Saturday, August 31, 2013

The President's New Syria Policy: Blame it on Congress

After months of dithering over Syria, after months of Syria crossing the President’s red line in the sand, after months of trying to ignore Syria’s use of chemical or biological weapons, the feckless president has reached a decision. He will take it to Congress to authorize or refuse the use of military force against Syria. That is, not too much force, not to remove or cripple the Assad Regime, but just a shot across the bow, hardly a decisive act of leadership. What a great political decision! If Congress approves, President Obama gets cover from Congress. If the military response succeeds (highly unlikely), then the President receives the credit. He will bask in the reflected glory of the military, which his Administration has been diminishing, just as he self-glorified in the Bin-Laden takedown. If it fails, then Congress gets the blame. He has forced Congress to do that which its individual members hate to do – to vote on an unpopular measure, the odds of which are failure. Congress is on the horns of a political dilemma. The members know, as Congressman Abraham Lincoln learnt the hard way, the public wants Congress to support the military in times of crisis or war. Thus many Democrats voted to support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and then ran away from their votes. The Representatives and Senators also recognize that the American public is greatly opposed to military action in Syria. Afghanistan and Iraq exhausted their tolerance for war in the Mideast – a war which involves no critical American issue. The Obama view of the world, apparently until now, is that America cannot serve as The Policeman of the World. They know that the President’s rhetorical ability will not sway public opinion. Indeed, if healthcare and gun control are illustrative, the more he speaks, the greater the rejection. Part of the public resistance is because of the long campaign the anti-war Democrats waged against the “Bush wars.” Senator Obama was a leader in delegitimizing the Iraq War. He is asking Democrats to vote against their core beliefs on the use of military force and a significant block of the Democratic Coalition. He is asking many to commit political suicide. To some extent he is now hoisted upon his own petard as he is asking Congress to enter into new military action without a coalition, except for France which was vilified for opposing the Iraq War. The President cannot even get England to support the action. Parliament overwhelmingly voted a few days ago against military action in Syria. The British action was personal. President Obama and his Administration have treated the British with contempt. They derided the “special relationship” between the United States and England. One of his first acts as President was to unceremoniously return the Churchill Bust to England. He tried to bankrupt BP, the lynchpin of the British economy, after the Gulf Blowout. He has questioned the legitimacy of the British control of the Falkland Islands. No wonder the British aren’t there when he needs them. His inaugural worldwide apology and kowtowing tour created no lasting goodwill for America. He’s letting Iran get the bomb while failing to support the Iranian people in their opposition to the stolen election 4 years ago. China and Russia contemptuously spurn him. They both snubbed him on Snowden. They witnessed how he hid from Benghazi. They witnessed how he unilaterally retreated from Iraq, and is repeating the process with Afghanistan. They witness how he is bankrupting the American economy and shrinking the military. From a two ocean Navy, we are headed to 8 aircraft carriers. America is neither feared nor respected by world leaders. That’s the effect of a foreign policy of appeasement, disengagement, and retreat. He is asking for Congress to vote for military action when he has declared that the military action is not intended to be meaningful. He is asking Congress to vote when his own indecisiveness has created the problem. Yet, he has called the bluff of the members of Congress calling for a Congressional vote. It’s great politics, but furtherance of a bad foreign policy. President Truman famously had a plague in his White House office. It said “The Buck Stops Here.” If Congress rejects the use of military force in Syria, then America will be further shamed throughout the world. He will blame it on Congress for the buck never stops in his Office.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Reflections on The Historic March on Washington 50 Years and 1 Day Later

Yesterday was the 50th Anniversary of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic “I have a Dream” Speech during the Civil Rights March on Washington. The March and Speech represented an epochal change in America. They were soon followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. President John F. Kennedy would have had difficulty getting Congress to enact these statutes. Tragically he was assassinated, as was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a year later. President Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, previously presumed to be a racist Senator from Texas, jammed these measures through Congress. He believed in equality and integration. America was changed forever. The keynote speech yesterday given in the footsteps of Rev. King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was by President Obama, the African American President of the United States. America has changed for the better. President Obama in the 2008 Election carried the southern states of Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia. America is changed. The solid Southern states of Louisiana and South Carolina have elected an Indian man and an Indian woman as their governors. The South has changed. South Carolina elected in 2010 a Black Republican, Tim Scott, to Congress. Congressman Scott now serves as a Senator from South Carolina. Many of the Congressmen and Senators from the South last century were rabid racists. The third ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, James Clyburn, is an African American from South Carolina. South Carolina is changed. The number one movie in America, The Butler, features Black actors (Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker) as its stars. The American people have changed. The 1963 March on Washington was called by A. Philip Randolph and organized by Bayard Rustin – distinguished leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, leaders who have been lost to history. The 2013 March was partially organized by the Reverend Al Sharpton, a fire-breathing black racist. White racist police officers, exemplified by Bull Conner, often led the attacks on Blacks. The current Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, is African American. Blacks have served as police chiefs of our largest cities. The United States Military was once heavily racist. President Truman ordered it to integrate. General Colin Powell, an African American, has served as Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as Secretary of State. Condoleezza Rice, an African American professor, also served as Secretary of State. African Americans have risen to leadership positions in American business, including IBM and Xerox, as well as presidents of some of America’s great universities. Sports and sporting venues no longer discriminate against Black athletes. Indeed, big time basketball is now primarily an African American sport with jokes about “White men can’t jump.” Not all the changes are good. The predominant black music 5 decades ago was the Blues, Jazz, Rock, and Barry Gordy’s Motown. Today’s music is hip hop, which glorifies the subordination of women and the killing of police officers intermixed with obscenities. Sadly, African American elected officials can be just as corrupt or licentious as they white counterparts. Yesterday’s activities received great publicity as the country recognized the amazing changes of the past half century. Yet, yesterday’s ceremonies are a poor shadow of the original. It became just another political rally on behalf of the Democratic Party. LBJ needed a large number of Republican votes for his measures to pass Congress. Indeed, the legislation was bi-partisan. Three dozen speakers appeared on the dais yesterday. Not one was a Republican. Both President Bush’s apparently declined for medical reasons, but a replacement could have been found. Instead, Senator Scott, the only African American Senator, was explicitly not invited to speak. The only Republican on the platform was President Abraham Lincoln, but he was stone mute. The speakers five decades ago mourned Medgar Evers. Yesterday’s speakers cried out for Trayvon Martin. There is no comparison. Medgar was assassinated because he was a black elected official. Trayvon was killed because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time - not because he was black. Rev. Sharpton may have been outspoken on the killing of Trayvon, but he is strangely silent on the two teenage black punks who brutally killed 88 year old veteran Delbert Beldon in Spokane a week ago. Dr. King strove for equality and integration. He wanted voting rights. Yesterday’s speakers were opposed to voter’s ID, apparently in favor of voting fraud. They spoke against “Stop and Frisk” and “Stand Your Ground,” apparently preferring to perpetuate black on black violence. Most significantly, 250,000 were present five decades ago when Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream spoke to all America. Only about 20-30,000 were present yesterday as the speakers spoke to themselves. Dr. King and President Obama are gifted orators. Dr, King’s cadence resonated throughout America, and through the decades. President Obama’s cadence was lacking in substance, as usual.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Steve Ballmer's Retiring - 14 Years Late

Bill Gates turned over management of Microsoft to Steve Ballmer in January 2000, naming him Chief Operating officer of Microsoft. Steve Ballmer announced last Friday that he will be retiring as CEO of Microsoft sometime in the next 12 months. Neither a successor nor interim CEO has been named. Ballmer’s performance as CEO is outstanding – on paper. The company had sales of profits of $9.421 billion when he became CEO and now profits of $21.503 billion, quite an impressive increase. Yet the stock price of Microsoft dropped from $53.91 to $34.71 during his reign, but jumped 7% when his resignation was announced. Full time employment increased from 39,000 to 99,000 during this period, with little to show for it. His reign has been termed Microsoft’s ”Lost Decade;” a 14 year lost decade. Perhaps his performance in office can be analogized to Arafat and the Palestinians. They never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Microsoft’s sales and profits come its near monopoly in Windows and the Office Suite, a shrinking market. Apple rose from the dead with the IMac becoming a major seller as PC sales dropped. Apple gave us ITunes, Apps and the IPod. Steve Jobs at Apple revolutionized music distribution with the ITunes Store becoming the largest music retailer in the world. Ballmer countered with the Zune, which was terminated in 2011. Apple brought the IPad to the market. Ballmer responded years later with the Surface Tablet, which led to a $900 million write off last year. Steve Jobs unveiled the IPhone in 2007. Steve Ballmer is famously reported to have bad-mouthed the IPhone: “I see no chance that the IPhone is going to get any significant market share.” Google with its Android operating system is outselling Apple’s IPhone. Ballmer has entered into a deal with Nokia for the once dominant manufacturer of dumb phones to use the Windows Phone OS in its new smart phones. Nokia is sadly fading into the sunset, following Blackberry. Microsoft has never been known for the quality, reliability and cleanness of its operating systems, but it lows with Vista and now Windows 8. Google dominates the search market. Ballmer belated responded with Bing, which is only marginally successful eventhough it comes pre-installed in every Microsoft PC. Microsoft finally opened its retail stores in 2009, years after Apple’s highest grossing retail stores. You can often hear the sounds of silence as you walk past the Microsoft stores. Steve Ballmer’s problem was two-fold. First, he didn’t understand technology. Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Steve Jobs and Paul Wozniak, Larry Page and Sergei Brin, were all technology geeks. They saw things in Hi-Tech. Ballmer is smart, but he’s a “numbers guy.” His undergrad degree from Harvard was in applied mathematics and economics. He worked for Proctor & Gamble for two years and then dropped out of Stanford Business School to join his college friend, Bill Gates, at the fledging Microsoft. His second problem was that, like many monopolists or quasi-monopolists, he attempted to preserve the company’s existing markets, which meant stifling internal innovation. Microsoft, like past market dominators, is a follower- not a leader in technology. It buys technology, such as Hotmail and Skype. The one major success, albeit not very profitable, in the past 14 years is the X-Box, but that was designed by a small team outside the purview of his office. Steve Jobs famously removed Computers from Apple’s name. He recognized technology was the market – not the PC. Thus, Apple could adjust to the ITouch, the smart phone and the tablet, while Microsoft fumbled. Technology moves fast. IBM ultimately failed in PC’s. The future is not the PC. Steve Ballmer could not see outside the small box. He was the wrong leader for the then technology leader.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Samantha Powers is AWOL in the UN on Syria: A Perfect Fit for the Obama Administration

Samantha Power has been the United States Ambassador to the United Nations for 19 days, during which time the Assad regime in Syria used chemical weapons against its people – most recently a few days ago. The United Nations Security Council held a special meeting yesterday on the Syrian use of chemical weapons. Ambassador Powers tweeted yesterday: “Reports devastating: 100s dead in the streets, including kids killed by chem weapons. UN must get there fast & if true, perps must face justice.” She stated in her confirmation hearings that the Security’s Council’s failure to act on Syria is a “disgrace that history will judge harshly.” What did Samantha Powers do at the session? Nothing. She wasn’t there, and no one has disclosed her whereabouts. The State Department simply said she was on a pre-arranged trip. Ambassador Powers is picking up where her predecessor Susan Rice left off. Ambassador Rice was notorious for missing UN sessions. Ambassador Powers, the supposedly strong advocate of international human rights was strangely absent during the debate on one of the great human rights issues of today – the use of chemical weapons against civilians. The strong opponent of genocide is continuing President Obama’s policy of benign neglect of Syria. The President did not interrupt his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard or his current campaign on college campuses to impose federal controls on our colleges to address the Syria issue. President Obama said a year ago that if chemical weapons were used in Syria, then that would be a red line. Syria crossed that line months ago with everyone but the President seeing it. The President blinds himself to “inconvenient” international problems that don’t interest him or go against his core beliefs. Thus he was silent on the Iranian suppression of the hundreds of thousands of student protestors against the stolen Presidential election 4 years ago. He has been silent on the militant Islamist terror throughout Egypt, Nigeria, Mali, and elsewhere in the Mideast and North Africa of Christians and churches in a manner reminiscent of Kristellnacht. He turned a blind eye to the Moslem Brotherhood’s attempt to turn Egypt into an Islamic Republic like Iran, but is upset with the Egyptian military throwing out the Brotherhood. The President himself was AWOL during Benghazi while the cover-up continues. Admittedly the Security Council would not do anything substantial against Syria in light of the strong China and Russia support of the Assad government. However, the absence of Ambassador Powers reinforces the international image of a feckless United States and President Obama. Once again the world sees that the United States is led by a leaderless President.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Other News

In between the usual news tragedies, politics, weather, celebrity mishaps, and sports are non-front page human interest news stories - the true oddities. They may be humorous, tragic, tragic-comedic, or full of pathos or irony, but they’re outside the norm. Here’s the news you may have missed. Let’s start with Bob Filner, Anthony Weiner, and Detroit, all in the news. As the soon to be ex-mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner, was undergoing therapy, vacationing, and mediation, the Chief Administrative Officer of San Diego changed the lock on his office door. He has no office to return to. He also will not be eating at Hooters. A prominent sign was posted in four San Diego Hooters Restaurants: “The Mayor of San Diego will not be served in this establishment. We believe women should be treated with respect.” Hooters, which is otherwise known for sexualizing women, got the language for the sign from Glenn Beck, which he proposed on his show. What a hoot! Sydney Leathers, Anthony Weiner’s sexting partner, filmed a porn flick. It would sell better if the ex-Congressman contributed his privates to the movie. Detroit is not totally down. 1.3 million people witnessed the Woodward Dream Cruise, an annual cruise of Detroit heavy medal, classics and hot rods. Very few incidents were reported. On the other hand two police officers, a sergeant from Detroit and a sergeant from the neighboring St. Claire Shores, were arrested for pistol whipping and robbing a victim at a CITGO gas station. The detectives viewing the videos originally thought the assailants were impersonating police officers. Imagine their surprise when they realized they were looking at police officers impersonating police officers. Conversely a criminal impersonating traffic cops made the mistake in New Mexico of pulling over an unmarked cap with two real state police officers inside. Former California madam Heidi Fleiss was busted for growing 400 marijuana plants in Pahrump, Nevada. 18 year old Kendra McKenzie Gill, the winner of the Miss Riverton beauty pageant in Utah, surrendered her crown when it was revealed she was arrested on August 3 for throwing from her car homemade “bottle bombs,” otherwise known as Molotov Cocktails. She acted with three friends – all four of whom were honor students. Dirk Anderson was celebrating his friend’s bachelor’s party at the Lady Luck Casino in Blackhawk, Colorado by climbing out of the room on the eleventh floor ledge and falling to his death by landing on the roof of a parking garage. Derek Miranda murdered his wife in south Miami by shooting her multiple times. He then posted a photo of her bloody body lying on the kitchen floor on Facebook. He sought his 15 minutes of infamy by including this statement: “I’m going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife love you guys. Miss you guys take care Facebook people you will see me in the news.” Will it be life or capitol punishment in Florida? Huntington Beach suffered a major riot in July 28 after the U.S. Surfing Open. It posted online photos of several participants. One was Luis Enrique Rodriquez who allegedly wrote obscenities on the sides of police cars. He was so proud of the Facebook photo that he “liked” it and circulated. He was arrested. Another early arrestee was 30 year old Michael Lytle of Anaheim. Michael’s full time job was as a firefighter in Fullerton. He is now on administrative leave. Aeromexico Airlines apologized for its ad agency sending out a casting call specifying that only “light skinned” people need apply.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Obama Foreign Policy Defined: Apology, Denial, and Retreat

Apology President Obama began his Presidency with the global “Apology Tour.” He never actually used the word apology, but repeatedly complained of past acts by the United States. Denial Ambassador Curt Stephens asked for increased security in Libya. It was refused. He paid with his life, as did two ex-SEALS and an embassy employee. Nothing was done to protect our people in Benghazi once the attacks were underway. Indeed, the President was AWOL for 5 hours. Yet someone issued an order to stand down. The Obama Administration knew from the beginning that it was a terrorist attack, but to admit it would undermine a critical talking point of the reelection campaign “Al Qaeda is on the run, and Osama Bin Laden is dead.” Instead, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton immediately blamed the attack on a spontaneous demonstration directed at an anti-Muslim video “The Innocence of Muslims.” Hardly anyone had scene the video prior to the attack. Ambassador Susan Rice went on the weekend TV circuit blaming the video for the tragedy. President Obama denounced the “cruel and disgusting” video before the United Nations. The President and Secretary Clinton were featured declaiming the video in a $70,000 advertising run in Pakistan. The effect of the Obama Administration focusing attention on the previously unknown video was to alert the Muslim world to its existence, and set off anti-American riots throughout the Muslim world. The Obama Administration denied the threat of Al Qaeda throughout the election campaign, even with the attack in Benghazi. Politics trumped national security and reality. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the producer of the video, was arrested and sentenced to one year in jail. Retreat The Obama Administration unilaterally pulled out of Iraq, perhaps snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It is coming close to a unilateral pullout from Afghanistan in 17 months. This past week it closed 22 embassies and consulates in the Mideast and North Africa for a day and 19 of them for a week. “Non-essential” personnel were flown out of Yemen. This action was taken in response to an intercepted telephone conversation between Al Qaeda’s chief, Ayman al Zawahiri, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The threat was unspecific. The nature of the threat, the timing, and location were unspecified. Yet the United States closed its embassies and consulates and issued a world wide alert in response to a non-specific threat. President George W. Bush said “My answer is bring ‘em on.” President Obama said ‘Shut ‘em down.” Al Qaeda’s not on the run. The image to Islamicists and Jihadists is that the United States is on the run. They are laughing at the impotence of the United States. Osama Bin-Laden’s view of the United State was that it runs. He misjudged President George W. Bush. President Obama is proving him right. The President showed up on Jay Leno Tuesday night and said we should “Lead our lives,” He is doing so by playing golf, visiting Camp David, appearing on Jay Leno, campaigning, and traveling, all at taxpayer expense. The dilettante President is not letting Benghazi or an Al Qaeda threat interfere with his life style. The Administration’s response a few days ago to Benghazi was to issue sealed indictments against some of the perpetrators. Al Qaeda sent in AK-47’s and mortar rounds into the Benghazi consulate annex. We respond by sending in lawyers. The Explanation The Obama Administration entered office with the foreign policy baggage of the left. President George W. Bush was a trigger-happy, unsophisticated cowboy from Texas (ignore the Yale and Harvard degrees), who has humiliated America throughout the world. He tortured our prisoners and then shipped them to Gitmo. His statements in a Texan drawl, such as “Bring ‘em on,” and “Wanted Dead or Alive” repelled them. They failed to see that after 9/11 President Bush’s overriding goal was the security of the American people. He succeeded. President Obama would bring into the White House a sophisticated, world based foreign policy. No more torture, no more Gitmo, no more needless wars, no more war for oil, no more arrogance or bullying. Turn his back on Israel and play to the Arab Street. Forget the special relationship with Great Britain; he returned the Churchill Bust. Use the Arab Spring to toss out President Mubarak and bring in the Muslim Brotherhood to govern Egypt. Draw down the military. President Obama is a citizen of the world. American would seek forgiveness from the world and thereby earn respect. America now has neither respect nor fear in the world. Not even our allies trust us. Vladimir Putin mocks us and Iran is close to the bomb. Apology, denial, and retreat sounds a lot like appeasement.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Nathan Louis Campbell: Why?

Who, what, when, where, and why – the classic 5 W’s of journalism. We know who, what, when, and where for Nathan Louis Campbell, but not the why. Campbell at 6:00pm on Saturday casually got into his Dodge Avenger parked on Dudley Ave in Venice, California, drove up on a sidewalk to circumvent 5 street barriers, and then accelerated to 60mph into the crowd by the Venice Boardwalk. The videos showed he deliberately drove into the crowd, tossing them asunder like bowling pins. He killed Alice Gruppioni from Italy on her honeymoon and injured 16 others. He turned himself into the Santa Monica Police Station an hour later. The police have charged him with 1st Degree Murder. The question we don’t know is why. The usual questions do not seem to apply. 1) Was he off his meds, such as Steven Kazmerczak at Northern Illinois on February 14, 2008 when he killed 5 and injured 21, Seung-Hui Cho who fatally shot 32 and injured 17 at Virginia tech on April 16, 2007, or the bi-polar David Attias on February 23, 2001 drove his car through a crowded street at 50-65mph in Isla Vista a few blocks from the University of California Santa Barbara campus. Attias called himself the “Angel of Death?” He had stopped taking his meds, but had been on Ecstasy. 2) Should he have been placed on meds, such as Jared Lee Loughner, who fatally shot a federal judge and five others and critically wounded Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords and 11 others in Tucson, Arizona on January 11, 2011, or Steven Allen Abrams who intentionally rove his 1967 Cadillac into Costa Mesa, California day care center on May 2, 2004, killing two children and injuring four others plus a teacher? He had long fantasized about killing children. He said “I was going to execute those children because they were innocent.” 3) Had the assailant fried his brain through substance abuse, such Jared Loughner? 4) Was it perhaps a psychopath whose violence may have been triggered by medications, such as Zoloft or Luvox as with Eric Harris at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, killing 12 students and one teacher while wounding 24 students? Harris’ partner, Dylan Klebold, suffered from depression.. 5) Could it have been anti-government animus, as with Timothy McVeigh truck bomb which kiled168 and injured close to 700 at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City on September 19, 1995? 6) Did a wife discover her husband was cheating on her, such as Clara Harris, who ran over her husband three times in a Houston Hilton parking on July24, 2002 lot with her Mercedes-Benz, parked the car on his body, and said “It was an accident?” 7) Is it an old driver, who claimed to have accidentally placed his foot on the accelerator rather than the brake, such as 86 year old George Russell walker on July 26, 2003 whose car mowed straight through Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade into the Framers Market, killing 10 and injuring 63? He reportedly said to the surviving victims “If you saw me coming, why didn’t you get out of the way?” 8) Was it perhaps a case of “Sudden Jihad Syndrome,” such as Mohammad Reza Taheri-Azar who drove his Jeep Grand Cherokee in a crowded student courtyard on March 3, 2003 at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, injuring 9? He then phoned the police and turned himself in. 9) Was he seeking his 15 minutes of infamy, such as James Eagan Holmes who fatally shot 12 and wounded 70 in an Aurora, Colorado theater on July 12, 2012? 10) Was it a gangbanger asserting turf or undergoing initiation? None of these apply, which is not to say on the information presently available Campbell that Campbell did not have an alcohol or drug problem. His acts, as caught on video, showed a well-considered act. Perhaps a different theory, my far out theory, might answer the question of why. Reports this morning were that he was a homeless transient living out of his car. He also is reported to have asked “How many did he injure?” Let us assume in his warped mind, perhaps not criminally insane, that he figured that if drove into a crown and injured a few bystanders, then the people of California could provide him room, board, and medical cade, perhaps for life.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

From Clark Kerr to Janet Napolitano: The Rise and Decline of the University of California

From Clark Kerr to Janet Napolitano: How far has the University of California Fallen? Clark Kerr was Chancellor of he University of California Berkeley and the President of the University of California when Berkeley was ranked the top university in America- better than Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford or MIT. The people of the state of California built Berkeley, a public university, into the greatest university in the world, in less than a century. They also built the University of California into the world’s greatest university system. It’s taken less than five decades for the political leaders of California to rip away the glory of Berkeley and UC. Three Presidents of Berkeley, Benjamin Ide Wheeler from 1899-1919, Robert Gordon Sproul from 1930-1952, when he became the first president of the University of California system, and Clark Kerr from 1952 -1958 when he succeeded Sproul as president of the University of California, led Berkeley to greatness. The fortune of California poured into Berkeley during the Nineteenth Century. Stanford wasn’t founded until 1891, USC in 1880, and Cal Tech traces its modern roots to 1921. Wheeler emphasized the sciences and humanities. By 1906 Berkeley was considered one of the “Big Six” research universities (Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Chicago, Berkeley, and Michigan). President Sproul led Berkeley through the great depression. He invested heavily into the sciences, especially physics with Ernest Lawrence and Robert Oppenheimer. Berkeley exited World War II running three of the nation’s great physics labs, Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, and Los Alamos, and reaping a long string of Nobel Prize winners in physics and chemistry. Ernest Lawrence built the cyclotron and Robert Oppenheimer was the science director at Los Alamos in developing the bomb. Clark Kerr built on Berkeley’s primacy in the sciences and engineering to build up the humanities side of the campus to equal greatness. Berkeley and Stanford were rivals, but Berkeley had a narrow edge in most fields. Clark Kerr was named the first Chancellor of Berkeley in 1952 and continued in that position until named in 1958 to succeed Sproul as president of the University of California. The American Council on Education designated Berkeley in 1964 as the “best balanced distinguished university.” It had more academic programs ranked in the top six than any other university. By this measure Berkeley is still the best university in America with more academic programs ranked in the top ten than any other university, followed by Harvard, Stanford, and Michigan. Yet the seeds of destruction had been planted. The Free Speech, Peoples’ Park, and other riots lowered the public esteem for Berkeley. Ronald Reagan ran for governor in 1966, partially on a plank to clean up Berkeley. One of his first acts was to have the Board of Regents fire Clark Kerr as President of the University of California. Kerr said he left the Presidency as he entered it, “fired with enthusiasm.” The Governor also imposed budget cuts on UC, which formally imposed tuition for the first time. Earlier it charged “fees,” which seem like tuition. The second seed was the rise of UCLA as a great university in its own right. UCLA was established in 1881 as the southern branch of the California State Normal School, now Jose State. It became the southern Branch of Berkeley in 1919, but not a separate university until 1951. Just as Berkeley had three great leaders, so did UCLA. Franklin Murphy from 1960-1968 and Charles Young fought to make UCLA equal to Berkeley. The board of regents voted in 1958 to treat all campuses as equal for appropriating state funds. No longer would Berkeley receive the bulk of the funding and resources. The result was that especially UCLA, San Diego, and UCSF rose to national prominence, while Davis, Irvine, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz also received high rankings as public universities. Albert Carnesale served as Chancellor of UCLA from 1997 to 2006. He recognized that the future of UCLA depended not on its current reputation, but on prodigious fund raising. His Campaign UCLA, with a target of $1.5 billion, raised $3.05 billion, a record for public universities, subsequently exceeded by the Michigan Difference with $3.2 billion. Berkeley had agricultural research labs in Davis and Riverside, and a marine biology lab at the Scripps Institute in San Diego, all three of which became the foundations of new campuses of the University of California. UCLA has built itself into an equal in almost every respect with Berkeley. The non-Berkeley campuses are unique in prestigious American higher education. They were all founded in the 20th Century whereas almost all the nation’s highly ranked universities, public or private trace, their roots to the earlier centuries. Clark Kerr’s successors as Chancellor of Berkeley and President of the University of California were highly qualified leaders. They succeeded in maintaining the stature of Berkeley and the University of California while fighting a series of budget cuts, increasing deferred maintenance, and earthquake retrofitting. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Berkeley starting slipping. A generation of scholars retired or past on – not all of whom were replaced. Its ability to hire distinguished laterals was limited while not all the offers from rival institutions for its stars could be matched. Physics is an example. Once preeminent, coming our of World war II into the 1970’s, US News now ranks it fifth. Stanford surpasses Berkeley in may areas today. Berkeley’s hold on the “best balanced distinguished university” is precarious. Our state legislators are in the process of destroying the great University of California through the slow bleed of persistent budget cuts, interrupted occasionally by a budget increase. The University of California Board of Regents has hired Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano as the new President of the University of California in a move that befuddles most onlookers. The University of Miami hired Donna Shalala as its President when she left the Clinton Administration, but she was experienced, having previously served as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Madison. Janet Napolitano has no experience in higher education except four years as a undergrad at Santa Clara and three years as a law student at the University of Virginia. She’s inexperienced with university financing and politics. One argument is that she can work well with legislators who control the university’s public funding. She had success as the Democratic Governor of Arizona in getting the Republican legislature to substantially increase funding for the Arizona universities. Arizona was rolling in money a decade ago. It has subsequently reduced the state allocations for the universities. That theory did not work in Massachusetts with an experienced, powerful state legislator. William “Billy” Bulger was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate in 1970 and served as President of the Senate from 1978-1996. He was appointed President of the University of Massachusetts on November 28, 1995, presumably to increase public expenditures for the public university. He was unsuccessful, even with all his connections. Janet Napolitano has no connections with the California legislature. She is personable and will probably get along well with the state Assembly and Senate members. However, the California Legislature is run by the leaders of the public employee unions, whose interests are the salaries, pensions, health insurance, and vacation and sick days of their members. If something has to be cut from the budget, it will be the large, discretionary budget item of the University of California – not the public sector employees. Another argument is that because of her experience first as Governor of Arizona, and then s secretary of Homeland Security, she will be able to deal with minority students who have recently been protesting at Regent meetings tuition increases and for the rights of undocumented immigrants. Some pundits remark the University of California is a mass bureaucracy. The Secretary supposedly proved she could run a bureaucracy with the Department of Homeland Security so she should be able to tame UC’s. The history of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the billions wasted by the Agency, and the low morale of the employees, lay waste to the competency claim. The scariest part of the Napolitano hire is that, according to someone familiar with the hiring process, is that at no point did she lay out her vision for the University of California. The Regents of the University of California took a bold step in appointing Janet Napolitano as President of the University of California, but whether it's an enlightened step remains to be seen.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

E. Gordon Gee's Platinum Parachute

E. Gordon Gee announced on June 4 his resignation, effective July 1, as President of The Ohio State University. He was returning from a Disney Cruise. His resignation, whether voluntary or forced, was inevitable in light of his December 5 remarks at the university’s Athletic Council. He uttered his last, and most vicious, quips as a university president. The 69 year old Gee, who served as president of more universities, public and private, than anyone else, was increasingly unable to control his warped sense of humor. He was a young Dean of the West Virginia University School of Law and then President of West Virginia, followed by stints at Colorado, Ohio State, Brown, Vanderbilt, and back to Ohio State. Many celebrated his departures from Brown and Vanderbilt. Students at Brown annually celebrate the “E. Gordon Gee Lavatory Complex,” which is a collection of porta johns. He is the consummate academic leader in today’s world. He can work a crowd, glad hand, smooze, and especially fund raise, as well as any university president. He completed a $1,25 billion fundraising campaign at Vanderbilt two years ahead of schedule. His tongue though can be too facile. He suffers from a chronic case on hoof in mouth disease. He compared in 2011 the presidency of Ohio State to running the Polish army, trying to get all the divisions to work together. When the Jim Tressel scandal first broke in Columbus, he quipped that he hoped Tressel would let Gee keep his job. December 5 though went over the line. He was asked about Notre Dame and the Big Ten. He said “You just don’t trust those damn Catholics.” The priests are “Holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell the rest of the week.” He didn’t stop there. He said Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin’s athletic director, thought head football coach Bret Bielema was a thug. He questioned the integrity of the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, this from the President of Ohio State, which has had problems with its basketball and football programs. He didn’t think much of the SEC. They wondered why a conference with 14 teams could continue to call itself “The Big ten.” He said “You tell the SEC when they learn to read and write, then they can figure out what we’re doing.” Normally when someone resigns they forfeit the remainder of their contract, absent a specific provision to the contrary. President Gee had 4 years and roughly $6 million on his contract when he resigned. The Ohio State University disclosed Monday his new contract for 5 years and $5.8 million, which makes it sound like a negotiated or forced resignation, all statements of Ohio State not withstanding. He will now be President Emeritus of the university and retain his tenured faculty position as a professor of Law. Most presidents, chancellors, provosts, and deans will have retreat rights as a tenured faculty member in an academic unit, so his arrival at the Moritz College of Law is not a surprise. The shocker is his salary, $410,000 annually as a law professor where the dean of the law school’s last published salary was $302,007 in 2010 and the median salary of the tenured full professors at Moritz is $159,216. In other words, the ex-president, who has no record of scholarly achievement or teaching in reaching years, will be earning 2-3X the salaries of the scholars and teachers on the faculty. I would be extremely upset as one of his new colleagues if his salary is coming out of the law school budget. Ohio State’s current tuition for resident students at the law school is $28,010, which would require the full tuition of 14 2/3 Ohio students to cover his salary. My preference is that he should be paid with 410,000 buckeye nuts. The law school salary is not the end of Ohio State’s largesse. He will also receive $300,000 annually to sustain his research on 21st century education policy, as well as a $1.5 million cash buyout. His total package is $5.8 million over 5 years. I guarantee that if I, or almost any other law professor in America, abruptly resigns, my buyout will be non-existent. How can The Ohio State University justify the apparent waste of $5.8 million it, like most public universities, is being squeezed financially? The answer has to be explained by “But for Ohio State,” the $2.5 billion fundraising campaign. No matter what else can be said about Gee, he does glad hand and fund raise. The campaign has raised $1.6 billion so far, with $900 million left to go. The easy part, the silent phase, is past which means a fundraiser par excellence must close the campaign, whose goal is to move Ohio State from excellence to eminence. Ohio State already has prominence. It’s hoping to bestow a platinum parachute to raise gold.