Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Democrats' 24 Step Plan for Victory in November

1) Run away From Your record, unless you voted against TARP, Stimulus and Health Care

2) Run against Obama, but take his money;

3) Run against Bush;

4) Run against Bush and Obama at the same time;

5) Run against Washington;

6) Run against Bush,Obama and Washington;

7) Run against Congress;

8) Screw your major financial backers in 2008, such as Wall Street;

9) Run as an outsider, even if you are a career politician;

10) Insult your progressive base, by calling them unmotivated, whiners, and ignorant;

11) Run on abortion and other social issues; eventhough voters are voting the economy;

12) Lie about yourself

13) Run against Fox News, Back, Hannity and Limbaugh;

14) Run against Sara Palin and the Tea Party

15) Assume voters are stupid, and Wall Street, doctors, insurers, bankers have no memories;

16) Run to the right, even in blue states;

17) Wrap yourself in the American Flag;

18) Class warfare;

19) Demonize your opponent;

20) Urge black ministers to get out the black vote;

21) Pray for an early blizzard or late hurricane on election day;

22) Pray Obama captures or kills Osama two days before election day;

23) Pray the Republicans peak early;

24) Fall back on recounts with suddenly found ballots (Think Senator Franken and Governor Gregoire)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Southern California Edison and the Accouterments of Civilization

We take civilization for granted.

Los Angeles recorded an all-time temperature high of 113° yesterday – the hottest day ever since records were collected beginning in 1877. It might have been a little higher, but the gauge broke. Tustin, where I reside, was a few degrees cooler.

Southern California was cool this summer while the rest of the country suffered.

Weather extremes tax utility systems. Hurricanes, wind storms, and deep freezes snap transmission lines. Heat waves can also blow lines. Unlike a decade ago, California had sufficient electricity; the problem was delivering it to consumers over aging infrastructure.

The power lines behind our house snapped at 4:30pm yesterday, when the temperature was around 100°. Power was cut off to 6 houses, including, of course, ours.

There is nothing like laying on a chair in the back yard looking up to the starry sky on a quiet, clear night with no wind. We often forget the beauty of nature. The temperature had dropped to 95°.

All the usual customs of civilization were missing. No TV; forget the DVR. No football game, baseball game, reality show, news, sitcom, or drama. No radio – absolutely no idea where the transistor radio has been packed. No hot food, unless you fry it on the walkway. Can’t even microwave. No internet – the wifi on the laptop runs off the router from the desktop.

Reading hard copy, books, magazines, and newspapers, is by candlelight and flashlight.

And no air conditioning!

Cities, such as LA, open up "cooling centers" for the homeless and those lacking air conditioning on these hot days. Society does not want a repeat of hundreds of elderly dying in Chicago a few years ago, and also in European heat waves.

We had it lucky. An Edison worker came out at 6:45, after several calls about downed lines, and cut the live wires and assessed the situation.

At 11, while trying to drift to sleep, a second Edison crew arrived with chain saws to facilitate access to the lines. They were very conversational. They finally left.

A third Edison crew arrived a couple of hours later; power was restored by 4:30AM – 12 hours after the outage.

We were lucky. As of this evening 15,000 were still lacking power in Edison’s service area, and thousands more in LA’s DWP territory. As of Tuesday evening, 775 customers in Tustin lacked power

We are exceedingly lucky with a 12 hour disruption compared to our valiant soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, often struggling in 120° weather, carrying loads of 50-60 pounds for extended periods.

Whatever Edison’s workers are paid, they earned it last night, just as utility workers in general perform Herculean acts in storms, such as blizzards and hurricanes. City, county, and state road crews more than earn their pay in clearing roads after severe winter storms, including blizzards. Highway crews are not overpaid for working on road construction in 100° weather, often in high humidity.

Firefighters, with their 50 pound loads, fight fires under horrendous conditions – blizzards, heat waves; Santa Ana winds, flooding. Firefighters were fighting a 25 acre wildfire in Thousand Oaks in 110. Where’s there firefighters, you will often find EMT’s and police.

No, we were fortunate.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chrysler Employees Have a Need to Celebrate

Chrysler employees have plenty to celebrate

Chrysler’s employees were at a low two years ago. Chrysler was not selling cars.

Nor should it. The product was dated, quality was poor, future products were scrapped by its new owner Cerberus, Chrylser Finance was spun off to Cerberus, thereby depriving Chrysler of a way to move products, and fuel economy was abysmal.

Consumers weren’t even walking into Chrylser showrooms.

The employee health insurance plans and pensions were threatened.

The company was facing bankruptcy, perhaps liquidation. No Lee Iacocca was in sight to save Chrysler.

That called for heavy drinking.

The outgoing Bush Administration kicked the future of Chrysler and GM down the road to the incoming Obama Administration.

The Obama Administration owed large political debts to Big labor. Chrylser and GM could not go under.

Chrysler filed for bankruptcy on April 30, 2009. The government, i.e. we taxpayers, poured $15.5 billion into the carcass. Fiat, for no money, was given 20% of the company’s stock. The U.S. government received 10% and the Canadian government 2% of the new Chrysler’s stock. The remaining 68% went to a UAW health
insurance fund.

The bondholders were sucked dry and 789 dealerships terminated without recourse.

Marx would be happy. The workers take ownership and the capitalists thrust aside.

That calls for a drink, or two.

The good old days are back at Jefferson North, the days of MoPar, Nascar, Penstar, Slant 6’s, and clunkers coming off the assembly line - the days when managerial incompetence and worker sloth drove American consumers to Toyotas and Hondas.

The workers had cause to celebrate, and they did, albeit without Detroit’s once home brewski, Stroh’s.

Detroit TV2 Fox News taped 15 workers drinking and toking over a ten day period during their ½ lunch break. They recognized that you cannot eat on a dry throat – so drink and toke they must, and then assemble the new Jeep Grand Cherokee. The model of Jefferson North is one toke over the assembly line as the models roll off the line.

President Obama was at the Jefferson North plant in July 2010, self-laudotory about saving dextolling the virtues of American workers.

Monday, September 20, 2010

FDR v. Obama

Two years in, and FDR was more popular than ever.

Two years in, and Obama is tanking.

Both were elected in the midst of a great economic crisis. The two took office in the middle of a banking crisis. The Democrats became President with large Congressional majorities. Both American Presidents embraced Keynesian economics. Each initially had the ability to connect with voters. Both reached out to, and capitalized, on the minority vote.

Why was FDR a success in the public’s eye and Obama a failure?

From the beginning, even in the midst of his famous 100 Days, FDR’s constant goal was Jobs, Jobs, and more Jobs – put people back to work. The public instinctively knew that Roosevelt was with them, that he was fighting for them, that he would lead them to a recovery.

WPA, PWA, CCC, CWA, NYA, FDR put millions of Americans to work.

Obama’s goal early became clear – the radical transformation of America. Almost a year was spent pushing a government health plan through Congress over the opposition of the American people. That was not a jobs bill, but will be a jobs killer.

Obama’s Administration has killed millions of jobs, raising the poverty rate in America to one in seven, 14.3%, the highest since 1959 a half century ago. In short, he took a bad economic situation and made it worst – unless you work for the federal government.

Didn’t Congress pass a Stimulus Bill and other measures to promote jobs? No, and that is the problem. Only 12.5% of the $787 billion stimulus bill was for infrastructure, and much of that has not yet been spent. The rest was for transfer payments and the salaries of public employees, especially in education.

The following infrastructure projects were undertaken during the Great Depression by FDR, his predecessors Hoover and Coolidge, state and local governments, and private parties:
Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Triborough Bridge
Bonneville Dam
Grand Coulee Dam
Parker Dam
Shasta Dam
Washington National Airport
Merritt Parkway
Griffith Observatory
Empire State Building
Rockefeller Center
Tennessee Valley Authority
Rural Electrification Administration
Oregon State capitol
Kansas City City Hall

The overall list includes thousands of schools, hospitals, medical canters, government buildings, dams, libraries,parks, golf courses, and roads.

These are the major infrastructure projects of the Obama Administration:

Zero, nada, zilch, squat, zippo, none, nil

Just a few jobs were created by the Stimulus Act, mostly high paid union jobs. We just learned that $111 million in stimulus funds to Los Angeles saved or created just 55 jobs. That’s roughly $2 million per job.

There were precious few "shovel ready" projects funded under The Stimulus Bill, although we were led to believe there were.

President Roosevelt invested in the future of America. President Obama invested in the past.

President Roosevelt enacted the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage statute, but President Obama and the Democratic Congress extended to most Stimilus projects. FDR's emphasis was always on Jobs.

President Roosevelt gave Americans the Administrative Branch of government, but the changes he brought, Social Security, FDIC, NLRB, SEC, Wagner Act, et al, were embraced by the American people.

President Obama’s great enactment, Healthcare” Reform,” is rejected by the majority of Americans.

Both the health care bill and the financial reform act create scores of new administrative agencies and increase the powers of others.

Some of President Roosevelt’s programs were viewed as radical at the time, but he wanted to save capitalism. Thus, under the National Industrial Recovery Act and the NRA (National Recovery Administration) businesses were encouraged to fix prices and control output until the Supreme Court ruled the statute unconstitutional.

President Obama goes out of his way to demonize business.

Finally, President Roosevelt ended prohibition. Let's drink to FDR.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Republican Party is Witnessing Its Third Revolution in 5 Decades

The Tea Party is revolutionizing the current Republican Party – the third revolution since 1964 – a true battle for the sole of the Republican Party.

The GOP had lost its sole with the Great Depression and New Deal. The elections of 1930, and especially 1932, decimated the GOP. Democrats controlled the White House, Congress, Governorships, and state legislatures by landslide margins.

Elected Republicans tended to be “Me too, but less so.” The Party was controlled by moderates, mostly from the East and Midwest. The only successful Republican Presidential candidate between 1928 and 1972 was General Eisenhower, a war hero. Ike had no intention of rolling back the New Deal. Even if he wanted, the democratic majorities in Congress would have prevented it.

Yet, sooner or later a backlash will develop.

The first revolution in the Republican Party against the eastern establishment was in 1964. An obscure, conservative Senator from Arizona, Barry Goldwater, wrestled the Republican nomination for President away from the establishment’s anointed nominee, first Governor Nelson Rockefeller then Governor William Scranton of Pennsylvania. The West, Southwest, and Rockies temporarily seized control of the GOP from the eastern moderates.

Senator Goldwater was pilloried during the primaries as a radical. His statements were used against him.

His famous remark in his acceptance speech was “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” He proposed privatizing social security and selling off the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Then came the general election with President Johnson running as an incumbent with the full weight of the Democratic Party and the media.

President Johnson unleashed a negative campaign portraying the Senator as a radical. One time only, the famous, or infamous, Daisy ad was shown with a little girl picking daisies while a mushroom shaped cloud rose in the background. Goldwater was accused of planning to escalate the war in View Nam. We soon learnt after the election that President Johnson was planning all along during the election to escalate View Nam after the election. LBJ ads proclaimed about Senator Goldwater “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.”

President Johnson not only crushed Senator Goldwater, but also Republicans across the board in national, state, and local elections were defeated. Once again the Democrats emerged with overwhelming majorities in Congress. President Johnson was able to enact his Great Society program.

Out of the detritus of the Republican Party a voice arose. An actor broadcast a speech, "A Time for Choosing,” for Senator Goldwater during the campaign. The actor’s name was Ronald Reagan. He was elected governor of California, but had to wait his time on the national stage.

Former Vice President Richard Nixon was elected President in 1968, but mainly as a backlash against Viet Nam. President Nixon may have been a conservative at heart, but he had to govern as a moderate because of the large Democratic majorities in Congress.

Watergate again provided landslide Democrats majorities in Congress. The Democrats elected Governor Jimmy Carter in 1976 as their successful candidate for President. He proved singularly incompetent.

The true conservative, Governor Reagan, was elected President, bringing into office with him a majority of Republicans in the Senate. He was branded with the same extremism charges as Senator Goldwater. President Reagan governed as a conservative. The Goldwater Revolution was fulfilled with President Reagan.

His mistake, if it was one, was selecting George H.W. Bush, a pillar of the eastern establishment, as his Vice President. The establishment arose like a Phoenix from the ashes when Bush was elected President.

Governor George H. Bush was elected in 2000. The second President Bush was much more conservative than his father, but with Republican control of Congress, unleashed a flood of spending.

The Obama Administration, in a little over 1 ½ years in office, has quasi-socialized the country, allowed Congress to, in paraphrasing one of President Reagan’s comments, spend “like a drunken sailor,” raised taxes, and let loose an epidemic of regulations.

Candidates are determined in party primaries, by liberals in Democratic primaries and conservatives in Republican primaries. The Democrats have Blue Dog Democrats and the Republicans Rinos, but this year is different.

An aroused electorate is reacting to not only the Obama Administration but also the political establishment in general.

Compromise and moderation is no longer on the agenda in republican primaries. Barry Goldwater’s admonition that moderation is not a virtue has become a key marker for the Tea Party.The Tea party movement has defeated the establishment’s favorites in Senate primaries in Alaska, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, and Utah. The Democrats and the mainstream media are portraying many of these candidates as unelectable because of their extreme views. November will tell.

Even after the election results, more heads may fall in the Republican establishment. After the Republican defeats in 2008, following major Congressional losses in 2006, the young, conservative Republicans in Congress ousted their Congressional leaders with the exception of House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, who was allowed to remain in office. Republicans are exceedingly unhappy with his recent comments about supporting the extension of President Bush’s tax cuts to the middle class, but not the wealthy, which includes small business, the generator of jobs in America.

Goldwater, Reagan, Tea Party - It's the same revolution,seeking a smaller government footprint on Americans.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Reflections on 9/11

Where were you on September 11, 1999 at 8:30PM? That’s the type of question lawyers ask to impeach your memory. The odds are that you cannot remember where you were at such and such a time on such and such a day years ago.

Where were you on 9/11? Where were you at 9:30AM eastern time on September 11, 2001?

You remember as do most Americans. By 10:00AM you were probably at home, work, or school watching the Twin Towers about to collapse after an act of Islamic terrorism.

The only other day in my lifetime with the same impact was the day Kennedy was assassinated. I was headed into gym when we heard Kennedy was shot, and coming out of gym when we were told he died.

For an older generation, Pearl Harbor Day and VJ Day might have the same impact.

The point is that 9/11 was not an ordinary day in the life of Americans. Islamic Terrorists attacked America, killing about 3,000 innocent men, women, and children
of multiple ethnicities and religion, including 343 New York Firefighters and paramedics. We cannot forget.

Prior to the collapse of the buildings, about 200 Americans voluntarily jumped to their deaths to escape the fiery hell of the twin towers. We should never forget.

9/11 was a direct attack on the United States. No sovereign nation should even forget or minimize the significance of such an act.

Statements 9 years later that the United States overreacted to 9/11 or that instead of being a day of remembrance, it should be a day of service to commemorate 9/11 shows a vacuity of thought, and is a disgrace to the innocent victims. It trivializes their deaths. We should not commemorate their deaths, but always remember.

9/11 is a memorial day of remembrance, to remember that Islamic terrorists are trying to destroy the United States and Israel. Those who do not learn from the lessons of history are destined to repeat them.

We did not learn from the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, or the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, or the USS Cole.

By daring not to call these attacks acts of terrorism, but rather "human caused disasters," this Administration displays a profound ignorance of reality. The Underwear Bomber, the Times Square Bomber, the Fort Hood Shooter, and the scores of other attacks are not random acts of violence or isolated anomalies, but part of a coordinated attack upon the United States and Western Civilization.

President Bush was right; we are not at war with Islam. But we are at war with radical Islam; Islamic fascists who have wrapped their warped beliefs around a perverted interpretation of the Quran. Their messianic Islam defies the notion of Islam as a religion of peace. Islam may be a religion of peace, but not theirs.

Moderate Muslims should reject the preachings of the Islamic fascists, just as good Catholics, regardless of the strength of their pro-life feelings, should reject the
bombers of abortion clinics and murderers of abortion providers.

That the Imam behind the proposed mosque at Ground Zero refuses to do so, but instead tries to shove it in our face, tells us all we need to know about him.

Ground Zero is a memorial – not a museum. 9/11 is not a day of celebration, or commemoration, or forgiveness, or tolerance, or service. 9/11 is a day of remembrance from which to ensure the deaths of 3,000 were not in vain.

The American people understand. The President does not.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Don't Torch the Quran

Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center has designated Saturday, 9/11 as the International Burn the Quran Day. He has about 200 Qurans ready to ignite at the Church named for the Dove, an international symbol of peace.

Pastor Jones is now praying for a solution. Is he praying to the malevolent Old Testament God, the God who might smite the Qurans with fire and brimstone, or the forgiving Jesus of the New Testament? Remember also that God helps those who help themselves.

God has been silent on the Quran for the past 14 centuries, unless you consider the Christian victories at Lepanto and the Gates of Vienna, and the reconquest of Granada by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492 as acts of God.

The Iman behind the Mosque at Ground Zero is preaching tolerance, but his actions betray his words. Intolerance does not breed tolerance; it breeds intolerance.

Their actions seem fueled by the widespread opposition their proposals have engendered.

The Supreme Court has upheld the First Amendment Right to burn the American Flag. If we can therefore burn Old Glory, no matter how despicable, then clearly we can also burn the Quran, equally a despicable act, and clearly sacrilegious to over a billion people.

A small sect in Kansas, the Westboro Baptist Church, has been protesting at military funerals. Their message is that the military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are caused by the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality. A court has upheld their constitutional right to protest – again a constitutional, but outrageous, act which gives them their 15 minutes of fame.

Pro-lifers have torched abortion clinics and killed abortion doctors, but belief in human life doesn’t justify murder and arson.

We also have the right to act stupid, but that doesn’t mean we should.

Book burning is back in vogue, but we shouldn't join the Nazis in embracing the practice.

General Petraeus has asked that the Qurans not be burnt, because to burn them would further fuel the Anti-Americanism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, putting more of our brave soldiers at risk. The general may well be right on this, but the militants in the Mideast don’t need much of an additional incentive to try and destroy us.

Many of them act on a hair trigger when any affront to Islam is mentioned. Already in Kabul they have burned the American Flag and an effigy of Pastor Jones, and are calling for the death of President Obama in response to Burn the Koran Day. Pastor Jones hasn’t done anything yet.

Mayor Bloomberg of New York supports the establishment of the mosque and community center at Ground Zero. He also supports the right to burn Qurans. The public wishes a plague on both the mosque and the Quran burning. It’s a good thing for Mayor Bloomberg that he won reelection last year.

Pastor Jones is praying. Hopefully he will see the light, or even read the Quran.

In the meantime Pastor Jones can sell more copies of his book, Islam is of the Devil.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The FBI Takes BP's Blowout Preventer Into Custody

The Gulf Oil Well Blowout must be over.

BP just pulled up the non-functioning blowout preventer (BP) in full view of an army of BP lawyers, and their billable hours in six minute increments. The FBI immediately took BP’s BP into custody to be taken to a NASA facility in Louisiana.

We're not sure if the BP is now an object of interest or simply in protective custody. The tight lipped FBI is not saying. We do know the FBI seized the BP over the objections of Trans Ocean and Cameron Industries, the BP manufacturer.

The FBI took custody – not the Coast Guard, National Academy of Engineering, Department of the Interior, Marine Materials Services and its successors, NOAA, EPA, much less BP, TransOcean, Halliburton, Cameron Industries, or the minority owners Anadarko or Mitsui.

The FBI read the BP its Macando Rights. The BP is facing 11 counts of inanimate homicide and 17 counts of inanimate battery, but has not yet been charged. Indeed, the BP proved on April 20 that it could not take a charge.

The FBI took custody of an inanimate object, a truly inanimate object as shown on April 20, 2010. It could not resist arrest, much less the flow of oil. Nor does it need to be fed or clothed. Can you imagine the 50’ tall BP in prison jumpsuit orange?

Rumors are that the FBI became interested in the case when it heard crimes were being committed in the Gulf of Mexico. A “Top kill” was to be committed in offshore waters. The Agency’s interest was piqued by rumors of “skimmers,” (money laundering) ”in situ,” (it sounds bad even if we don’t know what it means), “hydro-static kill,” “riser insertion tubes,” and “Nalco and Corexit,” which could be Mexcan highs. Methane hydrate crystals sounds like meth, and the "blind sheer ram" could be the second coming of the Blind Sheik Rahman.

The FBI's interest is completely understandable.

The FBI also wanted to stay in the good graces of President Obama, who is suspected of an anti-British animus. One of the President’s first acts after inauguration was to send the Churchill Bust back to England, committing a diplomatic bust in the process.

The FBI took the 300 ton BP into custody. It will strip search the BP, invade all its body cavities, and conduct a full body scan. The BP can’t lawyer up, unlike Donald Vidrine, BP’s senior manager on the Global Horizon. The experts will pore over the secrets of the BP sheer ram.

It's probably not protective custody therefore.

The fate of lawyers hangs on the outcome.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Michigan Fearless Pigskin Progostications for 2010

As we enter the third year of Rich Rodriquez’s coaching regime, we look forward to
November for the answer to two questions:

Will the Democrats retain Congress?

Will Rich Rod retain the coaching reins at the Big House, or will he take the country roads home to West Virginia?

President Obama has two years to revive the economy and his Presidency.

Rich Rod has less than two months.

Will Michigan sell out the new seats and suites in the Big House?

A few favorable bounces and Michigan could be 5-0 going into the Michigan State game. The Wolverines could run the string against UConn, Notre Dame, UMass, Bowling Green, and Indiana, and perhaps even beat Little Brother, Michigan State. Then come Iowa and Penn State, followed by probable wins against Illinois and Purdue, closing with Wisconsin and Ohio State. Michigan would be 8-4 under this scenario, qualify for a bowl game, and probably retain Rich Rod as coach.

On the other hand, UConn is an excellent team and could beat Michigan in which case the demoralized Wolverines will probably lose at Notre Dame the next week. An upset against Iowa, Penn state, Wisconsin or Ohio State and the team would have a 7-5 record, and perhaps a new coach. If Michigan loses to UConn, then it will have lost three of the last four home openers, all at Michigan Stadium. Coach Randy Edsall at UConn is proving that UConn is more than a basketball school.

Michigan alumni will not easily forget the 3-5 and 5-7 seasons under Rodriquez, and his 0-2 record against both Michigan State and Ohio State. By way of contrast, Jim Tressel won the national title in his second year at Ohio State, is 8-1 against Michigan, and has won 8 straight against “the school up north.”

Michigan even lost to Toledo two years ago. Toledo’s coach was fired at the end of the season for not winning enough games.

If Les Miles goes 8-4 or 7-5 at LSU this year, he might be available as the
new head coach for Michigan. This time Michigan will not have an Athletic Director whose cell phone could not be reached on a yacht. Jim Harbaugh at Stanford has also proven he can coach.

The predictions by the sportswriters and analysts for Michigan are essentially a Bell Curve of 4-8 to 8-4 with the consensus around 6-6.

The good news about the team is that, absent injuries, the offense finally has an offensive line, which means the quarterbacks and running backs won’t suffer as many concussions as the past two seasons. The offense may still be a little ragged, but it should do fine.

It will have to do more than fine though for Michigan to go 8-4. The defense, the fabled defense of Bo, and Mo, and Lloyd has been a work in progress, having forgotten how to tackle. The two best players from last year signed with the pros. The only returning defensive back with substantial playing experience is out with season ending injury.

The offensive game plan against Michigan will be pass, pass, and pass some more.
Unless the defensive linemen and linebackers can pressure the quarterback, it's bombs away against Michigan's secondary.

The team still lacks depth. Coach Rodriquez said 12 true freshmen may play against UConn.

Michigan is in the Al Davis zone: “Just Win, Baby.” No excuses; even if Lloyd Carr had slacked off on recruiting, even if 28-29 players have left the team since Rich Rod became coach, even if injuries have racked the team, “Just Win, Baby.

No matter the record, The Victors will always be a great song.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

U. S. News & World Report College Rankings Almost Get it Perfect - From U. S. News Perspective

The U. S. News & World Report 2011 Undergraduate College rankings are out.

U.S. News unleashed the field of college ranking in 1983, skipped a year, and in 1985 started issuing the issue annually. It began evaluating graduate and professional schools in 1987.

U. S. News is the gold standard of college rankings. Robert Morse, its editor, is arguably the most powerful figure in higher education. Careers of Presidents, Chancellors, Provosts, and Deans rise or fall on the U.S. News rankings.

It’s taken 23 years, but the rankings are nearing perfection from U.S. News’ perspective. This year, for the first time, the top five universities are all Ivy League schools (Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, and Penn (tied with Stanford).

All 8 Ivies rank in the top 16 of universities.

Up until now, U.S. News has had to struggle with Cal Tech, MIT, and Stanford mucking up its top rankings. Duke has also consistently been pesky.

The 2011 rankings have USC, the fabled “University of Second Choice” passing cross town rival UCLA for the first time.

2000 was an especially bad year for the rankings. The 1999 rankings had MIT at 4,
Caltech at 9 and Johns Hopkins at 14. For 2000 Caltech came in first, MIT third, and Johns Hopkins at 7. These are dramatic changes in one year. Pundits predicted that U.S. News would change its methodology.

Sure enough,Caltech dropped to 4th the next year, MIT to fifth, and Johns Hopkins plunged to 15th. Just to make sure everyone understood the settled order, the editor in charge of the 2000 rankings was terminated.

The original rankings were based solely on a survey of university presidents, in short academic reputations. Stanford was first, Berkeley 5th and Michigan 7th. Other great public universities, such as UCLA, Virginia, North Carolina, and Illinois were highly ranked.

The publication switched to “objective” criteria in 1987, and the publics tanked in the rankings. The criteria chosen were those designed to favor elite, private institutions of higher education.

For example, alumni contribution rates are used as a proxy for student satisfaction, but the reality is that students at the elite private schools are inculcated with the obligation to give back. That expectation does not exist at the public institutions, where the giving rates are in fact substantially lower.

Similarly, the admissions rate was used as a proxy for selectivity. A public university which, because of its mission to provide an education to the state’s population, has to admit a much higher percentage of students than an elite private school seating somewhere between 800-1,200 students, and hence scores lower.

Two measures, faculty resources and financial resources are especially pernicious. They not only favor the elite private schools, but play a role in driving up the cost of higher education.

Financial resources include the salaries and benefits of the faculty and student finances measures the average spending per student on “instruction, research, student services, and related expenditures.” The higher these expenditures, the higher the rankings. Only institutions with large endowments or annual fund raising success will reap high scores for these factors (30% of the total).

Public institutions facing rounds of state budget cuts will increasingly fall behind their private competitors. The effect is to drive up the costs of higher education since frugality is counterproductive for U.S. News.

Once the objective criteria were published, institutions learnt to game the system. For example, some institutions actively solicit applications, knowing they will deny the vast majority as unqualified, but boosting their selectivity. Similarly, many adopted early decision programs to lock in admittees, and again increase their selectivity.

A few schools were caught manipulating the contribution rate by taking an annual contribution, and spreading its receipt over a series of years to increase the annual percentage rate.

Law schools have other ways to game the numbers. Some schools have reduced the number of entering students so as to boost the median GPA’s and LSAT’s, but then make up the difference by accepting large numbers of transfer students. Their lower LSAT’s and GPA’s are not considered by U. S. News, but the transfers have a record of success and drive that will result in their passing the Bar Exam and finding gainful employment.

Many other schools accepted large numbers of part time students with lower LSAT’s and GPA’s than the full time students. Until last year, U.S. News ignored the part timers in its calculations.

Other law schools manipulated their placement rates.

The apocalyptic story is that someone once complained to U.S. News that its methodology favors the elite private universities. The response was “Where do you think we went to school?”

And yet, this theory theoretically fails because Robert Morse earned his B.A. in Economics from the University of Cincinnati and an MBA in Finance from Michigan State. Both are solid institutions of higher education, but neither ranks in the elite of American higher education.