Dynamist Blog


The UCLA admissions results are in and, as the LAT headline puts it, they don't say much: High, Low SATs Not Decisive at UCLA. In other words, who knows how they decide who gets in? From the story:

UC officials have defended their admissions practices at Berkeley and elsewhere, saying that the SAT, a widely used test, is a weak indicator of future college performance.

The system over the past two years has shifted to a procedure called comprehensive review to consider freshman applicants, an approach that places less emphasis on test scores and grades and more on other factors, including leadership, socioeconomic challenges and personal achievement.

"Looking at any one factor, such as SAT scores, is contrary to the whole concept of comprehensive review," said Tom Lifka, who oversees admissions as assistant vice chancellor of student academic services. "This shows us that it's just not a very relevant way of looking at things."

According to UCLA figures, 1,663 applicants with SAT scores totaling more than 1400 were rejected for this fall's freshman class, and 1,646 with SATs at that level were turned away the year before....

UCLA accepted 407 applicants for this fall's class with SATs below 1000. The year before, the Westwood campus offered admission to 525 students with SATs below 1000, including seven with scores ranging from 701 to 800. The average score nationally is slightly above 1,000....

UCLA officials also said that students with high SAT scores who were rejected by the campus were turned away for such reasons as having comparatively low grade point averages. Other rejected students applied to especially competitive programs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Arts and Architecture or the School of Theatre, Film and Television, they said.

Still others were rejected because they failed to meet the higher standards for out-of-state applicants or because they fell short in the "personal achievement" and "life challenges" criteria used by the admissions office.

Nobody knows whether, as some suspect, the new process is a backdoor way of reinstituting racial preferences. Nobody knows because the process is opaque. That's fine for a private school, but public universities owe applicants more transparent criteria.

The full story is here.


It's fashionable these days to dislike Donald Rumsfeld, even among people who support the war in Iraq. But I think he's the right man for his job. The latest evidence is a blunt and provocative memo, leaked to USA Today, in which he asks the sorts of uncomfortable questions that need to be asked:

TO: Gen. Dick Myers
Paul Wolfowitz
Gen. Pete Pace
Doug Feith

FROM: Donald Rumsfeld

SUBJECT: Global War on Terrorism

The questions I posed to combatant commanders this week were: Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror? Is DoD changing fast enough to deal with the new 21st century security environment? Can a big institution change fast enough? Is the USG changing fast enough?

DoD has been organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies, navies and air forces. It is not possible to change DoD fast enough to successfully fight the global war on terror; an alternative might be to try to fashion a new institution, either within DoD or elsewhere — one that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem.

With respect to global terrorism, the record since Septermber 11th seems to be:

We are having mixed results with Al Qaida, although we have put considerable pressure on them — nonetheless, a great many remain at large.

USG has made reasonable progress in capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis.

USG has made somewhat slower progress tracking down the Taliban — Omar, Hekmatyar, etc.

With respect to the Ansar Al-Islam, we are just getting started.

Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the US?

Read the whole thing.

USA Today's report takes the approach you might expect, contrasting the memo's bad news with the administration's positive public comments:

Despite upbeat statements by the Bush administration, the memo to Rumsfeld's top staff reveals significant doubts about progress in the struggle against terrorists. Rumsfeld says that "it is not possible" to transform the Pentagon quickly enough to effectively fight the anti-terror war and that a "new institution" might be necessary to do that.

The memo, which diverges sharply from Rumsfeld's mostly positive public comments, offers one of the most candid and sobering assessments to date of how top administration officials view the 2-year-old war on terrorism. It suggests that significant work remains and raises a number of probing questions but few detailed proposals.

Probing questions are exactly what DoD needs, no matter how unpolitic they may be. The Pentagon is set up to fight not just traditional armed forces but traditional armed forces in countries with centrally planned economies and innovation-suppressing totalitalitarian governments--adversaries who make the Pentagon look nimble by comparison. But the future security of Americans depends on responding to nimble enemies with flexible tactics. Rumsfeld is asking the right questions. And, while there will certainly be a p.r. flap over the leak, it's better to have them out in public.


In today's NYT, Jim Rutenberg writes a long and well-reported piece on the controversy surrounding an upcoming TV biopic on the Reagans. The show doesn't sound like a complete hatchet job--we are, after all, dealing with popular entertainment on a popular president--but Rutenberg turns up one extreme distortion of Reagan's character:

The script also accuses Mr. Reagan not only of showing no interest in addressing the AIDS crisis, but of asserting that the patients of AIDS essentially deserved their disease. During a scene in which his wife pleads with him to help people battling AIDS, Mr. Reagan says resolutely, "They that live in sin shall die in sin" and refuses to discuss the issue further.

Lou Cannon, who has written several biographies about Mr. Reagan, said such a portrayal was unfair. "Reagan is not intolerant," he said. "He was a bit asleep at the switch, but that's not fair to have him say something that Patrick Buchanan would say."

And after all the suits' talk of balance, fairness, and good story-telling, Judy Davis, who plays Nancy Reagan, blurts out this amazing view of contemporary America:

"With the climate that has been in America since Sept. 11, it appears, from the outside anyway, to not be quite as open a society as it used to be," Ms. Davis said during an interview at her hotel in Montreal. "By open, I mean as free in terms of a critical atmosphere, and that sort of ugly specter of patriotism."

She added, "If this film can help create a bit more questioning in the public about the direction America has been going in since the 1970's, I guess then I think it will be doing a service."

The ugly specter of patriotism. Well, Reagan certainly stood for that.


While discussing an entirely different subject, this personal finance column in today's Dallas Morning News explains why people my age have had different economic attitudes, experiences, and expectations from people 10 years older or younger:

The worst five-year period for inflation was 1977-81, at 10.06 percent a year. The worst 10-year period was 1973-82, at 8.67 percent. The worst 15-year period was 1968-82, at 7.3 percent. And the worst 20-year period was 1966-85, at 6.36 percent.

Not the greatest time to grow up.


The book tour page now has full information on my upcoming appearances at UCLA and NYU and at events in St. Louis, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greenville, SC.


Via Howard Kurtz:

From the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he 'didn't want to see any stories' quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used."


George Will's latest column is a good overview of the success of Colorado's fiscal management and of Governor Bill Owens, a smart, articulate Republican with libertarian leanings. Read the whole thing (it's just an op-ed column).

Owens offered Arnold Schwarzenegger advice in a WSJ op-ed (subscription required):

In his campaign for California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger repeatedly said enacting a constitutional cap on state spending would be at the top of his agenda. Now it's time to fulfill that promise. Mr. Schwarzenegger should use his surprisingly strong mandate to push a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (Tabor) through the state legislature at the earliest possible date. As a governor who has benefited from a decade-old Tabor spending cap in Colorado, my message to Gov.-elect Schwarzenegger is simple: Go for it.

There is no better way to tackle California's Herculean budget challenges and put the state on a stronger fiscal footing than to tie the growth in the state budget to the annual growth in inflation and population, as we have done in Colorado.

For more than a decade, we have coupled our spending cap on all levels of government with a requirement that excess revenues be returned to taxpayers -- and taxes cannot be increased without voter approval. The result is the public sector cannot grow at a rate faster than the private sector -- unless voters say so.

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