Showing posts with label rankings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rankings. Show all posts

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Share Our Suck

Are you better off now than you were 83 years ago?

The editors of Politico Magazine asked that question recently, wading through the fever swamps of demographics to rank these more-or-less United States from best to worst, with a nod to a similar 1931 effort by H.L. Mencken and
Charles Angoff in the American Mercury.

New Hampshire is tops. Guess which states are at the bottom.

For the last-place state (No. 51 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia), it's the same as it ever was -- Mississippi was the hellhole of the nation way back when, too. And for the first runner-up of national suck, things have changed for the worst since Huey P. Long was governor, free textbooks were a new innovation for Louisiana public schools and there were still more dirt roads than paved ones.

EIGHT SPOTS worth of worst, actually. Louisiana was No. 42 in 1931 -- "Bobby, you're doing a heck of a job!" If the Gret Stet's unrelentingly ambitious Gov. Jindal still wants to do for (to?) America what he did to my home state, I have two words on the campaign manager front: Michael Brown.

One thing in the Gret Stet does remain ever constant, though.  That would be the age-old Louisiana mantra of "Thank God for Mississippi!"
In a three-part series the magazine called “The Worst American State,” the pair compiled dozens of rankings of population data, largely from the 1930 census, determined to anoint the best and worst of the 48 states (and the District of Columbia), according to various measures of wealth, culture, health and public safety. In the end, Mencken and Angoff declared Connecticut and Massachusetts “the most fortunate American States,” and they deemed Mississippi “without a serious rival to the lamentable preëminence of the Worst American State” (diaeresis credit to Mencken, who, it should be noted, was from Maryland, No. 28 on his list). “The results will probably surprise no one,” they wrote. “Most Americans, asked to name the most generally civilized American State, would probably name Massachusetts at once, and nine out of ten would probably nominate Mississippi as the most backward.”
The methodology behind their exercise might not have been airtight, and the presumed definition of what is a “good” and “bad” state was clearly swayed by the writers’ prejudices and the time period; aside from the fact that many of their rankings had only partial data, consider that representation in the “American Men of Science” directory was factored into each state’s rank for culture, and lynchings for public safety. But the pair was onto something when they wrote that there are some aspects of daily life that most Americans can agree on: Education and health are good things, crime is a bad thing and “any civilization which sees an increase in the general wealth is a civilization going up grade, not down.”
 BOBBY JINDAL always did think H.L. Mencken was a commerniss.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The quadrangle of broken dreams

Since I had given up hope, I felt a whole lot better.

And since I had been feeling a whole lot better, I hadn't been writing much about the perils of the Pelican State lately. For one thing, I'm a Nebraskan originally from Louisiana, not a Louisianian who has to put up with that s***  anymore. For another thing, if people in Louisiana were willing to listen to a little common sense, they wouldn't be in the perpetual mess that is their lot in life, apparently.

Finally, it's not like I'm planning on moving back.

But I was asked to write a guest post about Louisiana's woes being a matter of culture and not politics -- always remember . . . culture precedes politics -- for LSU journalism professor Robert Mann's excellent blog, so I opened up a vein, and there you go.

IT WAS the least I could do for someone at my alma mater, filled as it is with faculty and staff busting their asses to give Louisianians more education than they're willing to pay for, as well as a better flagship university than the state deserves. Like Rhett Butler, apparently, they've "always had a weakness for lost causes once they're really lost." 

And the experts say, as J.R. Ball outlines in the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, that LSU's national cause really is lost, thanks to an indifferent public and an execrable pile of politicians befouling the capitol that Huey built:
Connect the reality dots discussed during the meeting and it's clear LSU's situation will get worse before it begins—hopefully—to get better. LSU is not a top 100 school in the U.S. News & World Report list, nor is it in the top 100 on the more respected National Science Foundation rankings. The current trajectory is research grants are declining dramatically as top faculty, tired of an institution held together by duct tape and rubber bands, are leaving for universities in states where higher education is actually taken seriously.

All of which makes reaching the goal of LSU2015—transforming the state's flagship institution into a nationally recognized research university able to attract and retain the world's best academic and research talent—about as likely as finding Bo Rein's plane in the Atlantic Ocean.

Jim Firnberg, a member of the committee and a former consultant for the NSF, says LSU should focus on six research areas where it has a legitimate chance to compete nationally—environmental science and coastal research, biomedical sciences, energy, arts and humanities, computation and digital media, and natural and renewable resources. Yet, he warns, the tomorrow of LSU becoming a top 50 research university will never come. At best, LSU could become a top 75 institution.

Putting that in sports terms—which seems to be the only thing associated with education that people in this state understand—LSU will never be a BCS-caliber academic school; the best it can hope for is mid-major status.

Just one day after this somber reminder of LSU's place in the world of higher education, a bid to end almost 20 years of tuition control by the Legislature died when the same elected officials who, over the past six years, have cut some $650 million in higher education funding, did not see the need to give university boards the right to increase tuition rates that, by national standards, are pathetically low. In other words, the actions of Gov. Bobby Jindal and legislators are loudly telling university leaders they need to find a way to operate with minimal state subsidies, but legislators aren't about to let them do it with much-needed tuition hikes.

We now have a new definition for “moronic.”

Even with the most optimistic Jindal-backed accounting method, higher education has been whacked some $300 million over the past six years, much of that absorbed by LSU. Yet we hear nothing from those wielding the ax about the resulting job losses, or the fact that higher education is supposed to be the key to our economic success in a world powered by knowledge, research and creativity. When officials at LSU and other state universities complain, those who complain too loudly are eased out of their jobs and those that remain are told to shut up and figure it out.
AND INDIGNANT Louisianians say I hate the Not-So-Great State. Whatever lets you sleep at night, man. Whatever lets you sleep at night.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Camelot vs. Camenot

Some states are kind of like Camelot. Others might make Borat feel right at home.

As far as I can tell, that's what the Camelot Index boils down to. It's the mother of all rankings, measuring the state of states' economies, public health, education, crime rates, "government prudence," and societal health -- encompassing things like home ownership, incarceration, out-of-wedlock births and the like. Then the staff at Federal Funds Information for States averages all the rankings to create the composite ranking.

This year, you'll need a warm winter coast if it's Camelot you're seeking. Apparently, King Arthur has moved Queen Guinevere, the knights and the round table to . . . North Dakota. New Hampshire's second, South Dakota third, Nebraska fourth, while Wyoming rounds out the top five.

Borat, meantime, hearts Louisiana. Word is he's been spotted in a Bourbon Street gutter. And it's likely he'll come down with a social disease while a New Orleans cop picks his pocket.

WHEN YOU live in a top-five kind of place -- Nebraska, for example -- the response to lists like the Camelot Index is pretty uncomplicated. Basically, it's "YAY!"

On the other hand, people in, say, Louisiana have lots of options. One is shame, but nobody likes feeling ashamed all the time, so one might look for other emotional and intellectual options. For instance, you could get good and mad.

Denial is another option, unless you might prefer its cousin, dismissiveness. Then again, you might prefer paranoia . . . because all them eggheads and snobs are out to get you, you know. That's definitely disturbing, until at long last you wearily give in to resignation.

Finally, we have my favorite two reactions -- and, trust me, they're about to be yours, too -- a whacked-out, bad-is-good kind of defiance, which invites the very best kind of black humor. That's what we saw just today in back-to-back comments on the New Orleans Times-Picayune's story about how the Gret Stet, in virtually every meaningful statistical way, still sucks:

LOL doesn't even begin to cover it. Well played, "whodat-70816."