Archive for September 2008

Obama's Small Donors

Posted by unclesmrgol at 30 September, 2008 19:56:46

While McCain has released the names of his small donors, Obama has dropped the Cone of Silence over his. I think we can understand from this Obama clip, originally from Obama's campaign site, why. It's child protection, of course, from those who would abuse their trust.

The Blue Shirt Song

The sun on the meadow is awfully cold
The moose in the forest runs free
But gather together to record HD
Tomorrow belongs to me!

The branch of the local bank suddenly closed
Its assets were bought by JP
But somewhere a gold lining waits unseen
Tomorrow belongs to me!

The babe in the cradle was aborted last night
Her mom couldn?t wait to be free
Barack turned his back on the whole dirty scene
Tomorrow belongs to me!

Obamaland, ?Bamaland,
Show me the sign
Your children have waited to see.
The morning will come
When the world is mine.
Tomorrow belongs to me!

Update 4 Oct 2008: The above video has been made private -- apparently it became an embarrassment for the Obamafolk. But here's another copy posted by a conservative source.

Update 4 Oct 2008: Here's someone who had the same thought I did when they saw the above. They've got the visuals down perfectly [for those of you who don't recognize any of this, my lyrics above are a parody of those sung by "Rolf" the young Nazi in the movie Cabaret, from which the visualizations below are excerpted]:

And here is someone with access to stuff from Dear Leader up in North Korea:

Quote of the Day

Posted by unclesmrgol at 28 September, 2008 21:50:02

This is what frightens and angers us: The refusal to follow the rules of discourse, of language, even, implies that there is nothing to talk about. There is only action. There is only faith. There is only taking that hill.

Hmm. In Liberal World, talk trumps action. Talk trumps faith. Perhaps talk even trumps thought. Oh, and you never, ever, talk to a conservative, because they are too beneath you, what with their inability to follow the rules of discourse and all.

Palin is everything this hater is not. She's not had anyone to help her diversify Harvard, so she did it herself. Did the beauty contest, got the money, used the money for college. Been a Mayor. Been a Governor. Kills and butchers her own meat.

Oh, and she got a ton of earmarks for her little town. That's no dimwit lady -- she presided while her town grew from about 3,000 people to about 9,000. The town literally tripled in size. And those earmarks? Her little town has a rapid transit district that positions it for even more growth.

I'll leave it there. The article is a great read, including the pseudo-psychiatric analysis part.

Sarah vs. Elle

Posted by unclesmrgol at 26 September, 2008 08:29:05

Here's an interesting commentary on Sarah Palin from Judith Warner in the New York Times [25 Sept 2008]:
I?d found the ?Legally Blonde? movies fun the first time around. Viewing them in the company of an enraptured 11-year-old, who?d declared Elle her new ?role model? after months of dreaming of growing up to be a neuroscientist in a long braid and Birkenstocks, was another story.

?You can?t,? I?d admonished Julia, ?accomplish anything worthwhile in life just by being pretty and cute and clever. You have to do the work.?

?It?s just fun, Mom,? she protested.


You and Julia missed the point of "Legally Blonde", Ms. Warner. Elle didn't just get to where she went on the basis of looks, she got there because she passed the LSAT -- she exerted herself, she did the work, and, in spite of problems originating directly from her looks, accomplished great things.

This is a story of growth -- Elle starts out living for Warner, and in the end discovers her own self-worth as a result of her compassion and service to others.

Converting Sarah completely to Elle is quite a stretch -- Sarah, unlike Elle, appears to have understood her self-worth from the beginning. She used her God-given good looks to benefit herself (consider that she entered that beauty contest to earn money to go to college). But some parts of the comparison are true: Nobody can say that her service to the town of Wasilla caused Wasilla to become a ghost town (quite the contrary, it grew from 3,000 to over 10,000 while she was mayor). The fact that she's capable of doing things for herself and her community which I think would probably make you vomit is a plus, in my book.

If you think Elle got in to Harvard on the basis of her looks, you might want to look again at Barack Obama -- some of the parallels in that regard are amazing.

Methinks the Indians Underestimate Her

Posted by unclesmrgol at 25 September, 2008 10:08:58

From From Yahoo India:

A journalist said: "Our people seems to focus on Manmohan Singh's level of discomfort, but look at her level of discomfort. She is an ordinary moose hunter, no experience either in politics or International relations. She should have been more uncomfortable meeting Manmohan Singh, a first rate world economist, Prime Minister of the world's largest democracy. There is a level of match on the level of discomfort on both sides, auguring for her good relationship if she becomes the vice president."

Ordinary moose hunter?

Getting Out the Catholic Vote

Posted by unclesmrgol at 24 September, 2008 07:37:15

From comes this pro-life political advertisement.

For me, as a Catholic, the imagery and the message are unmistakable. Over at, where I found this gem, I commented as follows to a Baptist who wanted to know how to Get In on the Action:

If I?m a baptist, can I still get in on this?

(awesome vid but a little sad they didn?t kind of recognize the millions of protestant christians working tirelessly on this issue with them?eh?anyway, I?m not picky.)


Mommypundit on September 23, 2008 at 8:15 PM

They did recognize you, and gave you a nod in one of the frames, but the target here are Catholics like myself. The imagery used was obviously designed to tug at my heartstrings ? and to remind me of what my faith says is to be done when confronting evil.

As a Baptist, your references would be different. If you want to ?get in on this?, I?d say band up with a bunch of your fellow Baptists, make something that tugs at your collective heartstrings even stronger than this did, and put it up. Interestingly, is available for purchase. Head on over to and do it!

unclesmrgol on September 24, 2008 at 12:40 AM

Image of the Day

Posted by unclesmrgol at 23 September, 2008 22:56:43

And the Dead Fish ain't so bad either....

Computer Security Wayback Machine

Posted by unclesmrgol at 23 September, 2008 08:22:06

With all the talk about the hacker who used social engineering techniques to break into Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's private e-mail account, here's a nice 2004 article describing a bit of "skullduggery" on the Republican side, courtesy the Boston Globe.

Some tasty tidbits:

Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe.

From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic communications without a password. Trolling through hundreds of memos, they were able to read talking points and accounts of private meetings discussing which judicial nominees Democrats would fight -- and with what tactics.

Oh, those dastardly Republicans. Did they tape the doorlocks and hire a hacker to break into Democratic computers?

The computer glitch dates to 2001, when Democrats took control of the Senate after the defection from the GOP of Senator Jim Jeffords, Independent of Vermont.

A technician hired by the new judiciary chairman, Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, apparently made a mistake that allowed anyone to access newly created accounts on a Judiciary Committee server shared by both parties -- even though the accounts were supposed to restrict access only to those with the right password.

Nope. Some Democratic sysadmin made a mistake and left accounts, both Democratic and Republican, open to examination by everyone.

Now, what do you think the moral of the story is?

For the Republicans:
"There appears to have been no hacking, no stealing, and no violation of any Senate rule," Miranda said. "Stealing assumes a property right and there is no property right to a government document. . . . These documents are not covered under the Senate disclosure rule because they are not official business and, to the extent they were disclosed, they were disclosed inadvertently by negligent [Democratic] staff."

For the Democrats:
"They had an obligation to tell each of the people whose files they were intruding upon -- assuming it was an accident -- that that was going on so those people could protect themselves," said one Senate staffer. "To keep on getting these files is just beyond the pale."

This "Senate staffer" is obviously not one of the 49% of Network World's respondants who indicated in a poll that they were either agnostic or in support of the hacker who broke into Palin's yahoo mail account and spilled the content onto the internet.

This story is also a cautionary tale about "private" use of government resources, and the troubles that can result therefrom.

Hope and Change in Baghdad

Posted by unclesmrgol at 21 September, 2008 08:37:05

No thanks to Barack Obama (who opposed the Surge sought by Gen. Petraeus), but there is a bit of Hope and Change in Baghdad as reporter Dexter Filkins of the New York Times reports from Baghdad:
When I left Baghdad two years ago, the nation?s social fabric seemed too shredded to ever come together again. The very worst had lost its power to shock. To return now is to be jarred in the oddest way possible: by the normal, by the pleasant, even by hope. The questions are jarring, too. Is it really different now? Is this something like peace or victory? And, if so, for whom: the Americans or the Iraqis?

There are plenty of reasons why this peace may only amount to a cease-fire, fragile and reversible. The ?surge? of American troops is over. The Iraqis are moving to take their country back, yet they wonder what might happen when the Americans? restraining presence is gone. The Awakening, a poetic name for paying former Sunni insurgents not to kill Americans or Iraqis, could fall apart, just as the Shiite Mahdi Army could reanimate itself as quickly as it disappeared. Politics in Iraq remains frozen in sectarian stalemate; the country?s leaders cannot even agree to set a date for provincial elections, which might hand power to groups that never had it before. The mountain of oil money, piled ever higher by record oil prices, may become another reason to spill blood.

But if this is not peace, it is not war, either ? at least not the war I knew. When I left Iraq in the summer of 2006, after living three and a half years here following the collapse of Saddam Hussein?s regime, I believed that evil had triumphed, and that it would be many years before it might be stopped. Iraq, filled with so many people living so close together, nurturing dark and unknowable grievances, seemed destined for a ghastly unraveling.

And now, in the late summer of 2008, comes the calm. Violence has dropped by as much as 90 percent. A handful of the five million Iraqis who fled their homes ? one-sixth of all Iraqis ? are beginning to return. The mornings, once punctuated by the sounds of exploding bombs, are still. Is it possible that the rage, the thirst for revenge, the sectarian furies, have begun to fade? That Iraqis have been exhausted and frightened by what they have seen?

Now, if Obama lets us do the whole job, what is present in the majority of Iraq will become present everywhere in Iraq.

Biden Finally Surfaces

Posted by unclesmrgol at 15 September, 2008 09:29:20

Seemingly invisible since the Republican Convention, Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden finally surfaced today for his first stump speech on the circuit.

The kernel of his speech:
  • You must vote for Barack Obama because he is black, and therefore "transformative".
  • "Choice" is not a reason Obama or Biden would use as a criteria in nominating Supreme Court Justices
  • The Obama/Biden ticket would assure equal pay for equal work for women.

I think "transformative" is a high-falutin' word for Change (TM), so we aren't hearing anything new there. I also hadn't realized that Obama had denied his mother's race to the point where he doesn't want to identify with us whitefolk at all, but... these are Biden's words, not Barack's, right?

Biden states that a nominee's viewpoint on abortion would not be a factor in selecting a Justice. Wow. Biden really needs to go to Confession (or Reconciliation, or whatever) fast. In fact, Biden needs to talk to his bishop asap, so he can understand what he just promised and its true relationship to his Catholic faith.

The Obama campaign has caused Democratic women to defect in large numbers to the McCain/Palin campaign, due, in one measure, to Obama's refusal to promise a delegation of Democratic women that women would hold a place in Obama's cabinet. So, Biden would give women equal pay, but wouldn't give them the jobs -- wouldn't crack that glass ceiling that the Republicans cracked multiple times in the hated Bush Administration.

One has to love the vacuousness of this speech. It just sucked.

Remembering 9/11

Posted by unclesmrgol at 11 September, 2008 22:10:39

The seventh anniversary of 9.11:
For the families and friends of the fallen, this memorial will be a place of remembrance. Parents will come here to remember children who boarded Flight 77 for a field trip and never emerged from the wreckage. Husbands and wives will come here to remember spouses who left for work one morning and never returned home. People from across our nation will come here to remember friends and loved ones who never had the chance to say goodbye.

A memorial can never replace what those of you mourning a loved one have lost. We pray that you will find some comfort amid the peace of these grounds. We pray that you will find strength in knowing that our nation will always grieve with you.

For all our citizens, this memorial will be a reminder of the resilience of the American spirit. As we walk among the benches, we will remember there could have been many more lives lost. On a day when buildings fell, heroes rose: Pentagon employees ran into smoke-filled corridors to guide their friends to safety. Firefighters rushed up the stairs of the World Trade Center as the towers neared collapse. Passengers aboard Flight 93 charged the cockpit and laid down their lives to spare countless others. One of the worst days in America's history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans' history. We'll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.

We also honor those who raised their hands and made the noble decision to defend our nation in a time of war. When our enemies attacked the Pentagon, they pierced the rings of this building. But they could not break the resolve of the United States Armed Forces. Since 9/11, our troops have taken the fight to the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. Thanks to the brave men and women, and all those who work to keep us safe, there has not been another attack on our soil in 2,557 days. (Applause.)
[President George W. Bush, speaking at the dedication of the Pentagon Memorial]

Some have, but Some Haven't

Posted by unclesmrgol at 11 September, 2008 14:33:20

From a Yahoo News report on 9/11:
"They took from us innocent lives in the names of their God, and it seems some people have forgotten what happened here seven years ago," said Rosaria Reneo, sister of victim Daniela R. Notaro. "Our lives are filled with pain and always will be. Thank you to all the men and women fighting for us."

Eliteism Defined

Posted by unclesmrgol at 07 September, 2008 14:54:20

One has to love this comparison of Palin and Obama from kathyagreene over at the Daily Kos:

College #1 - Hawaii Pacific University a freshman during the fall of 1982,

College #2 - North Idaho College, a community college in Coeur d'Alene - A general studies major for two semesters, in spring 1983 and fall 1983.

College #3 - The University of Idaho from fall 1984 to spring 1985. ; majored in journalism with an emphasis in broadcast news.

In 1984, Palin won the Miss Wasilla Pageant, then finished Second in the Miss Alaska pageant

College #4 ? Attended Matanuska-Susitna College in Palmer, Alaska in fall 1985

College #5 ? University of Idaho; Spring 1986, Fall 1986 and Spring 1987

In 1987 Sarah Graduated from the University of Idaho with a Bachelor of Science degree in communications-journalism

In 1988, Sarah was a Sports Reporter for KTUU-TV in Anchorage, Alaska.

Palin served Two terms on the Wasilla, Alaska, city council from 1992 to 1996

Palin served Two terms as Mayor of Wasilla from 1996 to 2002

Unsuccessful campaign for Lieutenant Governor of Alaska in 2002

Palin Appointed to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and Chaired the Commission from 2003 to 2004

November 2006, Palin was elected the Governor of Alaska,


Obama entered Harvard Law School in 1988.

In 1989 Obama was selected as an Editor of the Harvard Law Review based on his grades and a writing competition.

In 1990 Obama was elected President of the Law Review, editor-in-chief and supervising the law review's staff of 80 editors.

Obama graduated with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991

A summer Associate at the Chicago law firms of Sidley & Austin in 1989 and Hopkins & Sutter in 1990.

In 1991 was Awarded Fellowship at the University of Chicago Law School

Published autobiography - Dreams from My Father in mid-1995.[21]

From April to October 1992 Obama directed Illinois Project Vote, a voter registration drive with a staff of 10 and 700 volunteers that achieved its goal of registering 150,000 of 400,000 unregistered African Americans in the state

Crain's Chicago Business names Obama to its 1993 list of "40 under Forty" powers to be.

Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years, as a Lecturer for four years (1992?1996), and as a Senior Lecturer for eight years (1996?2004).

In 1993 Obama joined Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, a 12-attorney law firm specializing in civil rights litigation and neighborhood economic development. An Associate for three years from 1993 to 1996, then Counsel from 1996 to 2004.

Obama was a Founding Member of the Board of Directors of Public Allies in 1992, non-profit organization dedicated to youth leadership development

Obama served on the Board of Directors of the Woods Fund of Chicago, a philanthropic organization devoted to poverty relief and the promotion of social mobility, founded in 1941 which in 1985 had been the first foundation to fund Obama's DCP, from 1993?2002

Obama served on the Board of Directors of The Joyce Foundation from 1994?2002, a charitable foundation based in Chicago with Assets of $986,172,775.00.

Obama served on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge from 1995?2002, as founding President and Chairman of the Board of Directors from 1995?1999. A public-private partnership founded in 1995 with a focus to improve school performance.

Obama served on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Center for Neighborhood Technology, and the Lugenia Burns Hope Center.

Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996

Obama reelected to the Illinois Senate in 1998, and again in 2002

Unsuccessful bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000

Obama announced his Campaign for the U.S. Senate in January 2003

In January 2003, Obama became Chairman of the Illinois Senate's Health and Human Services Committee
In the November 2004 general election, Obama received 70% of the vote, the largest victory margin for a statewide race in Illinois history.[

Obama was sworn in as US senator from Illinois on January 4, 2005

Obama held Assignments on the Senate Committees for Foreign Relations, Environment and Public Works and Veterans' Affairs through December 2006.

In January 2007, Obama took additional Assignments with Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Obama became Chairman of the Senate's subcommittee on European Affairs.

2008 - Obama is currently the Junior United States Senator from Illinois.

They forget to mention that, during two-thirds of his Senate career, Barack Obama has been "not present" when votes came, due to his nearly full time job running for President of the United States.

They also forget to mention that, as Governor of Alaska, Palin is commander-in-chief of her state's National Guard -- the only full time Guard in the nation due to the need to protect United States intelligence assets in the State closest to both Russia and China.

They forget to mention that board jobs are primarily sinecures -- jobs which generally have no duties, other than to draw a paycheck.

They forget to mention that Obama is the Presidential candidate while Palin is the Vice Presidential candidate, and, in doing so, make you wonder why they aren't comparing Palin to her peer rather than her supposed superior.

And finally, they forgot to mention that it takes a great amount of money to attend an Ivy League school like Harvard -- money Palin's family did not have, and which Obama's somehow obtained. I'm sure the people of Idaho will be angered to know that all their state taxes have gone toward what the Daily Kos considers a second-rate university, suited only to graduating second-rate presidential wannabes like Sarah Palin, who is doomed in the eyes of the almighty Daily Kos to always be second rate because she cannot possibly equal a lawyer who graduated from Harvard.

But at least now we know where Barack stole that whole "Hope" gig, the second leg of the duality upon which he has based his entire campaign. It's in his resume.

UCLA's Admissions Policy Wrongs a Right

Posted by unclesmrgol at 07 September, 2008 10:54:54

In the LA Times today, there are two opinion pieces dealing with preferential admission of minorities to UCLA. One is by Darnell M. Hunt, a professor of sociology and director of UCLA's Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies which lays out an argument for a "holistic review process". The other is by Heather Mac Donald, a contributing editor to the City Journal, about how the UC System is rigging the admissions process to "replicate the effect of explicit racial quotas while appearing to be color blind."

As a holder of a Masters Degree in Computer Science awarded by UCLA, and the father of a daughter who was denied admission to UCLA based on her Asian heritage, both articles hit a particularly raw nerve which still resonates today, five years after my discovery that discrimination on the basis of skin color was again legal at UCLA. At the time, I wrote a letter to the editor of the LA Times (which was published) detailing some of the things I had discovered about UCLA's admissions process, much of which was aggregated on "cheat sheets" at high school websites across Los Angeles -- data provided by the high schools' senior counselors which was designed to guide their students in writing the kinds of admissions essays which would appeal to the kind of "holistic review process" envisioned by Dr. Hunt. My claim was disparaged both by responses printed in the LA Times from many people central to the admissions process at UCLA, but finally was vindicated by a series of hard hitting articles written by LA Times reporters themselves. One such article detailed, in "tale of two cities" fashion, the disparate responses to the admissions applications by two students whose stories were near-equal in stature -- each had lost both parents, had excelled scholastically in the face of severe economic adversity. The stories differed only in the denied student was male and had higher grades and better SAT scores, but was Asian, while the other student, admitted to UCLA, was a female Hispanic.

The articles in the LA Times today dwell on African American admissions, but the claims and counter-claims could be applied to any racial or ethnic category which is either "under represented" or, conversely, "over represented".

The two articles mirror each other:

UCLA's associate vice provost for student diversity also directed the admissions committee to increase the number of blacks who read and rate student applications, resulting in a 25% black representation among readers, more than three times the ratio in California's population.

Abrams had assured the black community that UCLA would increase its black admissions rate, and sure enough, holistic review did just that. For 2006-07, the last year under the old system, UCLA admitted 250 black students; the next year, it admitted 407.

The average combined SAT score for black admits dropped 45 points to a level about 300 points lower than the average among white and Asian admissions, according to a report by Groseclose. Blacks' chances of admission rose from 11.5% to 16.5%, while that of Vietnamese students, who tend to come from poorer households, dropped from 28.6% to 21.4%.

Groseclose wanted to evaluate whether a student's mention of his race on his application essay affected his chance of admission under holistic review. The university refused to turn over the necessary data, citing privacy concerns. But its reasoning is specious. The essence of the university is transparency. Groseclose has promised to abide by all applicable privacy restrictions. He has even offered not to publish his findings anywhere but to use them only to advise UCLA on its compliance with the law.

Even if UCLA continues to keep Groseclose away from its data, the flimsy justifications for racial double standards are crumbling just as fast as the myth that they no longer exist at the University of California.
[Heather Mac Donald]

That's nonsense. Holistic review is not a way to get around Proposition 209. It simply considers more of the factors in an applicant's life that we know have a bearing on success in college and beyond. Critics incorrectly assume that increases in black admissions, under holistic review, cannot be justified on the basis of merit alone. This is because they ignore three important facts:

1. UCLA's former admissions process was a failure. The truth is that UCLA's previous admissions process unfairly suppressed the number of black students admitted to the campus. It placed far too much emphasis on grade-point average and standardized test scores in isolation. As a result, it failed to adequately account for other important measures of merit, such as those that often come out in a candidate's personal essay (tenacity, creativity or a commitment to community service, for example). Several years ago, UC Berkeley was sued for this very reason and, in settlement of the lawsuit, changed its admissions process to one resembling UCLA's new model.

What critics cite as evidence of cheating, I contend, are merely corrections associated with the implementation of a fairer admissions process (for all applicants) that weighs the numbers within the context of other important factors.

2. GPA and standardized test scores are not objective measures of merit. The research literature is clear: Although GPA is a little better than standardized test scores, neither does a great job of predicting academic success in college. In fact, beyond a certain point, differences in these numbers are not very meaningful at all. Although it was slightly lower than that of the most highly admitted groups, the average GPA of admitted black students has exceeded 4.0 in recent years.

UCLA's old admissions approach relied too heavily on GPA and standardized test scores as part of an expedient scheme for allocating scarce admissions slots in the face of skyrocketing demand. But the process didn't really make valid distinctions between those who actually deserved access and those who did not. The truth is that the vast majority of the 47,317 students who applied for one of UCLA's 4,800 freshmen slots in 2006 had scores and grades that suggested they were more than capable of excelling on the campus.
UCLA's old admissions approach relied too heavily on GPA and standardized test scores as part of an expedient scheme for allocating scarce admissions slots in the face of skyrocketing demand. But the process didn't really make valid distinctions between those who actually deserved access and those who did not. The truth is that the vast majority of the 47,317 students who applied for one of UCLA's 4,800 freshmen slots in 2006 had scores and grades that suggested they were more than capable of excelling on the campus.

Unfortunately, deserving African American students often weren't able to win admission under the old process -- despite other compelling evidence of their potential -- because so many attended majority minority public schools that offered fewer opportunities to inflate their numbers by, for example, taking a large numbers of advanced placement courses (which can push your GPA above 4.0).

3. UC's mission mandates diversity. As a publicly supported institution of higher learning, the University of California is charged with educating the state's future leaders in science, business and the arts. In 2001, the UC regents reaffirmed the university's commitment to diversity, stating that each of its campuses should "seek out and enroll" a student body of academic achievers, but also one that reflects the "diversity of backgrounds characteristic of California."
[Darrel Hunt]

What is said in both cases is that objective measures of a student's preparedness to enter college and function without remedial measures, their SAT scores, are being demoted in favor of subjective measures. Dr. Hunt presents, without proof the "we know has a bearing on success in college and beyond" argument. In his talking point number 2, Dr. Hunt tries to take down the objectiveness of standardized test scores; if he is right, colleges (including his own) are relying on a totally spurious measure to weed out those who are unsuited for college (or law school for that matter, since most law schools rely on the LSAT). Dr. Hunt has obviously chosen to ignore the tantalizing findings in Robert Klitgaard's Choosing Elites [1985, Basic Books, ISBN 0465011063], in which a strong correlation was found between success in college (completing all four years) and SAT scores. In fact, Klitgaard's compilation of statistics include a study from Harvard which indicates that a 25-point difference in SAT scores translates to as much as 10 hours of extra study time per week for the low scorer, and that a 100-point difference appears to immunize the high scoring student against bad professors. Of course, colleges are free to choose the band of SAT scores to consider, and the wider the band, the greater the number of students admitted who will not complete their four (or, more commonly now, five) years of undergraduate study. Klitgaard's book concentrates on the "elites" (those admitted to the Ivy League), but the results can be easily applied to upper-tier institutions such as UCLA.

In addition to Klitgaard's book, there is this study from the University of California which appears to vindicate Dr. Hunt's position on the SAT I, but counters his viewpoint with respect to the SAT II:
* First, looking at the predictor variables one by one - rows (1) through (3) in the table above -- SAT II scores were the best single predictor of UCGPA in two of the four years studied (1998 and 1999), and also the best single predictor for the pooled, 4-year data. Over the four-year period, SAT II scores accounted for the most variance in UCGPA, 15.3%, followed by HSGPA with 14.5%. SAT I scores ranked third, accounting for 12.8% of the variance in UCGPA in a single-variable prediction equation.

* Second, using the predictor variables in combination - rows (4) through (7) in the preceding table - the proportion of explained variance increases beyond that which is possible using any one variable alone. Thus, the three predictor variables combined - HSGPA, SAT I and SAT II (row 7) - account for 21.1% of the total variance in UCGPA over the past four years (row 7, right-hand column).5

* Third and finally, it is evident that SAT I scores add very little, if any, incremental power in predicting UC freshman grades after SAT II scores and HSGPA are taken into account. SAT II scores and HSGPA together account for 21.0% of the variance in UCGPA in the pooled, 4-year data (row 6, right-hand column). Adding SAT I into the equation (row 7) improves the prediction by an increment of only 0.1% in the pooled, 4-year data. Indeed, in two of the four years (1997 and 1998), SAT I scores add nothing to the explained variance.

It should be noted that the UC study I mention above does not cover successful completion of four years of college, just correlation between freshman GPA and test scores. The UC study acknowledges this:
Many have criticized the narrowness of freshman GPA as a measure of success in college and have urged that other criteria, such as college graduation rates, be used instead. At the request of BOARS, UCOP researchers are examining the relationship between SAT scores and persistence and graduation rates at UC, and those findings will be presented in a later analysis. For purposes of this analysis, however, we have chosen to focus on UC first-year GPA (UCGPA), since freshman GPA is by far the most commonly employed measure in studies of the predictive validity of college admissions tests, and because use of the SAT is most often justified on this basis.

This comment by Dr. Hunt bears examination:
Although it was slightly lower than that of the most highly admitted groups, the average GPA of admitted black students has exceeded 4.0 in recent years.

Given that UCLA now appears to be admitting on the basis of race, one cannot know whether this "slight" disparity between black scores and those of "the most highly admitted groups" (Asians) is due to lowered admissions barriers to blacks relative to those barriers presented to "the most highly admitted groups" in pursuit of "diversity" (an objective whose success measure begs for discrimination of the form Dr. Hunt claims is not occurring), or is due to some other effect such as, perhaps, a lack of AP (Advanced Placement) classes offered to blacks prior to entering UCLA. The fact that any class can count for greater than 4.0 has always been a problem for me -- it makes the non-availability of such classes (in rural areas and in the inner city) poison GPA as a measure of achievement and makes it more a measure of access. AP classes, in my mind, need to be subject to the same 4.0 maximum weight as any other class. With such GPA poisoning currently going on, fair measures such as the SAT (or SAT II if the UC study's findings correlate to completion rate) become even more important.

The moment you give someone a break based on racial measurements (as is almost certainly the case at UCLA measured via the objective averages of SAT scores), you are discriminating. Given the Harvard findings, a 300-point deficit in SAT scoring certainly indicates that the preferred candidates have a rather large mountain to climb before they graduate.

If you'll note, I've not dealt much with Heather's article. That's because I agree with her, and Darrel's article was obviously commissioned by the LA Times and written with Heather's article in front of him, given the fact he addresses Heather's points in nearly the order she makes them. When such circumstances occur, the original author is usually given the chance to rebut, and the Times has certainly violated the spirit of this type of debate. It's one of the reasons I've stopped writing letters to the editor at the Times -- the Times has suffered quite a change over the past few years and now choses the worst letters to represent the viewpoints with which its editors disagree.

If our colleges are to keep America as a society competitive against the rest of the world, we need to be betting their scarce resources on the absolutely best horses, so to speak, and no measure other than scholastic excellence should be used as a measure of how to bet. Long shot bets may be attractive, but they rarely pay off.

What in Great Tarnation is a Community Organizer?

Posted by unclesmrgol at 05 September, 2008 21:01:40

A letter in the LA Times today:

Shame on Palin and Rudy Giuliani! There are plenty of policy issues on which they can fairly disagree with and criticize Barack Obama. But to mock his public service as a community organizer is to demean the thousands of community-minded people across the country who give something back by helping communities face and deal with their local problems themselves.

Most of these people, like Obama, come equipped with high-powered college educations but pass up fast-track career paths in Washington and on Wall Street to help their friends and neighbors make a better life for themselves -- for a whole lot less money than they could make in industry. They deserve our congratulations and our gratitude, not the mockery offered by these crass Republican partisans.

I don't know my local community organizer. I've checked the Culver City web pages and there doesn't seem to be an elected office called "community organizer". There's no phone number, no way to contact this person whom the letter writer seems to think is such an important part of community life. The concept of an organizer implies leadership. What did Obama lead in? What's his accomplishment, other than being part of a rather corrupt Chicago Democratic machine?

If Obama's life as a community organizer is so selfless, why does he have such a nice house? Did the large house happen because of Michelle (like McCain's houses happened because of his wife)? Why does "Rezko, convicted felon" seem to figure so prominently in Obama's real estate dealings?

The mockery is because "community organizer" implies selfless leadership, while "community activist" implies selfless service. Obama is trying to highlight his leadership skills, not his service skills. Since his campaign has already belittled Palin's leadership skills (as a mayor, the chairperson of a state commission negotiating with Canada over oil transportation, and as Governor), a little give-back by her is proper.

As for Giuliani, piling on is fair, too, in this little tug-of-war.