For the first time in the Court’s history, Powell said that race could be an element in admissions decisions, but race could not be the sole or determining factor. Race would be a “plus” on an individualized–not a collective–basis. It would be considered the same way as admissions offices have taken into account where an applicant comes from (colleges want geographic diversity) or a special skill (like musical ability).

But there were to be no quotas–no set number of blacks or Mexican Americans who had to be part of the entering class. Furthermore, the admissions process could not “insulate individuals from comparison with all other candidates for the available seats.”

That is, there could not be an utterly separate process for black applicants by which they would not be compared for admittance with the applicant pool as a whole.

The University of Texas ignored Bakke. The law school’s goal was to have an entering class that would be 5 per cent black and 10 per cent Mexican American. Those are quotas. And quotas are of dubious constitutionality. Actually, to the current Supreme Court, quotas in college admissions are unacceptable.

Furthermore, minority applicants at the Texas law school were reviewed by special minority admissions committees that made recommendations. This meant–contrary to Bakke–that the minority applicants were not judged as part of the whole pool, but were part of a segregated evaluation process.

It was a bad case to bring before the federal courts. I was surprised that the NAACP Legal Defense Fund–a group of unusually skilled and committed lawyers–would support so weak a case. It doesn’t help the cause of equality to back highly vulnerable cases. If the High Court had actually reviewed Hopwood and decided against the University of Texas, the factor of race in admissions would have been ended in every state in the union.

The white plaintiffs in Hopwood–represented by the Center for Individual Rights in Washington–were rejected when they applied in 1992. In that year at the University of Texas–according to The Chronicle of Higher Education–“36 of the 43 Hispanic Texans admitted to the law school had lower index scores (a combination of LSATs and grades) than all the white plaintiffs. Also, 16 of the 18 black Texans had lower scores than the whites who had been rejected.”

As Michael Greve of the Center for Individual Rights pointed out in the Fall/Winter 1996 Pace Law Review, “It is inaccurate to say that race is just one factor in these decisions when someone who is black and has a certain score is almost automatically in–and someone who is white and has that same (or a higher score) is automatically out.”

The case gets its name from plaintiff Cheryl Hopwood, who grew up in a working-class family and has never known anything but hard work to survive economically. She has a three-year-old daughter, Tara, born with cerebral palsy and a rare muscular disease.

While her case was still in the courts, Hopwood told Rolling Stone that “the law school discriminated against me. It gave my spot to a minority student because I happened to be white.” The constitutional thrust of her case was that she had been denied equal protection of the laws.

A frequent black argument is that blacks cannot discriminate against whites because you have to be in power to be able to discriminate. But Cheryl Hopwood was not discriminated against by blacks. The prejudice that kept her out of the law school was that of the state of Texas and the University of Texas.

University of Texas law professor Lino Graglia was delighted with the Fifth Circuit decision, having predicted that the law school’s grouping of applicants into “racial pools” was open to constitutional attack. This, of course, did not endear him to many students–white, black, and Mexican American–at the university.

During the current term of the Supreme Court, another very weak case–Piscataway Township Board of Education v. Sharon Taxman–is likely to do great damage to affirmative action hiring practices. (A white teacher was laid off in favor of a black teacher when both were equally qualified. Race was the only factor in the decision.) This lemon was pushed by Deval Patrick, a former assistant attorney general of the United States, and our president, who used to teach constitutional law. The case lost in the Third Circuit, and it will lose again in the High Court.