30.11.02

LIBERAL THANKSGIVING, CONSERVATIVE THANKSGIVING. Years ago, Badger Herald columnist John Chmura penned a column, "Thanksgivings conservative and liberal." His thesis: conservatives enjoy Thanksgiving, liberals tend to be ambivalent if not hostile. The pattern continues: here is a Stephen Moore column from National Review (recommended by No. 2 Pencil), and here is a Caroline Arnold essay from Common Dreams.

Disclosure: I helped out at the Herald in 1971-1972.
BUY NOTHING DAY. Nothing, that is, but some new Atlas O No. 5 track switches (the trailing point crossover will be installed soon), some K-Line six-wheel Pullman trucks, and some presents. Deliveries of free ice cream likely to be more regular next week.
SENSITIVITY GULAGS. "We certainly expect professors to be able to voice their opinions. However, open hostility, ridicule, and the silencing of reasonable alternative social or political viewpoints do not make for a quality education. Too many of our postings report such abuse." From No Indoctrination's rebuttal to Thomas Bartlett's essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
MARSHALLIAN CROSSES. The SCSU Scholars post referenced below also refers to the return on education, and who gets to harvest the gains from trade. There are several points entwined in their post, let me attempt to disentangle them. First, the return on an education is a consequence of the demand for, and supply of, people with the skills (or the signal, but I don't want to go there this afternoon) provided by the education. Expanding access to education is likely to depress the return on education, as more holders of the credential compete with each other. That outcome is not necessarily a bad thing, as returns on investments, adjusted for risk, tend to equality over time. A lower return on a relatively sure thing is likely to encourage more entrepreneurship, for instance. Second, students are capable of figuring out both where the returns are and what advice is worth ignoring: no doubt it annoys the diversity bureaucrats and their allies in the various humanities and area studies departments that the action is still in business and the professions, not in teaching or literary criticism. Third, department heads have to recognize that the rent-seeking behavior of the diversity bureaucrats, assessors of the obvious, and dispensers of teddy bears is making the missions of their departments more difficult. Absent some spine shown by trustees, and in the case of state universities, legislators, the department heads, and their faculties, will have to find ways, such as capping class sizes, particularly for popular required courses, that make clear the shortage is not of diversity bureaucrats, but of professors in classrooms.
MORE REMFs. SCSU Scholars note the correlation of rising tuitions and administrative bloat at their university, and draw connections to John Dunlap's reporting on the proliferation of "administrative support professionals." (I prefer the appellation acronymned in the header, and noted the phenomenon in Illinois some time ago.) Unfortunately, all those new administrators seem devoted to repeating the same mistakes they made years ago, according to this Heather MacDonald essay. Critical Mass, who provided the link to the MacDonald essay, notes, "The central paradox of diversity, indeed, is that its success is predicated on its continual failure: rampant racism and sexism on campus are the administrative rationales for throwing money at diversity; continued--or even worsened--racism and sexism are the administrative rationales for throwing even more money at diversity over time. In other words, campus diversity initiatives entrench themselves deeper all the time by effectively announcing that they are not successfully addressing the "problem" they were created to resolve. Behind the lines, one can detect diversity's dirty little secret: that it is itself in the business of exacerbating the tensions it presumes to alleviate, and that it teaches the intolerance it claims to decry." Meanwhile, the academic departments have to deal with 1985-level enrollments and 1995-level staffing. Forgive me if I seem particularly grumpy, but I objected to a number of developments circa 1995 aimed at encouraging retention and fostering diversity on campus. My reasoning: it was an error to think about further down-sizing of the University or further easing of academic standards with the middle schools bursting at the seams. The administration thought otherwise. By their fruits shall ye know them.
WHAT IS QUALIFIED? Newmark's Door notes a proposal by Senator Edwards for the taxpayers to pay for freshman year for qualified students.
MORE ON GRADE TURNAROUNDS at SCSU Scholars. Essay exams are another matter, especially with people teaching courses as an overload. I'm a bit fanatical about these, too. In general, exams administered on a Wednesday are back in the students' hands the following Monday. Makes for some busy weekends at times.
REMFs. Atlantic Blog takes issue with my timetable for returning Scan-Tron exams. But is there any excuse for Curly in Testing Services not being ready to score tests, or Dean of Students Moe cutting inattentive students a great deal of slack?
TEETHING TROUBLES. Where Worlds Collide reports on performance problems with the Virgin Trains Voyager units and the Pendolino trains. Closer to home, the Acela Express trains were delivered with construction errors, and require suspension tests. Hasn't anybody learned the lesson of the Metroliner project, years ago? You don't build 50 prototypes, and hope they work. Oh, that was the P5 project, nearly 70 years ago?
NOTICE OF CHANGE IN SERVICE. UK Transport has become Transport Blog.
ON THE DEAN'S LIST. Thanks, Joanne, for the listing.

27.11.02

HAPPY THANKSGIVING. In memory of Mary, William, and Patience Brewster; and of Mary, Stephen, Giles, and Constance Hopkins; Thanksgiving best wishes to all. If you're reading this, you have blessings to count.
THE WONDERS OF THE INTERNET. Tim Blair discovers a weblog with a strong Chicago cultural emphasis.
PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES. Sergeant Stryker diagnoses the shortage of graduate students in engineering. A generalization: whenever you hear about professors being underworked and overpaid, ask, where are the swarms of American students lining up to do Ph.D.s and get in line for those cushy jobs.
BIKINI = BURQA. The trope is back (via Andrew Sullivan.)
NOSTALGIA FOR ADLAI STEVENSON? At least in Joe Conason's mind. Rebuttal at Andrew Sullivan.
ALL HAVE WON, AND ALL MUST BE GIVEN PRIZES. Bad idea, according to Professor Swygert.
THE GOAL POSTS ARE A PROTECTED CLASS. Really. The judicial officer at Northern Illinois University did issue a stern warning in advance of last Saturday's game about the consequences of trespassing. Alas, the visiting team stole a victory in the final minute, and the goal posts were spared.
THE MACHINERY OF OPPRESSION. Apparently if it's in the hands of Catherine MacKinnon or Harvard Law it's OK with much of the academy.

It's really very simple, if one thinks about it. Give John Ashcroft no power you'd fear to see in Janet Reno's hands, and give Catherine MacKinnon no power you'd fear to see in mine.

Correction: that's Catherine MacKinnon. A third-grade spelling champion has no excuses!
SPEEDEE SERVICE SYSTEM. Volokh finds a Sydney Smith essay debunking the "McDonald's makes you fat" argument. McDonald's recently announced that their stores will accept credit cards. One can lose weight waiting in line at most McDonald's outlets already, without credit card purchasers slowing things further.
OXFORD UNION REDUX. The Undergraduate Students Association Council at UCLA (motto: On! Wisconsin!) voted to condemn war with Iraq. One council member urged caution on votes of that kind: "We need to be very careful because (USAC taking) political stances could marginalize students." The resolution passed with 5 votes for, 0 against, and 5 abstentions. Hasn't the student government marginalized itself?
THE GIRL WHO CRIED SEXIST. Old fable, new characters.
HANGED FOR A SHEEP? Are professors less willing to write students up for honor code violations, if the penalty is mandatory expulsion? Yes, suggests AmSo a Pundit, as noted at Volokh Conspiracy. The phenomenon of "get tough" policies being unproductive is a manifestation of marginal deterrence, likely to receive more careful attention from some of the other economics weblogs. Updates will be provided.
A MODEST PROPOSAL from No. 2 Pencil: "Here's a thought - let's go back to making high-school courses difficult, and rewarding. Let's flunk out those students who can't do the work. The kids can take tests for accountability to satisfy the government, but they won't need to take a test to verify the usefulness of the diploma. And let's make college admissions exams more difficult, so that we don't have to deal with the dilemma of high school exit exams that are more difficult than college entrance exams." Amen.

25.11.02

MONEY IS FUNGIBLE. Some days ago, I recommended Rachel Lucas's post on the ancillary fees that accompany college attendance these days. A few days ago, I delivered proposals for some seminars recommended by the graduate students and paid for out of student fees. In a brief conversation with the Dean responsible for that program, I learned that the fees sometimes serve a purpose: money set aside for that purpose is less likely to be treated as fungible than general revenue money. Put another way, the administration has to make a case for misappropriating that money.
IRANIAN FREEDOM WATCH here and here.
NOT IN MY BACK YARD. "Romantic environmentalism" is a great stance for those who already have theirs, but it's not such a good idea for those who don't yet have it, notes James K. Glassman. (via Volokh Conspiracy.)
ARGUMENTAM AD MISERICORDIAM. Highered Intelligence fisks the latest example from Katha Pollitt.
YOU DON'T SAY. Joanne Jacobs locates research to the effect that teaching spelling and penmanship improves writing.
HELLO GIANTS AND DWARVES. That's a relatively new university-based weblog, discovered by Joanne Jacobs. Posters collaborating from Oxford, Cambridge, Mass., and Chicago.
PLENTITUDE. InstaPundit links a Chris Mooney column in the Boston Globe about cultural economist Tyler Cowen. It's a brief tour d'horizon of the gains and losses from international diffusion of culture. Cowen has been active in obscure corners of economics for some time, I recommend his Theory of Market Failure for beginning readers.

There is a deeper research question in the column I linked. Is the Baumol productivity phenomenon for the arts really an accurate description? A Beethoven symphony takes as long to play today as it does in 1814. Today, as the columnist notes, it isn't much of a leap to supporting state subsides of orchestras. 'Swar immer so, nicht wahr? There is a reason people refer to the "Rasumovsky" quartets.
POLITICAL STATEMENT? A Small Victory reminds that November 29 is Buy Nothing Day. As if I lacked for reasons to support my local hobby shop.
TAX SIMPLIFICATION laid out at Asymmetrical Information.
HOW OTHERS SEE US. Rachel Lucas doesn't like waiting for feedback on exams. "If you are a professor, and you give your students Scantron tests, you have no excuse for not handing them back within two weeks. It's easy: Take the dang Scantrons. Put them in the Scantron grader machine. Pull them out. Write down the grades. Give them back to the students. See? Simple." Rachel is being generous. There is no excuse for not returning Scantrons THE CLASS MEETING following the examination.
CALL TO ARMS. Lengthy Critical Mass post built around a letter from a student who has seen the nakedness of contemporary academic criticism. Critical comments, "This letter was not written by a whiner, nor was it written by someone attending a crappy school. It was written by a person of real intelligence and courage--one who is brave enough to admit to himself what his own education has become. The reality is there for all students and teachers to see, but few students are in a position to pinpoint it, and few teachers are honest enough to admit their complicity with such a corrupt system."

Read it and understand it.
MIDLIFE CRISIS WASN'T SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THIS. Atlantic Blog reproaches absentee parents.
INDEPENDENT STUDY. Ros Coward recommends that the organizers of the Miss World Pageant be given mandatory diversity training. Atlantic Blog gives Coward's essay low marks.

23.11.02

COKIE ROBERTS IS MY COUSIN. The Parade supplement in today's DeKalb Chronicle has an article on the diverse descendants of Mayflower passengers, today numbering some 35 million people, offspring of intermarriages with all the world's people. The article is by Cokie and Steve Roberts, and it reports that Lindy Claiborne Boggs, Cokie's mother, has Elder William Brewster among her ancestors.

CORRECTION. The supplement is the USA Weekend. My apologies to Gannett.
OPPORTUNITY COSTS AND INCENTIVES. Opinion Journal reports a debate on homeland security policy in Plimoth Plantation: "That was the autumn of 1621. A few months later the tiny Pilgrim community was rent by a debate over whether to build a fort for protection against possible Indian attack.

"The pro-fort hawks, of whom Bradford was a leader, believed that 'the danger of the time required it' and made the age-old argument for peace through strength. On the other side stood the antifort doves, less concerned with defense than with the social contract. They argued that the labor required to construct the fort would be better employed in growing badly needed food. Edward Winslow, a Pilgrim Father solidly in the fort camp, wrote to London that these naysayers were 'flattering themselves with peace and security.' The devil, he said, will make 'reasonable men to reason against their own safety.'

The debate ended abruptly in the spring of 1622, when word reached Plymouth of the Indian massacre of most of the inhabitants of the English settlements in Virginia. As Bradford puts it, the news made 'all hands willing to dispatch the same.' The fort was finished in 10 months
."
YOU DON'T SAY Performance-based teacher pay show signs of increased support.
EDUCATIONAL INNOVATOR RETIRES. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports the retirement of Sister Joel Read, president since 1968 of Alverno College. The article makes substantial use of Alverno publicity. "She was at the forefront of the effort at Alverno over the last three decades to pioneer educational approaches that stressed abilities over grades, as well as efforts that opened the doors of the college to non-traditional students and part-time students in path-blazing fashion." Here's an illustration of that pioneering. "During Read's tenure, Alverno has become a pioneer on numerous fronts, particularly its system of assessing students' progress on the basis of their demonstration that they have mastered a list of abilities. Students do not receive conventional grades."

What perfect postmodern claptrap. Alverno College has long been a provider of teachers to the Milwaukee Public Schools: my parents battled against their follies years ago. If anything, conditions have gotten worse. Here is the latest information on graduation rates for students with African ancestors in Milwaukee and in Wisconsin. Apparently that mastery of abilities does not include effective teaching.
PROCESS, NUANCE, FAILURE. "The multilateral system in place now is no more moral than the gangland system of The Godfather." And much more, from Ron Rosenbaum.
INDEPENDENT STUDY. Nominate one of the following for mandatory diversity training, and explain your answer.

a. Organizers of the Miss World pageant, for choosing to present such an event in Nigeria.

b. The newspaper columnist who suggested the prophet Mohammed would have occasion to find a wife among the contestants.

c. The religious fundamentalists who protested the columnist's writings.

d. The Spoons Experience, for suggesting that Third World faiths get an unwarranted free pass when their fundamentalists act badly.

No rubric will be provided for this assignment.
TU QUOQUE? Andrew Sullivan notes that Paul Krugman's illustrations of inherited postions are all rich Republicans. Neither commentator carries the discussion far enough: the children might benefit by the inheritance. The grandchildren often dissipate it.
THAT IS RESTRICTIVE, WHICH IS UNRESTRICTIVE. More here. Alas, no openings at the Cold Spring Shops for a rules examiner.
TRANSIT RIDING IS A BARGAIN. Yes, those signs affixed to the Milwaukee buses and trolleys were correct. Jane Galt fears that the New York subways are such a bargain that they may suffer the fate of the Pernambuco Tramway.
ENERGY "INDEPENDENCE": "Energy conservation sounds nice, but most conservation policies are either ineffective or tremendously expensive. Where conservation pays, businesses tend to do a good job of figuring it out well before the government gets into the act." That's from Volokh Conspiracy. The more general principle is: anyone who wishes not to be dependent on others for anything is free to live self-sufficiently, for as long as that appeals.
WHAT WOULD JESUS DRIVE? Mark 10: 14 provides the answer.

COLLEGES OF DEADUCATION. "Whether or not someone can find a country on a map or not has nothing to do with whether or not he is good in geography." That's a teacher of geography talking. Details from Joanne Jacobs.
NON-PECUNIARY EXTERNALITIES. The suit goes on.
DO MATH IN PENCIL. Kitchen Cabinet recommends, I concur. Granted, there's Waterloo Maple on my office computer, but there's nothing close to pencil and paper for collecting terms and simplifying.
HE HAD A BEAUTIFUL MIND. At InstaPundit's recommendation, I skimmed through the Kitchen Cabinet coverage of the Yale Blogging Conference, and en passant discovered reference to a lengthy Atlantic Monthly report on the descent into madness of Grandmaster Bobby Fischer. A pity, his My 60 Memorable Games will reward careful study, and the way Fischer opened a can of whup-ass on the Classic Sicilian Dragon is particularly lurid: "I'd won dozens of skittles games in analogous positions and had it down to a science: pry open the KR-file, sac, sac, ... mate!"
ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT. Good going, gentlemen.
HUSKIES 49, BADGERS 47. Northern Illinois University's womens' basketball team officially opened the new arena with a victory in the final seconds. Northern Illinois led by 7 points much of the way, and kept their composure when Wisconsin took a lead late in the game. Read full coverage from Northern Illinois University or from Wisconsin.
WELCOME VISITORS TO COLD SPRING, NEW YORK. That's a rather pretty community on the Water Level Route, not far from the tunnels at Milepost 50. Sorry that I can't tell you much about shopping opportunities in downtown Cold Spring, although there are a number of antique shops and coffee houses. On the other hand, if any of you know of the parents of Mary Esther Fowler (1803-1856), wife of Deacon Ira Hopkins (1805-1877), both of whom are buried in Carmel, New York, please let me know. Mary Esther Fowler is my third great-grandmother, and the current roadblock in the family history.

22.11.02

PERMIT 2201, TRACK 1, YD TO CO, CORRECTLY REPEATED AT 2:39, SHK. Where Worlds Collide has a story about Russians making section speeders to use as intercity transportation. The roads in Russia are frightful, and there are numerous lightly used rail lines. The original source notes, "Trouble is, the trolleys are not subject to traffic control. The line belongs to the local authorities, but there is just one safety inspector."

There's a similar problem in the United States. Here, hobbyists collect section speeders (OK, not me, I don't collect snakes either) and run them on railroad tracks. Sometimes those are abandoned tracks, in which case the biggest problems are defective tracks, or other hobbyists going the other way. Not all hobbyists are alert to the tracks that are still live, which poses a bigger safety hazard.

The subject line of this post gives the final line of a track occupancy permit, using a slightly out of date form of the rules. Dispatchers on the railroads issue permits for the section speeders (or, more commonly these days, pickup trucks with railway wheels) to use a section of track. Free agents are not allowed to request such permits. The hobbyists have ways of coordinating their use of abandoned track, at least the organized ones do. The organized hobbyists are still at some risk of running into a free agent joyriding on the same track. I wonder how the Russians manage.
WELCOME BACK. Daniel Drezner is back from his sabbatical, no doubt seeking a break from committee work. He has a spot-on post about French farmer Jose Bove. Sample: "Bové's decision to attack the MacDonald's in the first place was due to a U.S. decision, during a typical trade spat with the EU, to raise tariffs against French luxury goods. This had a devastating impact on Bové's livelihood, as 'someone who supplies sheep's milk to makers of Roquefort cheese,' according to the New York Times. In other words, the initial incident that triggered Bové's 'protest' was a lack of globalization, not its acceleration." Reality is even better than that. The Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union, and the tariffs that accompany farm price supports in the States, are specifically exempt from sanction under the trade agreements. That is one criticism of the current trade treaties I can agree with, but, ironically, it means M. Bove owes his large income to the World Trade Organization, keeping that Kazakh sheep's milk out of Europe.
WELCOME TO THE UNSULLIED AND THE UNDISMAYED. Thanks for the link and the kind words. Yes, the Superintendent has several degrees from the University of Wisconsin, and works at the University of Southern Wisconsin in DeKalb (that's Northern Illinois University.)

Speaking of Badgers, the Jane Albright-coached (she used to coach here) Badgers will be helping officially open the new Northern Illinois University basketball arena tonight, talk about a loyalty problem.

I'm going on record about this now: should both Wisconsin and Northern Illinois football teams become bowl-eligible, and the Badgers go and the Huskies don't go, I will be a very unhappy Superintendent. That's the sports report for today. Back to some research.

21.11.02

RUBRICS. That's the latest assessment fad, and I've had a bellyful of them lately working on some general-education related stuff. Here is my Instant Rubric:
A: Clear on the concept
B: Misses minor points
C: Understands Major Idea
D: Not Quite Clueless
F: Clueless.
THE TEN PERCENT SOLUTION. Recent research noted by Highered Intelligence and then covered by Volokh Conspiracy. The staff of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights appears to be making an end run around Commissioners with whom they disagree.
TENURE DENIED. Volokh Conspiracy has done some research on the case of CUNY historian Robert David Johnson, whose lack of "collegiality" oughtweighed a solid publication record and effective teaching. The CUNY Association of Scholars is following the case. Where is the lack of collegiality? "Professor Johnson’s difficulties at Brooklyn College started when he adopted public positions questioning the desirability of affirmative action quotas in hiring and the suitability of a college-sponsored 'teach-in' containing no known supporters of U.S. or Israeli policy in the Middle East. When Professor Johnson championed the need for quality in academic and hiring standards within his own department, the department chairperson termed this position 'preposterous, specious, and demeaning'." Given that a department chairman often has the responsibility of making a separate recommendation on tenure, getting into such a fight pre-tenure is risky. But that any position on academic or hiring standards be dismissed in those terms says more about the chairman than it does about Johnson. Volokh Conspiracy is correct, there are questions of fact, and of policy, yet to be settled, but his allusion to Bad Behavior by CUNY rings true.
THE PROBLEM IS RESOURCES, NOT ANCESTRY. A report on student achievement, ably fisked by Highered Intelligence.
THE EXTENDED TIME SCAM is now accessory to a crime.
DARWIN AWARD. Psychometrician Number 2 Pencil is a snake fancier. She has appropriate scorn for an adventurer who thought it would be cool to bring home a baby rattlesnake and kiss it in front of friends.
INTELLECTUAL SNOBS Great takedown of the species at Tightly Wound (top entry as of now). "Intellectual snobbery is the only real weapon left to those whose ideas are morally indefensible and intellectually bankrupt. When academicians, journalists, and politicians find their views met with scepticism or rejected outright, they tend to respond by wrapping their mantle of "greater understanding" around themselves and hastening to point out that their opponents simply don't have "the entire picture," or "a full understanding of the issues involved." Sometimes, they get a little carried away and go straight into the vicious invective category." Amen.
NEW ENLIGHTENMENT? Tim Blair discovers a Devine Miranda column that discovers a "turning point in Australia for logic over emotion." The occasion is a point-counterpoint on Australian television between Bjorn Lomborg and Peter Garrett. Sample:

Garrett: "Quite clearly whether it's 800 million people or four million kids who are suffering from starvation now it's still a problem for us and we haven't solved it in the world and to argue anything else is a statistical lie."

Lomborg: "This is the problem I have with this kind of argument. You think you're so right that you can also just deny the numbers that we all understand and we all agree to
." Read the rest.

19.11.02

CLEANING UP FOR THE CLEANING LADY. Rick Heller's version.
AND LEAD US NOT INTO PENN STATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM GRAND CENTRAL. The National Council of Churches fatwa against the internal-combustion engine has attracted commentary here and here and from Andrew Sullivan ("More bad puns on this theme are hereby eagerly solicited.") All this discussion of what Jesus would drive is moot. The Queen of Sheba's train filled the entire Temple of Solomon. And it is well known that when the Lord created all creeping and crawling things, He created Amtrak.
NAME THAT COMMITTEE. Harvard's "Committee on Healthy Diversity" reminds Common Sense and Wonder of the Committee on Public Safety. Yes, Narodnii Kommissariat Vnutrekhi Del' has too many consonant clusters.
KNOXVILLE NO LONGER HELD HOSTAGE. Volokh Conspiracy has both good news and bad news.
WHISTLING SHRIMPS? "If you’ve come to this place for comfort, I urge you to rise, walk through yonder gate, and don’t look back." Noted, with satisfaction, by InstaPundit.
RESTRICTED SPEECH ZONES. Some explanations from the universities identified by Jay Mathews.
DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS II. Informed commentary on the proper training of a lawyer, from Volokh Conspiracy.
THROWN FOR A LOOP? There's more about Chicago's Metra suburban train service at UK Transport. Here's Patrick Crozier's take on loop lines: "Ah, loop lines. Except very close to the centre eg London's Circle Line, I fear they're doomed. Railways need density and while that exists for radial journeys it rarely does so for tangental journeys." In fact, the Chicago Loop only serves as a bidirectional loop line during the rush hours. The Ravenswood runs counterclockwise (as Charles Yerkes and Samuel Insull intended) all day, but the Evanston Express runs clockwise only during rush hours. Evanston passengers must otherwise use the State Street Subway L and transfer at Howard Street.

At one time, both tracks of the Chicago Loop operated counterclockwise.
CRYING WITH YOUR MOUTH FULL? More from Norah Vincent. (Recommended at Newmark's Door.)
DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS UPDATE I: Critical Mass sees a pattern of projection in the form of sensitivity training favored by university administrators: "What Harvard and UT Knoxville and other schools who play the sensitivity game have in common is a solid, increasingly entrenched record of treating new students as proven offenders, of using the "insensitivity" of others as an excuse to try to shape--intrusively, unapologetically--the sensibilities of others."
RESTRICTED SPEECH ZONES. Jesse Walker discovers that the plague of misnamed "free-speech zones" infecting Northern Illinois University and other universities has now spread to cities, usually as a way of keeping potential picketers and hecklers away from candidates for political office. So much for a future William Howard Taft, upon having a cabbage thrown at him, quipping, "I see one of my critics has lost his head."

One of the cities named in the report is Green Bay, Wisconsin. Free speech or not, this is not a week to ask "how 'bout those Vikings?"
ARBITRAGE OPPORTUNITY. Reason's November 18 Brickbat reports the arrest of fourteen men. Their crime? Buying bottles and cans in Mexico and states that don't charge a deposit and bringing them to California to collect money. Discarded aluminum cans can be had elsewhere for about $950 a ton and then sold in California for about $2,490 a ton. Plastic bottles sold for $90 a ton out of state brought $910 in California. The real crime is that California taxpayers are making up the difference on each ton of aluminum or plastic sold by the state to the manufacturers of recycled products.
TONIGHT'S RECOMMENDED RAILROAD READING
ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS NEVER FREE. The conclusion of l'affaire Kirstein, as reported by Best of the Web.
GAINS FROM TRADE Tim Blair has some information on the benefits of building those Hogwarts Expresses (and some decent New Haven Zeppelins) in China.
SHIFTING PEAKS. Staggered working hours diminish traffic jams. That's a bad thing. Tim Blair is not making that up.
HOW MANY WEST-SIDE INTELLECTUALS DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE A LIGHTBULB? What's a lightbulb? I am not making much of this up. (Via InstaPundit, who knows lightbulbs from microphones.)
GAINS FROM TRADE: Atlantic Blog teases that the recovery of British model train manufacturer Hornby prompts "Joy at Cold Spring Shop." Yes, for more than one reason. The Telegraph report on Hornby's resurgence reports that the products have improved now that they're being built in China.

There is a precedent for Hornby's recovery. In the 1930s, U.S. train manufacturer Lionel obtained a license from the Disney organization to make a handcar with Mickey Mouse pumping the handles. As a consequence, Depression era families had a cheap trainset to put under the Christmas tree, and the company was saved. Hornby's current offering includes Thomas the Tank Engine trains, and the Hogwarts Express. And for all those purists who would object that a Great Western Hall would never fit into any platform at King's Cross, even on the Widened Lines, I offer this:

It's a Triang-Hornby bodyshell, and I'm going to name it Bear, just like Thomas's colleague.
MANAGING DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS. The concept of "shrouding" clueless 1-Ls is probably verboten at Harvard Law, according to Dorothy Rabinowitz.
BENEFIT PRINCIPLE. Atlantic Blog notes, "All the squawking the British have done for years about the horrors of a student finishing school in debt are finally being faced down by the government." Meanwhile, the Charles Clarke column he cites offers, "As far as possible, government should offer universities the opportunity to define their own mission and carry that through with minimum interference. That said, we must ensure that access is based on merit, not the ability to pay." Clarke does not appear to have ruled out allowing matriculants to borrow against their future earnings, however. "The second beneficiary is the individual student. The case has been incontrovertibly made that an undergraduate receives major benefits in comparison with the 18-year-old worker who pays taxes but receives too little educational benefits through the rest of their life... Fear of debt is a real issue, which is why repayment must be related to the ability to pay. The level of contribution is important and it should be collected in a way that is manageable, and which seeks to minimise any disincentive to study. Yet many young people do not think twice about taking out a loan or credit to buy a car or holiday (in a 2002 study half of all young people accepted they would be in debt for most of their lives). But a holiday or a car are depreciating assets, unlike education which gives you a start that lasts for life."

Atlantic Blog's discussion of adverse selection resulting from loan repayments being dependent on salary also merits close reading.
PROTECTED SPEECH? Critical Mass offers a rewrite of a Germaine Greer column that has also drawn fire from Atlantic Blog. The rewrite is a substitution of a different set of nouns for the nouns Greer uses, a device whose effectiveness is sometimes in the eye of the beholder (Douglas Hofstadter did something similar with a William Safire language column years ago: it appears in Metamagical Themas starting at p. 159.)

Perhaps the real secret to Greer's column, as well as the reason for the breakdown of her brief marriage, is here: "Liberated women could change their own light bulbs and tap washers and engine oil, so men felt unwanted." Evidently Greer never figured out the honey-do list.

15.11.02

WELCOME NO. 2 PENCIL READERS. Thanks, Kim, for those kind comments on the Complex Proposition. Visitors will find education stuff, and political commentary, and current events, and stick around for things that run on rails. Speaking of which, time to make dinner, and then go work on the Illinois and St. Louis.
SIGNAL-JAMMING? Jane Galt has some comments on Hope Scholarships (as long as a student maintains a B average, your tax dollars go to keep that student enrolled in college), in reaction to a call for comments at the end of this post. Galt's fear: "I suspect that granting a full ride to everyone who has a B average would mean that effectively, almost no one would ever get less than a B. It's common to refer to this as grade inflation, but what it really is is grade compression: all the grades are forced into a narrow band between B and A."

Provided all the professors could be bought off in some way, I suppose.

"Compressing the grades people get into an ever-narrower band isn't good for the students, who lose feedback on how they're doing and incentive to excel, and it isn't good for their prospective employers, who lose valuable information about the students."

Or "academic probation" could kick in at any grade point average below 3.5. I'm sure there are ways to keep the federal moneys flowing while preserving some of the value of the signal.

Did I say signal? Indeed I did. That's Galt's perception: "College does not provide one the tools to make a living. For most people it is what economists call a signalling mechanism: something not intrinsically valuable, but only as a signal that the applicant has something else employers value. Which is to say, employers do not value your college degree because they value what you learned; they value it because it shows that you have sufficiently internalized middle class values to get through four years at school, whether through being born into the middle class, or having sufficient gumption to get yourself through college."

Perhaps. The signalling hypothesis is one of at least two competing hypotheses proposing to make sense of the value of a college degree. In fact, Galt undoes the signalling hypothesis in her next paragraph:

"But sending everyone to college will not avail them all of the benefits of the signalling mechanism; rather, it will render the signalling mechanism useless. You're not going to magically transform every extra person you send to college into someone who earns college wages; college is the gatekeeper to a limited number of such jobs, not a producers of said jobs. While normally I am skeptical of people who claim that there is a limited number of good jobs to go around, and therefore we need to redistribute them so that no class gets to hog more than their fair share, in this case I am hard pressed to explain how sending someone to study Medieval Philosophy or Lesser Poets of the 19th Century is going to magically produce a high paying job for them. The areas where jobs are going begging are the areas we don't expect to get a lot of extra students, such as engineering. I have no doubt that there are, somewhere on the American continent, some potentially gifted engineers with the requisite math preparation who are not attending college because they can't afford it. But I can't imagine there are many." Here is a particularly Complex Proposition. Is the degree a signal, or not? If it is a signal, the Philosophy degree is just as good a signal as any other degree, unless the Philosophy signal is more easily acquired. It might be equally accurate to say that the incentive to acquire the human capital aggregated as "engineering degree" is not strong enough, Hope Scholarships or not.

Galt, rather, fears that universal access will cement existing class barriers: "Since the fact of the college diploma will mean less, and grade compression is likely to remove the other valuable signal that a college education can provide, won't employers be more likely to look only at children from relatively privileged backgrounds? For one thing, employers are likely to rely more heavily on referrals from people they know, which is to say, from privileged parents finding opportunities for their privileged kids. And for another, privileged kids are more likely to have internships and such to signal that they are capable of the work that employers want them to perform. If you're a poor kid who had to work at the Stop and Shop for rent, you may be hard-working, but an accounting firm has no way of knowing whether you can build a balance sheet -- and since we've taken your degree and grades out of the equation, no way of finding out." It isn't clear that access per se destroys the value of a degree. The kid who had to work at the Stop and Shop has the opportunity to state "Responsibilities included filling in the monthly financial statements and productivity reports." And perhaps the purpose of the scholarship is to give such a kid more time to study rather than compel him to earn more money at the Stop and Shop. My fear is that the Hope Scholarships would give kids a new opportunity to guilt trip professors. "[Despite my missing all of the Friday classes because there were some really bitchin' Thursday parties] I really need the B in this course to keep my Hope Scholarship." Focusing on the perverse incentives in the proposal is probably more productive than worrying about the signal jamming.

Similarly, this passage calls into question the signalling hypothesis: "More interestingly, as the value of the college degree as a signalling mechanism has declined, business schools have come to require more work experience from applicants -- from no years in the 60's, to 5+ years today -- in order to better differentiate those likely to succeed. Business school itself is an enormous signalling mechanism, as most people's coursework bears little resemblance to what they do in their careers. But the mere fact that you survived an arduous application process and two years of school gives employers greater confidence in hiring you.."

On the other hand, this requirement is consistent with a human capital argument. The MBA (for that is what Galt is referring to) is a business-specific human capital investment (the return on which, apart from a few very selective colleges, is very low) for which general knowledge (good grades, strong GMAT scores) and specific skills (business experience) both matter. The value of the MBA might be as a human capital investment, rather than as a signal, seemingly irrelevant coursework notwithstanding. (Has anybody who took calculus ever encountered a related rate problem that starts "An ocean liner is 889 feet long at the waterline, with a beam of 75 feet, and displaces 55,000 tons. Water flows into it at a rate of ...." Probably not, but you all remember the sand falling onto a conical pile. No matter. The naval architecht given the information from the first story problem could use the methods from the second story problem to tell you that the ship would sink in about 2 1/2 hours, without going to the movie.)
CHEAP TALK? Little Green Footballs reports that the detailed al-Qaeda battle plans alluded to here are a hoax. The Asia Times has published a retraction.
ANTI-SEMITISM ON CAMPUS. James Lileks has a takedown of some museum curator who retreats behind the beanbags of mushy relativism:

"Let us now return to the words of the Art Center’s mouthpiece:

'Art is subjective,' she said. 'Used as a metaphor or presented as the artist's personal statement, every opinion is valid and every viewer is entitled to his or her own interpretation.'

Yes, every opinion is valid - but as a famous pig once remarked, some are more valid than others. It’s amazing how much validity you get on campus when you make Jew-killing sexy.

Hamas solidarity AND hot obliques - now that’s progressive
."

In today's mail is a newsletter from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni with an article on anti-Semitism, with special reference to President Larry Summers at Harvard. The concluding paragraphs: "While some professors accused him of violating their academic freedom, Summers points out that while 'academic freedom ... to take any position' should be respected, 'academic freedom does not include freedom from criticism.'

It is ironic -- and intolerable -- that, on campuses where the slightest 'insensitivity' to some groups is punished with draconian severity [relatively speaking -- how many tanks does Loren Crabtree have? - Sup't], anti-Semitism is tolerated with little comment or criticism. ACTA is fighting this dangerous trend
."
WHAT HAS 100 LEGS AND EATS CABBAGE? Instapundit has discovered a weblog based in Sofia, Bulgaria, with a reaction to a visit by some Transnational Progressive. "Prices were cheaper back during the previous government, isn’t that right? Now I mean, you didn’t have cuisine then like MacDonalds,” he sneered that last word, “but hey?"

"The [Bulgarian hostess] girl looked like she was going to use her knife, but instead, she told him that everything was indeed much, much cheaper under Communism. Bananas, she said, were only 5 stultinki per kilo [US: 2.5 cents]. He nodded, knowingly. Except, she added, there were no bananas.

You could buy bread for 2 stultinki per loaf…He looked at her warily now…But bread was rationed
."

InstaPundit gives this post his traditional "Indeed." Some people with shorter memories could do with a review session here. The creature with 100 legs that eats cabbage is 50 Muscovites lining up to buy sausage. And the bread might well have been rationed, after the collective farms bought bread for cattle feed. I am not making this up. Price controls on bread meant bread cheaper than unmilled grain. I guess the New Socialist Man was supposed to be a ruminant.

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

14.11.02

LIBERTARIAN DEMOCRATS? Not quite, but a lengthy Kenneth S. Baer review of John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira's The Emerging Democratic Majority. Some of my observations do turn up in the review. Consider this: "Professionals have come in contact with and been frustrated by authorities in both the private and public sector, forcing them to cede their own standards of quality to market imperatives. (Think of how much doctors hate HMOs, and one can grasp why professionals may no longer feel fidelity to the party of laissez-faire capitalism.)" By the same token, such professionals aren't going to be too enthusiastic about the public sector authorities not identified in the quote as objects of hate.

And this: "Beginning in the mid-1980s with the rise of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and the New Democrats, the Democratic Party began to shed its baggage as a party that could not be trusted to spend taxpayer dollars responsibly (which is important to fiscally conservative professionals) or to stand up for mainstream cultural values (which is important to the white working class). During the Clinton years, the Democratic Party--in Judis and Teixeira's approving words--offered a "moderate accommodation" to the "radical movements" of both the left and right." And apart from that business with Monica and Eleanor Mondale, the strategy was pretty successful. Why Vice President Gore chose to run as George McGovern with personality eludes me to this day.

As Baer's subtext here might be: "The Clinton record on reducing crime, reforming welfare, eliminating the deficit, expanding educational opportunity, and growing the economy speaks for itself--but it also spoke to voters, helping re-elect the first Democrat to a second full term in the White House since 1936. Another reason is that, just as a surging surplus began to stir the Old Democratic passion for big government programs--and the GOP's for massive tax cuts--Bill Clinton dedicated it to "save Social Security first." By placing fiscal discipline in defense of a valued entitlement, he solidified liberal support for his fiscal conservatism."

Here's Baer's conclusion (I don't know whether I've just read a book review, or the minutes of a Democratic caucus, but anyway): "Despite the continued dominance of the institutional party by Old Democrats far to the left of the general electorate and a noticeable resurgence of old perceptions of the party (weak on defense, soft on crime, untrustworthy on taxes), the party is at parity with the GOP." The review was penned before the election. Why the House Democrats, given the choice of a New Democrat with African ancestors, or a San Francisco Democrat with Silent Generation baggage, are choosing the latter also escapes me.
SELF-SELECTION. The magazine column in Monday's Chicago Tribune (print edition) refers to "The story that got away: Education's 'big payoff'." The Forbes column in question, by Dan Seligman, has headline, "Contrary to what you were authoritatively told by the media, our government has no evidence that increased education will raise incomes." Seligman's main point: "They are ignoring--just as the Census Bureau is ignoring--the powerful possibility that the correlation exists mainly because smart people tend to want more education, and smart people are what employers keep looking for: workers who catch on fast, are easy to train, and don't screw up. Many employers have used college degrees as a proxy for intelligence. But if not-so-smart people try to get in on the high-income game by, say, going to college instead of grabbing a job at age 18, they will ultimately find it doesn't pay. The labor markets are quite sophisticated at sniffing out true mental-ability levels."

There are two hypotheses, with modest support for both positions. First, there is the human capital hypothesis: more schooling gets you thinking more clearly. Second, there is the signalling hypothesis: the degree is a signal of ability, but because it is costly to acquire, under some circumstances only those people who have the ability will acquire the signal. There are Nobel laureates in economics (Gary Becker and A. Michael Spence come to mind first) who earned the honor for thinking through the subtleties of these things. And yes, if we made public policy with the expectation that universal college education would raise everyone's living standards, we'd probably be disappointed.

Seligman makes some other observations that don't really move his argument forward. Consider "It is certainly possible to identify individuals not now going to college who would benefit if they did go. But it seems even easier to identify young persons who are in college and shouldn't be there. The enormous number of college students instantly needing remedial help when they show up on campus surely carries a message. The National Center for Education Statistics tells us that 35.5% of first- and second-year undergraduates report having taken remedial courses--most often in math but also in reading, writing and, getting to the truly clueless, "study skills" (taught to 17.4% of those in remedial programs)."

I think we have a Complex Proposition here. Perhaps the message those students taking remedial (make that "middle school") courses are sending is that the middle and high schools are not doing their jobs. Regime change begins in kindergarten. Perhaps the message is that the admissions office has been engaging in affirmative discrimination, with lower admission standards for some students than others, who will be at greater risk of failure, absent such support, than students who were admitted under tougher standards. Regime change continues at the admissions office. Or perhaps the message is that having sufficient bodies to pay the bonds on the office buildings and athletic facilities each year, whether or not those bodies remain in residence, once "remediated," to complete a degree. Regime change must include the central administration in that case.
MICROSOFT UPDATE. Atlantic Blog has the link to Brad DeLong's Microsoft post, noting that DeLong relies heavily on the comments of Nathan Newman, who Atlantic Blog describes as a "political activist." Atlantic Blog also has a link to Newmark's Door, with the observation that Newmark uses "actual evidence." Data in search of a hypothesis, perhaps ... while it may be true that the bear market lasted approximately from the guilty verdict in spring 2000 to the acceptance by Judge Kollar-Kotelly of the settlement, it is also true that stocks trading at 300 times actual earnings rather than the (old?) equilibrium value of 15 times earnings are likely to fall in price.
SEND ALL MY EXES TO SENSITIVITY TRAINING. Yup. Shunning is now emotional abuse, reports No. 2 Pencil. I am not making this up. Here's her take: "If these rules are intended to teach children how to behave when they grow up, then we should allow them to shun to their heart's content, because shunning is an old, valued, and perfectly polite way of conveying, 'I don't wish to be associated with you.' Just ask Miss Manners."
CREDIBLE THREAT? Little Green Footballs posts a lengthy statement from an al-Qaeda commander detailing dire consequences for the United States, and warning that the assets are already in place. A number of comments to the post have noted, if the assets are in place, why have they not already been used? Although the conflict between the United States and its allies and al-Qaeda is a repeated game, I do not know of any version of the folk theorem in which deferring your greatest threat rather than using it immediately is optimal. If there is research to that effect, please let me know.

As a nontechnical note, in repeated competition a competitor might want to establish a reputation for being ruthless, even at the cost of a short-term loss. Think, for example, about a chain store confronting a sequence of competitors. The most effective way to confirm that you will destroy any competitor is to destroy the first competitor. In like manner, if you have nuclear weapons, and your objective is to destroy the United States, it strikes me as more effective to use them rather than posture about them being hidden somewhere in tamper-proof cases. All it takes is the wrong computer being captured in Afghanistan with the locations stored on the hard drive...
OPPORTUNITY COSTS. "Recently, I heard several students complain that they couldn't print out their assignments because the computer room was out of paper. And faculty members, who haven't had a pay raise in two years, have recently seen their health insurance increase. Faculty also pay $172 per year to park at work.

While the university cannot seem to find the money to deal with some of these pressing issues, they always seem to find funding for the so-called "diversity" agenda. In fact, just a few days ago, the Chancellor disseminated a report from a diversity task force which hints that diversity funding may soon increase dramatically
."

No, not another blast at the Northern Illinois University administration. Mike S. Adams is associate professor of criminal justice at UNC-Wilmington (motto: Where the Anaconda Plan was Completed) and his post has drawn comments from Tightly Wound and from Critical Mass. The factionalism among the various identities politic that Critical Mass notes is nothing new: if each believes that the total benefit to all is a reward of fixed size, each will squabble among the others. No big surprise there. Let me rather direct your attention to Professor Adams's concluding remarks:

"Reasonable people understand that when an idea fails consistently that it just might be wrong. But when we deal with the diversity proponents we are dealing with people who are at war with the very concepts of right and wrong. We are also dealing with people whose financial and political interests rely heavily on the success of the diversity movement.

Indeed, if the diversity nightmare ever ends, it will not be the result of some sudden realization among college administrators that it is expensive, hypocritical, and divisive. It will only end when ordinary Americans realize that they can no longer afford to be silent
."

Amen to that, and next week's sermon will be on the peril of the next costly and time-wasting administrative fad, namely assessing the obvious. For those of you who want to read ahead, look at the next post.
IT'S CALLED A MARKET TEST. Highered Intelligence has a post on something called the National Survey of Student Engagement, administered to freshmen and to seniors, posing questions such as "The Nessie surveys of freshmen and senior undergraduates measure academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences, and supportive campus environment. Questions include: How many written papers or reports of 5 to 19 pages were you asked to produce this year? How often did you work with other students outside of class to prepare an assignment? How often did you discuss ideas with faculty outside of class? Did you study abroad? How do you rate the quality of your relationships with other students?" (that quotation from this Jay Mathews column linked by Highered Intel.)

Sounds like the kind of assessment test I referred to here, and it might provide the kind of information about the effectiveness of university teaching the Illinois legislature is seeking. Why, then, do the universities distance themselves from this survey faster than a Laser on a screaming reach? Mathews suggests the dirty little secret is, there's precious little value added being delivered by universities, particularly the pricey ones. Highered Intelligence is a bit more skeptical. I tend to agree, but suggest that finding a more accurate assessment test is a waste of time. It's much simpler to look at student performance five, or ten, or twenty years out, and to discover which talents have been particularly useful, and whether the university has done anything to hone those talents.
MORE ON MICROSOFT. Brad DeLong has weighed in on the recent Microsoft ruling. The unanswered question he raises is classic Bastiat: we see Microsoft. What have we not seen in the way of innovation in operating systems? In his post, he has not addressed this dimension: to what extent was Microsoft's creativity diverted to battling the Justice Department, or avoiding the kind of product development that proved to be unreasonable for United Shoe Machinery?
IT'S CALLED A MARKET TEST. "The pattern of traditional teaching methods faring better in rigorous comparisons than more open-ended ones, and then of the open-ended ones flourishing nevertheless, has repeated itself many times over. The best-known instance of the phenomenon is probably the endless battle between the proponents of phonics and of whole language instruction. Virtually every impartial effort to analyze the hundreds of studies on the subject, most recently by the Reading Panel of the National Institutes of Health, has found that the step-by-step approach of phonics is more effective, especially with poor children." That's from James Traub's investigation of educational methods chosen for their aesthetic appeal (at least to mushy-headed people) rather than for their effectiveness.

Joanne Jacobs, who comments on Traub's article, also discovers something that looks encouraging. "Also in the Times, a reporter visits Ernie Davis Middle School, her alma mater, which is now on the "failing" schools list. She finds the principal and teachers are working hard to raise test scores. In every classroom, students are reminded that an essay needs a topic sentence, supporting sentences with facts and examples, and a conclusion. Students are urged to speak in complete sentences." That's progress. Pick two or three Big Ideas, and use them, and use them, and use them, until using them correctly is as automatic as breathing.
BY THEIR FRUITS SHALL YE KNOW THEM. The Chicago Boyz are tired of having the likes of Naomi (No Logo) Klein and Michael (Bowling for Columbine) Moore praised for their good intentions. "It's as though they lacked all imagination and were only capable of projecting their own meanness of spirit onto the creative people whom they vilify, while at the same time taking for granted the creatives' enormous accomplishments which make the modern world possible."

Amen.
BALANCED JOB COMPLEXES. The Onion presents the problem of egalitarian division of labor as comedy. Governor Bradford's story of the same problem, and its resolution, is a little bit longer.
DESERVEDLY LOW PUBLIC OPINION. Critical Mass destroys the notion that "free speech is one thing, hate speech another." And more. Alas, his line "one person's hate is another person's truth" doesn't work really well.
THE EXECUTION OF AGHAJARI IS THE EXECUTION OF THE UNIVERSITY: Instapundit recommends Charles Paul Freund's essay noting that Iranian Professor Hashem Aghajari might well not appeal his death sentence, in order to compel Iran's mullahs to "confront their own barbarity." (Aghajari is a disabled veteran of the Iraq-Iran war.)

There is a call to arms to U.S. academicians, as well "Prominent secularist scholars, such as Egypt's Nasr Abu Zeid, have been driven from their jobs and even from their countries by Islamist student and faculty thugs who have been terrorizing intellectual life. Iran's students, on the other hand, appear anxious to be rid of their failed revolution, and to rejoin the modern world. As one prominent student told a student press agency, 'We must reach a stage in our destiny that we have lawful rights and freedoms'." We can do no less. It is not as if Donna Shalala knows how to tie a rope, or Loren Crabtree has tanks in his garage, or their brain-brothers or -sisters infesting the other universities can do anything more effective than screech.
CREATIVE ANACHRONISM

FORTY FEET BELOW. The Central Electric Railfans Association recently published a definitive history of the Chicago Tunnel Company, a network of tunnels originally intended for telephone cabling, but later used for a narrow gauge railroad that delivered mail, goods and coal to downtown buildings, and hauled away ashes. Al Capone's gang did NOT use the tunnels for any purposes, contrary to legend. The trains stopped running in 1959, and the network was forgotten until a dredging accident in April 1992 let water into the tunnels, and subsequently into the basements of many buildings in the Chicago Loop.


The history refers to an automated tunnel railway inspired by Chicago's, and built by Royal Mail in London. Where Worlds Collide reports the impending closure of this railway. Will some future Geraldo Rivera look for hidden Windsor treasures in those tunnels?
LESSONS RELEARNED. The November 2002 print edition of the Atlantic (not available online) includes Mark Bowden's report on the activities of the 391st Fighter Squadron in Afghanistan. There is one story, in which Army ground controllers working with the Northern Alliance, confronted a Taliban force with equal troop strength and tanks. The Northern Alliance troops were preparing to bug out, as it was a cloudy day, and no Northern Alliance armor to hand.

Then a Taliban tank exploded. A few minutes later, so did another. As, eventually, went all the Taliban armor on that field.

No, this is not an opportunity to marvel over U.S. technology. You have read your Tom Clancy, haven't you?

Rather, I want to direct your attention to this part of the story. The Army reports coordinates in degrees, minutes, and seconds. The Air Force uses degrees, minutes, and thousands of minutes. The smart bombs are therefore programmed in the latter. The interval between tank explosions was the time it took the weapons service officer in the plane to convert, using pencil, paper, and a Casio calculator watch to convert the Army's coordinate to Air Force coordinates. Once that calculation was completed, the Air Force advised the Army spotter to turn on his battery-powered laser, and then the bomb went.

We have been here before. Stephen Ambrose, in D-Day, notes that there was no "working method of communication between the soldiers on the ground with those eager-to-shoot P-38 pilots over their heads." That coordination was in place by December of 1944, and worked during the Ardennes battle.

The Washington Monthly, a frequent critic of interservice rivalry, does not appear to have picked up this story yet. Please advise me if I am in error.
WORKING YOUR WAY THROUGH COLLEGE Rachel Lucas discovers all the supplemental charges that accompany college enrollment these days. The comments are worth reading also.
COMMIT AND SWITCH. Atlantic Blog discovers the dirty little secret of "relationships." And think about the terms that come in train: "issues," "baggage," and the like.
YOU'D HAVE MADE A GREAT CLUELESS COLLEGE PROFESSOR Find out who is insulting whom.
MISGUIDED ENFORCEMENT. InstaPundit picks up a story of a drug bust gone wrong in Wisconsin, and quotes a letter to the editor of the Racine paper, "If the Racine City Council was running Green Bay, 63,284 people would have been ticketed at the Monday night Packer game because of 70-some people getting drunk, rowdy and urinating in the men's room sinks." Instapundit asks, "Do they play electronic music at those games?" Indeed they do. As do I, when I report the scores.

13.11.02

REGRESSION TO THE MEDIAN. The SCSU Scholars enlighten a colleague. You mean all the children aren't above average in Minnesota?
"God will not suffer man to have the knowledge of things to come; for if he had prescience of his prosperity he would be careless; and understanding of his adversity he would be senseless."
You are Augustine!
You love to study tough issues and don't mind it if you lose sleep over them. Everyone loves you and wants to talk to you and hear your views, you even get things like "nice debating with you." Yep, you are super smart, even if you are still trying to figure it all out. You're also very honest, something people admire, even when you do stupid things.

What theologian are
you?

A creation of Henderson

12.11.02

KNOW THINE ENEMY: "Trading With The Enemy: Corporations Say They Will Continue To Do Business With Iraq," is the headline of Jeremy Scahill's story. It's about French corporations.
ENFORCE THIS. Chicago Boyz note that the Council of Europe has outlawed Internet "hate speech." Well, you cheese-eating surrender monkeys, come over here and stop me.
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. The Stolypin cars have been prepared for the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) chapter of Kappa Sigma. "In announcing the suspension, Provost Loren Crabtree declared that the fraternity will have 'to demonstrate a commitment to uphold our expectations for civility, ethnic diversity and racial harmony.' Crabtree wanted thought reform for the fraternity: 'The fraternity clearly needs to go through some training on diversity and some training on racial tolerance and racial sensitivity, and we expect that they will have to do that.'" Re-education for the socially dangerous elements is not sufficient for some members of the Tennessee Politburo. "Bryan F. Coker, UT’s director of student judicial affairs, wrote in the student newspaper that while 'UT does not have a hate-speech code at this point...definitely some education needs to take place.' He continued: 'A lot of campuses have [created speech codes], and it’s definitely something to look at.'" (Thanks to the SCSU Scholars for the link to this report.)

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is on the case, and Instapundit characterizes the reaction to Provost Crabtree's decision as a "public relations debacle." Indeed.


BIG BROTHER

IS WATCHING YOU
ISN'T THAT SPECIAL Fox News (interchange via the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) reports a new kind of Hallowe'en observance.

"•Finally, at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, members of that school’s Multicultural Student Coalition said they would spend Halloween running around campus with video recorders capturing images of costumes that they deem offensive, reports the Daily Cardinal.

Members of the group said they would approach students dressed in ethnic costumes and ask them a series of questions regarding what their costume is and what about it is offensive.

Senior Carl Camacho, a member of the executive team for the Multicultural Student Coalition, said it’s offensive when people portray an ethnicity in an incorrect way
."

I certainly hope the students got into costume suitable for the occasion. Jean jackets, matching pants, and Mao caps come to mind. For that matter, there are some spiffy green or brown uniforms that would look good.
INCOMPETENT MORONS. Instapundit files a report on another PC atrocity (excuse the redundancy), at Harvard. This time it's a reference to administrators in the Graduate School of Business as "incompetent morons." At least one administrator is not amused.

Reminds me of a Soviet era joke: Did you hear that Private Potalov got twenty years for calling his general an idiot? Yes, six months for disrespecting an officer, and the rest for revealing a state secret.

11.11.02

ARMISTICE DAY. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918, marks the armistice suspending the war to end all wars. The Shops will be open tomorrow. Here are InstaPundit's recommended readings, and Atlantic Blog recommends this tribute to Taps. Kathy Kinsley's sequel to Flanders Fields is here, and Vodka Pundit offers a Veteran's Day salute. Don't miss this recollection of the Italian campaign during World War II. My dad's unit was the 87th Infantry Division.

10.11.02

MIKE SHERMAN'S Ph.D.s. It's true that the Lombardi era Packers were a team full of Hall of Famers. But that's retrospectively. Many of them were cast-offs from other teams, and a few of them provided Coach Lombardi with some discipline problems. There were a few of the Hall of Famers, and a number of the role players, who looked for teammates with Ph.D.s, referring to Poor, Hungry, and Determined. That phenomenon seems to have been reborn on the current team. A few weeks ago, there were questions about the effects of injuries, particularly on the defense. But the Ph.Ds have stepped up, with another interception return for a touchdown by Marques Anderson. Packers 40, Lions 14.
DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN Atlantic Blog has been following the possible introduction of "top-up" fees, which sound like premium prices for premium services. He raises two points about subsidies: "Subsidized higher education is a subsidy to the wealthier in two ways. First, the users typically come from higher income families. Second, the users end up with higher incomes than the ones who did not go to a university." I have found an article by W. Lee Hansen, this is "Income Distribution Effects of Higher Education," in the May 1970 American Economic Review. The opening paragraph is eerie; "The vast enrollment growth of the early and middle 1960's, combined with sharp price increases since then, have produced a large and continuing demand for educational resources. At the same time the revenue-generating abilities of institutions of higher education appear not to have kept pace, likely because of other rapidly growing demands for public funds. The result has been a gradually tightening financial squeeze, accentuated by recent federal cutbacks in funds and by reduced generosity on the part of state legislators responding to campus turmoil."

But it is not to that point I wish to speak. Rather, I want to look at some analysis for the state of Wisconsin. "Despite differences in the apparent 'quality' of the University of Wisconsin (UW) system and the Wisconsin state university (WSU) system, the full instructional costs in 1964-65 were approximately equal, at $1,200 per academic year. Since tuition amounted to $300 at the UW and to $190 at the WSU, net-per student institutional costs -- or the subsidies per student -- amounted to $900 and $1,010, respectively. The effect of this tuition differential is to provide larger net subsidies to WSU students and their families than to UW students and their families." Because Wisconsin's income tax has increasing marginal rates, and richer families were more likely to send students to the UW system (in those days, only Madison and Milwaukee: inter alia La Crosse, Platteville, and Whitewater were in the WSU sustem), the Wisconsin subsidy was lower on average for better-off families.

. So what's the problem in the UK?

First, the Francis Beckett commentary Atlantic Blog is referring to has a point of view:"It's something we should be trying to change. Instead, we have a Labour government which is trying to make this more marked. The more prestigious your son's or daughter's university, the more you will pay.

According to an NUS survey, nearly half of all full-time students take part-time paid work during term time. More than a third miss lectures for this reason and one in five fail to submit coursework. If you have the money, you can make sure your family has sufficient time to study
."

Depends on your perspective. There's nothing wrong with working your way through college. People do it all the time. Claiming work responsibilities is a bit more respectable than owning up to sleeping off a Thursday kegger. And the more prestigious the university, the better your son or daughter expects to do. I have yet to hear of The New Republic or The Washington Monthly or Reason or any of the other Big Media hiring interns from Northern Illinois University, for example.

The more substantive part of Beckett's essay is here:"A few months ago, education minister Margaret Hodge explained why she no longer believed students were poor. At a demonstration about tuition fees, she said she could not help noticing that one of the women students was wearing a Tiffany necklace worth (so Ms Hodge said, and I trust her on such matters) £300.

I do not know (and neither does Ms Hodge) how this student came to be the possessor of such a splendid necklace. It may have been an heirloom, or a present from a monied and besotted boyfriend. It certainly does not prove that free higher education, from which Ms Hodge herself benefited in the 1960s, is what she called 'a massive subsidy to the middle classes'
."

No, an example is not a proof, but accumulated research offers evidence for Ms Hodge's assertion.

"That's the New Labour way of looking at the world. This benefit is not reaching the poorest who need it most, so we should withdraw it. The other solution, which is to make sure it does reach the people who need it most, never seems to occur to them."

There's another Guardian report suggesting, to the contrary, that that solution is one of several that has occurred to New Labor.

"Speaking at his regular televised press conference, Mr Blair said there was agreement across the board about four key aims - but no options were off-limits in meeting them.

"One, that the status quo cannot continue because the universities are not well enough funded.

"Secondly that universities require more freedom and independence from government.

"Thirdly, however, that we have to improve the access of poorer students to university.

"And fourthly we mustn't do anything whereby we effectively put a financial barrier in between people and their desire to go to university.

"Beyond that there are no predispositions whatsoever. We have just got to get the best system."

He said the problem was being tackled across the world as universities increasingly competed against each other
."

There are, in fact, several possible solutions here. First, the rewards to university education are at historic highs. Therefore, lending money for college might well be attractive compared, say, to lending money for long-distance capacity. Perhaps removing the financial barrier means more commercial freedom for banks and other lenders to make college loans. Second, competition among universities might well mean discovery of, if not the "best," a system of higher education that allocates resources efficiently. Third, is the use of the term "poorer" referring to ability to pay, or to ability to perform? That makes a difference to the objectives.

The folks at the Guardian will probably not be pleased with that. Here's Polly Curtis quoting an official with the lecturers' union: "Top-up fees for prestigious universities will accentuate the gap between have and have-not institutions and between have and have-not students. If you create a premier league which attracts most of the funds and charges a higher entrance fee, you impoverish the rest of the institutions and condemn poor students to go to poor institutions. It is a class-ridden recipe for a second-class national system."

A couple of observations. First, sometimes a separating equilibrium is useful. Given that resources are scarce, distinguishing the most able from less-able minds will confer benefits. Second, it does not follow that the premier league will attract most of the funds. Nothing in any of the Guardian's coverage has ruled out somebody doing for mass university education what Ford did for automobiles or Walton for retailing. Presuming that some of the students taking part-time work and neglecting their studies are acting rationally, is there anything inherently wrong with responding efficiently to their wishes?
UNDER ROBERT FISK'S ROCK. Atlantic Blog is all over the opening lines of Robert Fisk's latest. Further down comes this:"The United Nations can debate any Iraqi non-compliance with weapons inspectors, but the United States will decide whether Iraq has breached UN resolutions. In other words, America can declare war without UN permission.

So how many of the American tanks entering Baghdad will be flying UN pennants? None, I suspect
."

I believe that's a feature, not a bug.
PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES. No. 2 Pencil links to a Northern Star editorial questioning the effectiveness of assessment tests. Her reaction: "Wow. I don't know that I've ever before read anything by a college newspaper journalist who complains that the testing stakes aren't high enough to be useful." Hey, I have readers at the Northern Star!
GOING TO WAR. Vodka Pundit reminds us, "We're going to war soon, and not everyone we send will be coming home." The soldiers our press will interview will offer quotes such as, "We're doing our job," and "We knew the risks." Every one of them will be apprehensive, none the less.

Let's live our lives in such a way as to be worthy of their efforts.
OPEN LETTER TO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. Vodka Pundit says, "I don’t want to sound too harsh, but you guys really need a good talking to." Somewhat different talking-to than mine, but on point.
FOURTH TURNING ALERT. "What's changed? Hearts and minds.
And once the Truth of a situation is confronted, things must change.
They cannot remain the same
," writes Greatest Jeneration.
LAKE WOBEGONE EFFECT. Joanne Jacobs discovers parents who equate "average" with "underachiever." "They're used to hearing all children described as 'excellent'," she notes, then asks, "Is there a coherent all-school strategy for educating all students -- or a grab bag of special programs?" Should there be a distinction? I ask this in all seriousness. Long ago, Alfred Marshall wrote, "Ought we to rest content with the existing forms of division of labor? Is it necessary that large numbers of the people should be exclusively occupied with work that has no elevating character? Is it possible to educate gradually among the great mass of workers a new capacity for the higher kinds of work; and in particular for undertaking co-operatively the management of the business in which they are themselves employed?" (Principles of Economics, eighth ed. (1936), p. 41)

For a long time, this series of questions has been neglected by the education establishment, because the high-technology of the middle twentieth century was one in which people could be productive without being challenged intellectually. Whether there is a twenty-first century version of Fordism that will enable people with few intellectual skills to earn a middle-class standard of living remains to be seen. If there is no such magic, different strategies that draw out the best from different people make sense to me.
CLASSIFIED INFORMATION? The McDonald's Corporate release announcing restructurings in four countries, and closure of McDonald's operations in three, does not name the countries. Is someone taking seriously Tom Friedman's observation that two countries with McDonald's operations have never (apart from the Yugoslavian case) gone to war?
RHYMES WITH CARVE. Reader Bill Sjostrom provides an Allen Barra column (in the sports section! of the Online Wall Street Journal - registration required) evaluating Packer quarterback Brett Favre as the best ever, except ...

"Of course, there's an entirely different standard for ranking quarterbacks, and it has to do more with their "quality" numbers, such as yards per throw, TD-to-interception ratio and ultimately, big-game performance, than in monstrous career totals -- you know, winning. Mr. Starr, who won five championships from 1961 through 1967, is the perfect model for such a quarterback (NFL 80.5) and one whose championship record Mr. Favre can't possibly equal."

Reminds me of a joke. How many Packer fans does it take to change a lightbulb? One to order the beer, one to grill the brats, one to change the lightbulb, six to explain how much better the old lightbulb was.

7.11.02

CRUMBLING ECONOMY? Also from this morning's news, productivity growth exceeded (whose?) expectations, and last week's initial claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly (according to whom?) fell. And the regime change in the Democratic Party seriously must pay more attention to the left?

Others have offered suggestions, here are mine. First, dump the public employee's unions. Second, ease the Silent Generation into retirement.

Then, consider cultivating the non-tinfoil-hat libertarians. Seriously. Rather than invoking the New Deal, and hoping that will have the same effect on advocates of Social Security reform that garlic has on vampires, and defending a bad retirement investment on the grounds that it comes bundled with some bad insurance for survivors, and for disability, provide a reform that improves the return on investment and protects the best features of the insurance. And never mind that stuff about an intergenerational contract. The Silent Generation, as these pages argue, broke that long ago. Furthermore, rather than treating homeland security as an attack on government employees, treat it as an intrusion on the liberties of the people.