Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

June 7, 2005

Kerry’s Yale Grades Worse than Bush’s

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:14 am

Wow, here’s something I never thought would be reported in the press even if it were true. — and certainly not in the Boston Globe, which is owned by the New York Times. But here it is — albeit safely after the election when it can’t do any more harm, except perhaps to Kerry’s ability to beat Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2008:

Yale grades portray Kerry as a lackluster student

In 1999, The New Yorker published a[n illegally obtained] transcript indicating that Bush had received a cumulative score of 77 for his first three years at Yale and a roughly similar average under a non-numerical rating system during his senior year.

Kerry, who graduated two years before Bush, got a cumulative 76 for his four years, according to a transcript that Kerry sent to the Navy when he was applying for officer training school. He received four D’s in his freshman year out of 10 courses, but improved his average in later years.

The grade transcript, which Kerry has always declined to release, was included in his Navy record. During the campaign the Globe sought Kerry’s naval records, but he refused to waive privacy restrictions for the full file. Late last month, Kerry gave the Navy permission to send the documents to the Globe.

Kerry appeared to be responding to critics who suspected that there might be damaging information in the file about his activities in Vietnam. The military and medical records, however, appear identical to what Kerry has already released. This marks the first time Kerry’s grades have been publicly reported.

The transcript shows that Kerry’s freshman-year average was 71. He scored a 61 in geology, a 63 and 68 in two history classes, and a 69 in political science. His top score was a 79, in another political science course. Another of his strongest efforts, a 77, came in French class.

Under Yale’s grading system in effect at the time, grades between 90 and 100 equaled an A, 80-89 a B, 70-79 a C, 60 to 69 a D, and anything below that was a failing grade. In addition to Kerry’s four D’s in his freshman year, he received one D in his sophomore year. He did not fail any courses.

”I always told my Dad that D stood for distinction,” Kerry said yesterday in a written response to questions, noting that he has previously acknowledged that he spent a lot of time learning to fly instead of focusing on his studies.

Kerry’s weak grades came despite years of education at some of the world’s most elite prep schools, ranging from Fessenden School in Massachusetts to St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire.

Kerry gradually improved his grades, averaging 81 in his senior year. His highest single grade was an 89 [what, not a single A?], for a political science class in his senior year. Despite his slow start, he went on to be a top student at Naval Candidate School, command a patrol boat in Vietnam, graduate from law school, and become a prosecutor, lieutenant governor, US senator, and presidential candidate.

[For comparison: Despite his slow start, Bush went on to be a top student at fighter pilot school, graduate from Harvard Business School, run two businesses, and become a lieutenant governor and presidential candidate.]

Gaddis Smith, a retired Yale history professor who taught both Kerry and Bush, said in a telephone interview that he vividly remembers Kerry as a student during the 1964-1965 school year, when Kerry would have been a junior. However, Smith said he doesn’t have a specific memory about Bush.

Based on what Smith recalls teaching that year, Kerry scored a 71 and 79 in two of Smith’s courses. When Smith was told those scores, he responded: ”Uh, oh. I thought he was good student. Those aren’t very good grades.” To put the grades in perspective, Smith said that he had a well-earned reputation for being tough, and noted that such grades would probably be about 10 points higher in a similar class today because of the impact of what he called ”grade inflation.”

Bush went to Yale from 1964 to 1968; his highest grades were 88s in anthropology, history, and philosophy, according to The New Yorker article. He received one D in his four years, a 69 in astronomy. Bush has said he was a C student.

Like Kerry, Bush reportedly suffered through a difficult freshman year and then pulled his grades up.

Now, I’ll be the first to proclaim that grades are not the only, or even the best, indicator of ability generally, and that academic ability is not the best indicator whether someone will be a good president. And I say this as a holder of a Ph.D. and two master’s degrees.

What bothers me here is not the low academic ability of the candidates, but the fact that the media and the Democrats made a huge deal out of Bush’s allegeded stupidity (“He got a D in astronomy! How can he be president?!”), while completely ignoring Kerry’s arguably worse record (Five D’s, including four in a single year? What was he doing that year?) Kerry himself engaged in this — he was quoted in Newsweek saying nasty things about Bush’s alleged low intelligence — even though he surely knew his own actual record was worse than Bush’s published record. This disinformation has surely influenced the public perception of the candidates.

The media has not even attempted to be fair here — someone when to great lengths to obtain and disclose Bush’s transcript (illegally, in violation of the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act of 1972), but there was no disclosure of Kerry’s transcript, though it would have refuted the common claim that Kerry was obviously more academically talented than Bush. (In 2000, Gore’s transcript was disclosed, and it was substantially worse than Bush’s and thus received little attention.) Remember this next time someone tells you Dan Quayle is stupid.

(Hat tip to Matt Drudge for the Globe story, and Tim Blair for the Gore article.)

Physical Information Security

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:28 am

Information security professionals put a lot of effort into securing electronic access to, and transmissions of, sensitive data. They require passwords and other forms of authentication to determine whether access is permitted, and encryption when data is transmitted, to prevent it from being read by the wrong people.

But all the “information security” in the world is worthless if you can’t guarantee the physical security of the device(s) that store (or use) the data in its unencrypted form.

This point has been brought home today by the revelation that a box of data tapes containing information on 3.9 million CitiGroup customers was lost by United Parcel Service. Basically, the UPS guy picked up a shipment of several boxes of data tapes being sent from CitiGroup to te credit reporting agency Experian, and one of the tapes never made it. UPS has no idea where it is. It’s completely lost. (UPS has taken responsibility for the loss.)

Or is it? My guess is that while UPS ships millions, maybe billions of packages and no doubt loses lots of them, that the percentage of packages lost is miniscule. The percentage of packages containing sensitive consumer financial data is even more miniscule. If these guesses are both true, then the probability that a box containing sensitive consumer financial data is lost is vanishingly small — suggesting that, perhaps, it was stolen rather than lost.

However, this commenter on the Slashdot posting on this story suggest that perhaps my guess is wrong. He claims that “at least” 0.1% (that is, 1 in 1,000) of all packages are lost or damaged by UPS. If that’s true, it’s really a huge number of losses if you think about it. And it suggests that CitiGroup and Experian should not have been communicating using unencrypted data tapes sent through UPS — no matter how willing UPS is to “take responsibility.”

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