31.3.03

ABOVE AND BEYOND. From Professor DeLong comes sad news. Italian epidemiologist and World Health Organization associate Carlo Urbani, who noticed something different about the pneumonia cases he was seeing, has died in Bangkok where he stayed to treat the sick while doing his observation of the epidemic that killed him.
AT WAR. Homebuilts? Zwischenzug? A shoot-off in Baghdad? (Hint: the local true believers frown on alcoholic beverages.) (Hat tip: Transterrestrial Musings.)
THE FOUNDATIONS OF SELF-ESTEEM. "The world would be better off were Arab civilization a success. We all should pray that the Arab world might, one day, be better governed and more equitable, that Arab peoples might join us in the march of human progress, instead of fleeing into reveries of bygone glories," notes Ralph Peters. (Also with assistance from InstaPundette.)
WE REPORT, YOU DECIDE? Fox News coverage reports Peter Arnett's recent career change. No confirmation that Geraldo Rivera has been escorted off the battlefield, or given a map of Baghdad and instructions to find Al Capone's harem.

UPDATE. At 10.30 am Central, Rivera files from a recently redecorated Ba'ath party headquarters. He is still embedded with the 101st and he just said "50 miles from Baghdad." Rivera accuses NBC of telling tales out of school.
WHAT IS THE OBJECTIVE FUNCTION? One of the problems in working out the economics of compensating college presidents is determining what the organizational objectives are. Without that, determining the gains from trade and sharing them with the owners is very difficult. The objectives matter, as a number of commentators who have looked away from the liberation of Iraq and focused on the culture wars in the academy note. India West (who did not have a conference to attend and keyed several thoughtful essays) looks at a longer essay on the goals of the academy. Richard D. Kahlenberg suggests that a convex combination of merit and limited means as criteria for admission produces greater diversity and higher graduation rates than the more usual admission methods under consideration. Jenna Russell files a story in a similar vein. Anybody remember the Fallacy of Insufficient Alternatives. The Superintendent thanks the ever-alert Betsy's Page for these links.
THE EVOLUTION OF MANNERS. Commuter-train seats at tables ought to be used by people who intend to use the table. Ah, the evolution of transportation. Used to be that commuter train coaches had walkover seats, and fittings to provide small card tables. Now, there are permanently installed tables, at least on the Virginia Railway Express, but the etiquette of sitting at those tables has not yet evolved.
PRODUCTIVITY? Many railroads equated reducing trackage with enhanced productivity beginning after the Second World War. In the United States, some of that track has been put back. Something similar might be desirable in the U.K.
SHORTCUTS. Where Worlds Collide describes a resourceful response to college administrators who have sidewalk fetishes.
AIRPORT DESTROYED IN PREDAWN RAID. Local officials secure site, enforce no-fly zone.

30.3.03

LAND YACHTS. How else to describe those rolling hotels called recreational vehicles, with a smaller vehicle on a drawbar trailing along as if a dinghy? Today I saw something that meets the test for "excessive." Consider a converted intercity bus (or are there now campers built on bus platforms) with a large Ford (Expedition? Stretch Explorer) in the dinghy position. A Minnesotan, highballing at 85 mph plus. (And why do Wisconsinites complain about aggressive Illinois drivers? The Minnesotans are truly nuts, even in Chicago traffic.)
TOOLS OF SADDAM. Critical Mass discovers a particularly obnoxious form of extra-credit-for-protest, this time at Saginaw Valley State. The administration's actions have been duly noted and rather angrily criticized by the students. [Were any of the participants in the academic conference from Saginaw Valley?] (Not as far as I know.)

One of the tools of Saddam actually makes the point that U.N. membership has no objective meaning. Do you see where?
DEFIES PARODY. Mother told you not to eat on the carpet.
LEADING INDICATOR. Joanne Jacobs is unimpressed with a schoolteacher's reaction to a student's fear of a moondog. Indirect evidence of the failure of schools to teach science. If you're making westing, and see a moondog, take in the t'gans, advise the next watch to reef the mains, and have the storm jibs ready.
SURREAL. There was a bit of downtime at the conference, although getting discussant comments in order, catching up on news, getting advisee prepped, and observing sessions took a lot of time. But it's a bit unusual to catch the tail end of a win by the Team Formerly Known as the Warriors, get a soak in the motel hot tub (which was under repair) and then observe live coverage of planes taking off from an aircraft carrier and an hour later observing live coverage of stuff going boom in Baghdad.

UPDATE: Kentucky fan Cut on the Bias pays tribute to Marquette. Credit also to the Badgers, for softening up the opposition. Remember to buy Wisconsin cheese.
THE RHYTHM OF THE RAILS. Did Dmitri Shostakovitch get the side-drum figure in the attack theme of his Leningrad symphony on a train. That was the musical support from the Springfield rest area to the Wenonah fuel stop. The side-drum figure sounds like the Trans-Siberian Express. Trains have distinctive sound signatures. A North American passenger train rattles differently from a British train, and both rattle differently from a Russian train. Test yourself: can you distinguish a stack train from a coal train?
THINGS YOU LEARN. Back from the academic conference. There were four sessions of undergraduate student papers, many of which were more innovative than most professional papers. A discussant suggested that the pressures of quick publication precluded much development of data sources by working professors, perhaps that's one explanation for the surfeit of Panel Study labor economics today and concentration-and-profits when that was thought to be intellectually sound. Many of the undergraduate students had the presumption that doing economics was equivalent to running regressions. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps an artifact of the major, where a senior honors thesis often uses basic statistical inference and regression. Perhaps an artifact ot participation. Good set of papers none-the-less. The paper that generated the most faculty interest was one on the compensation of college presidents, which is a sore point with a lot of faculty. [And you thought you were the hothead??!?] One of the faculty papers was rather instructive. We in the mid-majors take pride in evidence that salaries ten to fifteen years out are invariant to institutional prestige [You did have a link to that once, no?] (Yes, but I forgot where.) But university faculty have a stronger preference for sending their kids to the research universities, private or public, or to the private liberal arts' colleges. Perhaps those are the places to go to discover an academic vocation, as well.

There were a number of sessions on the economics of something called "gender," and a lot of empirical papers using "sex" as a proxy for "gender." [Huh?] (Think about your typical college faculty. A number of your colleagues will be biologically male, fine people, and responsible dads. But blowtorches and power tools make them uneasy.) I mentioned this fear to some of my labor economics colleagues there. They admitted I had a point.
REASSURING. A few of the Alton Route's color position light signals still operate. I saw one approach-lighted green over green on my way south, but was traveling at road speed and stayed ahead of whatever was in the circuit behind me. Get a look at the last of these now, the hooded three-aspect, intense color light signals are being installed.

27.3.03

STANDING DOWN. There is an academic conference at an undisclosed location this weekend. I have yet to read the papers I have agreed to discuss, and a stack of homework to grade, and a new copy of 48/ft to distract me, and I'm rich enough to not have to take a laptop (or a mobile phone) with me, so thanks for visiting, and come back next week. I do have sources, and there is plenty of shock and awe in store for those whose statements defy parody.
PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES. Memo to bracket heads: if you set up an office pool with a prize for worst picks, guess what!
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? Viking Pundit shows a mural CNN crews found in a Ba'ath office in southern Iraq. Short-range jets, possibly DC-9s, in Iraqi Airline colors???

26.3.03

FRESH SOURCE OF COMPANY MAIL? Law, Politics, and the Economy. Appears to be new.
AT WAR. A trooper who has time to post whilst on duty misses South Park. (I did tape the episodes that inspired his handle, they are a hoot.) Here is some information that might be instructive to opponents of the war. (It was a pleasant spring afternoon so some of the local tools of Saddam staged a die-in across the street from the Armed Forces recruiting center near campus.) Professor Drezner offers sound advice should you read this (which is getting radio play tonight,) this, or this.
NASTIER THAN PEER REVIEW. Paul Krugman's column drawing parallels between organized consumer boycotts, corporate sponsored boycotts, and censorship has attracted some shock and awe, here, and in a more organized form, with footnotes and bibliography. Perhaps I'll get to all that later. For now, a simple observation. Consumer boycotts, whether organized or not, are in no way the same thing as state-sponsored censorship (forgive the redundancy.) In fact, sometimes the most effective consumer boycott is the quiet one: the patron who doesn't fuss or make a scene and doesn't come back, or the Dixie Chicks fan who stops buying concert tickets and new CDs.
THE LIFE OF THE CAMPUS TO COME. The latest Glenn Reynolds column on Tech Central is about challenging the prejudices of the Liberal Establishment. "It may not eliminate the prejudices of the New Class. But it will at least ensure that they don't pass unchallenged - and if there's anything they hate, it's being challenged." Sometimes it's the challengers who don't like being challenged either. A colleague from another department was making conversation about the potential tax cut today, and asked me about it, and I started decomposing it into an elasticity effect (at which point he mentioned that it might have been present in "the sixties" but not more recently, at which time I unleashed some of my own shock and awe, perhaps wrongly) but did manage to note that spending mattered too, something that superficial reporting didn't look at, and that modeling an alternate world in which the Soviet Union didn't implode was a task for several different departments, and that whether lower marginal tax rates brought in more or less revenue was not the only hypothesis on the table, we also had to have a conversation on whether taxation itself was a Good Thing or a Bad Thing. Lots of stuff for doctoral dissertations when cooler heads prevail.
BEER AND CIRCUSES. Viking Pundit (who perhaps should not be surprised to get a lot of sports-related hits with a handle like that) notes the fiction of "student-athletes" during March Madness (at least the male side of the tournament.)
THE DAWNING OF WORLDLINESS. Jacob Levy points to a Matthew Yglesias autobiographical thread about the dawning of awareness of the wider world. For me, three things stand out: going outside to look at Echo orbiting (the newspaper helpfully published transit times), the building of the Berlin Wall on my seventh birthday, and the pre-emption of Mickey Mouse for debates in something called the United Nation about missiles in Cuba on our newly-delivered television.
WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE? Sure looks racist, demeaning, and intimidating to me.

25.3.03

GETTING TO THE SHORT STROKES. One Hand Clapping has a description of the usefulness of the field artillery in shaping the battlefield and aiding the infantry with their work. The ideas are still the same but the technology is very different. I described the role of a forward observer to a student today. My dad did that work with the Headquarters Battery, 912th Field Artillery, 87th Infantry Division in Belgium and Germany. Imagine running a telephone line in front of the front lines, finding a place to hide, and looking for bad guys. No Predators or GPS then. Blue on blue was a bit different, too. Dad's biggest scare came from an experimental VT proximity shell that prematured over his position. A veteran of the 87th who did the same job in a different battery posted this recollection.
WATCH OUT FOR THE SPECIAL DIVERSITARIAN GUARDS. The SCSU Scholars propose to save a lot of money by skipping a diversity boondoggle.
INCENTIVES AND INFORMATION Two instructive Asymmetrical Information posts, one on the folly of attributing movements in the stock market to any one cause, and some thoughts on the hidden subsidies and hidden costs of sex roles.
SPONTANEOUS ORDER BEATS SOCIAL ENGINEERING: The landscape architects at Northern Illinois University have this silly idea that people should walk on sidewalks, even if the sidewalks are laid out with a view toward looking pretty on a rendering than actually being where they are useful. So people take the most direct route. In an attempt to steer people onto the sidewalks and give the grass a chance to get started, the groundskeepers have placed sawhorse barriers to obstruct some of the more useful shortcuts, and their willing accomplices in the English department's building have posted signs exhorting people to use the sidewalks. As. If. Perhaps one of these years the groundskeepers will opt to lay some sidewalks where people will use them.
AT WAR. Probably the biggest event today is the possible rebellion in Basra with relief that has been twelve years in coming. Evening radio reports have given the trigger variously as a well-placed J-DAM on Baath headquarters or as the arrest of the Basra Gauleiter. Winds of Change explains why that rebellion is so important. (Current news reports include somebody driving a pickup truck with an AK-47 in plain sight at some Bradleys. Darwin awards, anyone?) New Republic's Kanan Makiya describes the value of the liberation to Iraqis, with some thoughts about the political life to come. Professor DeLong offers some alternate ways the Bush administration could have dealt with the UN in a post that has attracted numerous comments (this post was supposed to be mentioned yesterday, sorry.) The economic problem of free-riding (Anybody could have done it, but Everybody expected Somebody Else to do it, and Nobody did it, because Everybody benefits if Anybody does it, but Nobody gets paid) manifests itself in the U.S. war effort. James D. Miller suggests some bundling strategies that might provide other countries the proper incentives, and Ranting Screeds comments. Sparkey praises the Armored Cav for attacking through a sandstorm and Strategy Page sees some benefit to leaving WIRQ (Rock Channel 03?) on the air, while Jonah Goldberg would like some U.S. anchors to go off the air. (Some of his other thoughts are more profound, and his idea of using dummy paratroopers probably has occurred to somebody, particularly after that episode by the banks of Babylon on Sunday afternoon.) Misha applies Occam's Razor to the Saddam: dead or alive?problem. On the lighter side, Britain's Sun conducted a psy-op against the French navy (this, too, should have been in yesterday's roundup,) some jokes from Desert Storm, and I'm looking for someone to finish the following song: "Who dropped the dime on Saddam, Saddam/Who put the bag on the butcher of Baghdad?"
OCCUPIED AMERICA. From Critical Mass comes news of hate speech at the University of Iowa that does not elicit the usual "shocked and appalled" reaction from the university administration. There are similar reports from New Mexico. Tell me again, why do university administrators persist in biting the hands that feed them? A few years ago the fad was to hassle or seek to ban ROTC programs for not being properly appreciative of homosexuals, but that didn't stop the same administrators from crowing over their faculty's successes at getting NSF funding.

The big complaint of state university administrators these days is budget troubles, which they often attribute to inadequate state funding. (This does not stop them from expanding their staffs.)

Sanctions are not working. It is time for regime change.
JOINT LINES. Transport Blog terms railway "fragmentation" a failure. No big surprise there, joint trackage arrangements have forever been a source of friction between railroad companies. It can only be more cumbersome with no home railroad dispatcher to play favorites with his own trains.
POSITIONAL ARMS RACES. Stress happens to the neither naturally popular nor naturally smart.
FAST FREIGHT. Where Worlds Collide confirms that the Wisconsin Central (Lines East) has some 100 mph capable freight locomotives, with pictures. (Mail trains don't count as freight trains.) Impressive speed for intermodals.
QUOTE OF THE DAY provided by Common Sense and Wonder.
FOR WOMENS' HISTORY MONTH. Three pioneers not likely to be in the feminist canon.

24.3.03

CREDIBLE THREAT OR CHEAP TALK? Just heard a bulletin on CBS news (WBBM in Chicago, I neither pledge nor listen to National "Public" Radio) that Iraq TV has shown a red line of death around Baghdad with the warning that if any coalitiion troops cross that line the Republican Guards will be authorized to use chemical weapons. I was under the impression that they had none, or so our betters in the international institutions have been telling us. Or perhaps somebody in Baghdad got word that the works in southern Iraq had been found. Or perhaps it's a bluff. No doubt the professionals will have more to say about the axes of attack ... perhaps the Schwerpunkt comes from the south with the prevailing winds for a reason.
MARSHALLIAN CROSSES. Cal Pundit discovers a proposal to use the Iraqi oil fields as the new Strategic Petroleum Reserve and then gets word that some U.S. oil producers don't mind OPEC keeping prices higher. He asks for comments from others. So far, Knowledge Problem has not, although there's a new hydrogen fuel series available. Professor Drezner has offered a couple of observations. His money point is his first point: as a conspiracy to restrain trade, OPEC has been pretty much a failure (I really blew it some 22 years ago in Detroit ... should have predicted ON TV that President Reagan's elimination of price controls on domestic oil would have led to cheaper gasoline ... but I'm digressing.) Furthermore, the OPEC enforcer most likely to leave a camel's head, so to speak, in the bed of a price cutter, is either queuing for 72 olives, or relying on the good offices of Russian brain surgery (etagi parketny, vrachi anketniye or something like that) or about ready to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Thus world prices are likely to be close to competitive prices already, and sales of crude at prices below world prices would not be profitable to the occupiers of Iraq. (John D. Rockefeller himself understood that point.)
AT WAR. The Superintendent notes with sadness the deaths of our heroes during the weekend's fighting. The Cold Spring Shops will continue to post on matters involving economics, the academy, and things that run on rails. There will be no attempts to emulate The Command Post or Warblogs or the more active individual efforts, who you are most likely reading already anyway. Here is a quick roundup of coverage that struck me as noteworthy. InstaPundit finds that the telephone taps in the Republic of Fear inspire less fear. Vodka Pundit provided Ready, Set, Advance (uses Flash) and an instructive map (uses only public sources) and his own analogy for the war (there are parts of the east side of Cleveland that one would think twice about invading.) Professor Drezner asks people to think about what "quick victory" means. Sgt. Stryker offers his professional judgement about the Ba'athist true believers "encouraging" resistance. In his view, these guys are not exactly the Waffen SS. Cornelius Ryan's The Last Battle describes similar phenomena, only much nastier, in the Anglosphere's drive to the Elbe in 1945. Advance units would sometimes take a town or a small bridge with little or no opposition, or obtain surrenders from civilians and Wehrmacht troops, then following forces would encounter resistance by SS units who would occasionally machine-gun their own Kameraden who sought to surrender. Intel Dump is an aesthetically pleasing weblog maintained by a retired Army officer now studying the law, which comes highly recommended by Kaus Files. Winds of Change provides a number of opportunities for readers on the home front to be helpful. And you must read this post on why our troops will not wage a Saddam-style war on Saddam's loyalists. Peggy Noonan is hopeful for the life of the world yet to come. On the lighter side, look who is channeling whom!

21.3.03

WINNING THE PEACE. Two views on the kind of United States that will emerge from the war, and the life of the world order to come. Georgie Anne Geyer sees nothing good in the destruction of the existing international institutions. Daniel Henninger is more reassuring. "'World opinion' should rest assured that most Americans would just as soon get out of bed every day, do an honest day's work, come home to barbecue some hamburger out back, go to the kids' soccer games, drink beer with their pals and let Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder do whatever they wish with their own people." I suspect Henninger is onto something. We'd just as soon be left to the Pursuit of Happiness. Alas, some of the rest of the world finds that offensive. The international institutions that will emerge over the next 20 years will reflect that reality, much as the United Nations and the Atlantic Alliance reflected the reality of 1945, which came about in part because the United States opted not to get involved in the affairs of the world. How to resolve the tension: isolation and leave well-enough alone has its attractions, but it also provides the malevolent with opportunities to gain strength?
IGNORANCE OF CREDIT CARD DANGERS. Highered Intelligence uses this story about collegiate credit card debt to make the point that children have to learn life survival skills. In a division-of-labor society, these things are not instinctive. And it doesn't do any good to trust "the village," if the village hasn't grasped these things. Parents and teachers, check this.
YOU KNEW THIS WAS COMING
PAUSE THAT REFRESHES
INSTITUTIONS EVOLVE TO REDUCE TRANSACTION COSTS. Where Worlds Collide points to a potential hold-up in a world of private roads. "At this point I get badly stuck. It is not difficult to see that this problem is not the fault of privatisation per se but the nationalisation that had preceded it. Had roads always been in private hands then these things would have been resolved a long time ago - probably via long-term agreements between land owners and road operators or possibly through all residents having a share in the road." Or having the neighborhood association own the road. That, as Reason reported in August 1981 (there are reasons I'm such a pack rat), is the practice in St.Louis, Missouri. (The article also reports that gated communities are an aberration of the Nineties ... the 1890s ... but that's another matter.) It's really not much different from a country club with equity memberships, in which each golfer owns a share of the club's lands. But the more interesting logical puzzle is this: where, exactly, do you draw the line between a private association and a unit of government?
THIS I'D LIKE TO SEE: "With a new class of freight locomotives going at 200km per hour, EWS has an advantage of speed over the roads," according to this Guardian article. That's a 120 mph freight train. Neither the Santa Fe nor the Pennsylvania ever ran anything that fast. Perhaps the author got the maximum track speed confused with the maximum allowable speed for trains of a given class. I did like the opening of the story, where the featured executive had a cab ride in mountainous territory and was impressed by the view. An executive impressed with the view imagined the dome cars. (Hat tip: Where Worlds Collide.)
AND NOW FOR SOME LIGHTER NEWS. Panthers get good look at winning shot, miss the bunny (been there), Formerly The Warriors advance, no twelfth-seed jinx for the Badgers.
OILFIELD SECURED. CNN is reporting that the southern oilfields have been secured, and the wells and control buildings are being inspected for explosives. Al Faw has been liberated. The Stars and Stripes have been raised, then lowered. What will emerge as a flag of Liberated Iraq? The traditional tricolor with the stars and motto removed? The Superintendent notes with regret and respect the deaths of U.S. and U.K. Marines.

UPDATE: Vodka Pundit links to John Tabin who found someone had already been thinking about one.
LIBERATING TOLERANCE. From Critical Mass comes news that the administration at the University of Maryland has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. (If memory serves, the University of Maryland was in the vanguard of universities that banned private displays of the Stars and Stripes during the liberation of Kuwait, lest foreign students be offended.) AP News coverage is here (is Professor O'Connor a displaced Tarheel?) Here is the offending cartoon. It appears in an independent student newspaper, which covers the protest it faced. The students also wrote an editorial defending their cartoon, and raising a number of questions:

"But we wonder why the administration has spoken with more vigor against this paper than it has against the budget cuts, tuition hikes, student safety or any number of issues that plague this university and affect more students than our cartoon.

We hope it's not because we're an easier target. We hope it's not because they can only be roused when they perceive the need to cover themselves and protect the university's image. But we doubt it.

Dining Services has jacked fees and slashed its student services while preserving its ridiculously dense bureaucracy. The administration is silent.

A student is murdered off-campus, and the student body is gripped with fear. Mote hides in the background.

The university system stands to be one of the biggest losers in the state's budget cutting, suffering severe tuition hikes and layoffs, with more on the way. The administration mounts token opposition.

But the campus newspaper publishes a controversial cartoon and administrators line up to blast away, protesting a cartoon that will cause no layoffs and place no student under financial burden or physical jeopardy.

They're concerned about their university's image while they watch its substance erode. We would be more concerned if this apathetic, gutless administration supported our actions.

Administrators have every right to disparage the cartoon and our editorial staff, echoing the sentiments of thousands from around the world. But their eagerness to speak with passion on this issue while languishing in apathy on more important matters borders on hypocrisy.

Mote himself, in an e-mail to students on war with Iraq, eloquently said, 'On campus we must maintain our principle of a free, open and civil society where differing points of view can be considered, accepted or rejected as we each decide for ourselves where the truth lies..
"

The Diamondback staff have just learned two lessons. The first is an old one: often those who claim most loudly to respect differing points of view are those most surprised to learn there is one. (I believe that is a William Buckley witticism.) Second, the central administration is only peripherally concerned with learning. Note on the President's page how many entries are devoted to the diversity boondoggle, intercollegiate athletics, therapeutic offices, raising money, and dealing with government officials, and how few to teaching and scholarship. Keep on battling.

Professor O'Connor has provided an e-mail address for Ann Wylie, a university official who has been having hysterics over the cartoon, should you wish to send her some crying towels.
HAKA? "People don't want to die. If you throw a lot of rocks and stamp your feet and make the other side think you're bigger and stronger, maybe they'll surrender without a fight," notes William Saletan.
NO SUGGESTION BOX YET. Professor DeLong announces ground rules for his comment section, draws a lot of criticism. I forget whose metaphor it was, but whoever compared providing a comment section to providing a wall of your study and cans of spray paint for your guests had a point. The Superintendent continues to consider a suggestion box, but not yet.
I GUESS THIS IS LIBERATING TOLERANCE. Moderate Left discovers that the torching of a poster telling the truth about Saddam Hussein is an opportunity for an investigation ... into poster approval procedures!
UN-AMERICAN ACTIVITIES. When you harass immigrants who operate French-themed businesses, the terrorists win. Please note: the secret to the success of the United States has been to attract people who thought that the place they lived sucked, starting with these for sure, and quite possibly with disaffected Siberians who walked across the land bridge. And it's no surprise that a Lebanese immigrant might use a French theme for a business, as cosmopolitans used to think of Beirut and Paris in similar terms.
TWICE A CANDIDATE FOR THE DARWIN AWARD. Really.
KEEPING IT A SECRET? Kathryn Lopez wonders whether the press should be reporting the departures of B-52s. It's a bit difficult to conceal the flight of something that huge, particularly if it flies over the Bristol Parkway station in plain sight of waiting passengers, and a railfan awaiting an unusual movement on the Great Western.

20.3.03

EX-GIRLFRIEND SAYS THAT'S NOT THE LITTLE PRICK: "Lampsos has previously distinguished Hussein from his doubles in more than a dozen cases, one official said, and this time she said he was not the man in the broadcast." Pincus, Woodward, and Priest have this, and other, evidence that's coming out.

UPDATE: James Lileks demonstrates a syllogism. You'll read through a lot of good coverage to get to it.
WHY I STAY IN THIS BUSINESS. Never mind the latest gutting of academic programs whilst the diversity boondoggles go on, this is still work worth doing. Most of the posts went up after the late afternoon class adjourned and before a late dinner. I stuck around campus for the Philharmonic concert. On the way from dinner to the concert hall I noticed three guys, two carrying the Stars and Stripes, and a third carrying my favorite Colonial battle flag. Presumably they were returning from offering an opposing view to the Saddam memorial service organized by the local hommes capitulards. James Hyatt, Solomon Hopkins, Jeremiah Hopkins, Enoch Crosby, what you helped begin will continue. The concert featured three works, a relatively new Adrienne Albert composition, the Fanfare for 13 Brass (I hadn't ever seen a muted tuba before, imagine the world's biggest cork!) The work is very listenable, not the usual assault on the ears that passes for a work that earns its composer tenure. Next up was the Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, a reminder of how fun English poetry can be ... NOT! But the conductor introduced the music with an explanation for the use of the natural horns (fingers OFF those keys, please!) and a quip about how the music will therefore sound "off-key" to our well-tempered ears. His closing remark: the notes that sound like wrong notes are actually right notes. Reminded me of Tom Lehrer. After intermission, Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony. Audience held onto its applause until the conductor put his baton down, something difficult to do with a work that ends as rousingly as that one does. As an aside, orchestra gowns are not as staid as they used to be. On the other hand, an off-the-left-shoulder design probably allows for better interaction with the violin. Not a bad way to end the work day.
WHY WE FIGHT. Read and understand.
ARRANGING TERMS? CBS radio broadcasts keep bringing up the absence of sigint from Baghdad and references to negotiations with Republican Guards.
WHO GOT SNOOKERED? Compare these pictures. (Via Travelling Shoes.) Doxagora (the permalinks are a bit flukey) suggests Rather got snookered. The Corner has evidence for two different people as well.
NEW ECONOMICS WEBLOG finds something really dismal in San Francisco.
MEMO TO MESSRS BLIX ET VILLEPIN: A witness saw something you said didn't exist.
THE POWER TO TAX. Did these Texans learn the lesson of the Wisconsin margarine ban? (A deeper legal and political analysis is here.)
THOSE PERIODIC CRISES OF OVERPRODUCTION. Here's the Chicago Tribune (requires registration): "Businesses can produce far more than we need. Supply has simply outstripped demand. When that happens, production slows, equipment sits idle, costs go up, workers are laid off and investments are postponed.

The capacity glut exists on a scale that this country and many others haven't seen for decades, and it at least partially explains why it is so difficult for the American economy to shake off a recession that by all measures seemed mild
." How many times do we have to explain that Karl Marx is a minor post-Ricardian? Prices fall, the return on some kinds of investments fall, the attractiveness of other kinds of investments rise. The underlying problem is irreversibilities: people skilled in doing one sort of thing do not automatically morph into experts in some other thing.
WHY WE FIGHT. Words doing the work of thousands of words.
BUSTING THE CARTEL. Is teacher certification in the public interest?
HEIRLOOM. North Carolina recovers its copy of the Bill of Rights, which does not include freedom from Food Lion.
THE DIVERSITY BOONDOGGLE is now news fit to print, notes Joanne Jacobs.
SELECTIVE INDIGNATION. A five day suspension for burning what? Would they get any suspension for burning the Stars and Stripes?
THE CREATION OF ACADEMIC BLOAT, explained by Tightly Wound.
PAUSE FOR DIPLOMACY? "The president and his team are probably now talking directly to whatever is left of the Iraqi leadership, including possibly Saddam himself. More importantly, it is almost certain that they are talking directly to Iraqi military commanders, seeking their surrender. These talks may go on for several hours more, and if they are unsuccessful, we will see the main attack come very soon," suggests Jed Babbin.
WHY ECONOMISTS DO SO MUCH THEORIZING. If you are a careless policy wonk, the peer review (with cross-references) can be brutal.
OBJECTIVE JOURNALISM. Some tips from Tim Blair.
SPARING THE PEOPLE OF IRAQ. Charlie Sykes begins his radio show marvelling that the first (official) shots were intended to effect regime change in the most spectacular way. Was it really Saddam on TV overnight? The morning guys were comparing pictures from last night with the Dan Rather interview and suggesting it was not. Charlie Sykes is less sure.
I WAS THINKING THE SAME THING. (Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing.)

18.3.03

WINNING THE PEACE. A plea from someone with first-hand experience.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The veto threat did not help the diplomacy." Written by someone with first-hand experience.
NO EXCUSE TO LOSE. Or so goes the Encyclopaedia Britannica description of chess Safety Valve pops off. "[C]hance has so small a share, that it may be doubted whether a person ever lost but by his own fault." Perhaps, but some grandmasters claim to have never defeated an opponent who was well.
DELAYED SPRING. Check out Lake Superior!
DZENCUJA. Blogs of War notes Polish participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom, provides place to send thanks.
ZURUCK VOM RING! I've used the metaphor of robber barons with Rhine castles to explain the phenomenon of vertical control. Turns out there is a Nash equilibrium in robber barons that has relevance to rebuilding Afghanistan. (Via Winds of Change.) Antitrust economics students take note: we will be dealing with vertical integration shortly.
SERPICO, OR ROBOCOP? InstaPundit assesses a prediction on the future of the United Nations going the way of the League of Nations, and Professor Drezner does post-game on the diplomacy. The police metaphor is an old one. Years ago, I read V. M. Hillyer's (Master of the Calvert School, for homeschoolers) A Child's History of the World, and I still recall his "Toughs Again" chapter description of the Ethiopia campaign. It ran something like this. "A KEEP OFF sign cannot keep you off the grass, but a nearby policeman can. The League of Nations was like a KEEP OFF sign without a policeman." But the United States has yet to define what kind of policeman it is.

On the other hand, the United Nations comes in for a bit of stick here, and there's one of those comparisons, in this instance what the United States would be if states had dictatorships in the same proportion as the U.N. does (hat tip: Momma Bear.)

Perhaps there is a nastier putdown of the United Nations than to compare it to a faculty senate. It's more accurate to compare it with the Interfraternity Council. That's the opportunity for the careerists to build their resumes whilst lending legitimacy to the Iota Omicron Betas of the world. (As an aside, is it possible to watch Animal House and be disgusted by everybody?)
I DON'T DO NUANCE. That's President Bush to Senator Biden, quoted in a USA Today article (buy it for the brackets, learn something of substance.) There's more in a similar vein there. Professor Drezner, commenting on the usual chin-pullers, finds a respected prototype for the President's behavior.
MUGGED BY REALITY. "As war draws near, the human shields are wrestling with being manipulated by Iraqis and critics alike, who paint their presence as support for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein," reports Scott Peterson. It is difficult to muster much sympathy for someone who equates "the side of good" with Che Guevara. (Hat tip: The Corner.)
LOWERING THE BAR? Trading academic achievement for diversity?

17.3.03

CAPITALIST GRAPEFRUIT celebrates 45 years in space.
PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES. More on London's congestion tax.
FINDING THOSE MISSING MEN. "As fewer men teach, educators bemoan loss of role models." Scroll down and notice this: "But in recent years, as many occupations have gotten more diverse, teaching has gotten less so." The article uses "diverse" in the usual limited sense. Nothing about diversity in teaching styles, or hobbies, or what have you. And where have all the men gone? Follow the money: "Teachers cite pay and lack of respect as two of their top reasons why fewer males might favor the profession.

In addition, the stereotype still exists that it's not masculine to teach young children
." The first two reasons strike me as more important. Money alone isn't sufficient to attract people, working conditions matter too. The days when a teacher could discipline a student and the kid's hope was that the school wouldn't call home, where he'd really get it, are long gone. What's the root cause of the problem? "The men at school play a doubly crucial part in the lives of children who don't live with their fathers or who live with men who are poor role models, educators say." The real problem isn't with the hiring practices of the schools, is it? It's with the mating habits of the students' parents.

If memory serves, I had only female teachers until the fourth grade. Their biggest crime was not letting me read ahead in the text. They did ensure that I learned to letter (cursive is another matter.) They were not sure what to do with someone who could already read and figure. I don't see that their failings in those areas were driven by their hormones. I do agree with the sense that the school, particularly when it comes to art and literature, is a girly environment that likely drives many boys (and some girls, the ones who will build their own sailboats later) to distraction.
ONE A PENNY, TWO A PENNY, cross no one. (Hey, it could happen here, I suppose. For now, we can observe the Shrove Tuesday custom of paczkis, with the biggest dispute being whether to use the Chicago pronunciation, poonch-KEYS, or the Milwaukee pronunciation, poonch-kas.)
POUR ENCOURAGES LES AUTRES, Saddam-style.
THE BALLOON GOES UP. Secretary of State Powell is announcing that there will be no new Spanish-U.K.-U.S. resolution and a Presidential address this evening at 7 pm Central time. Our guys stand into danger. I wish them all a safe return.

15.3.03

SPARK UP THE BARBIE. The weather cooperated today, with the fog burning off and temperatures reaching the high 50s by midafternoon, a great excuse to haul out the Weber and grill some bratwursts.


(Via A Small Victory)

Here's a challenging externality problem: suppose somebody has Catholic neighbors, and grills meat on Fridays, or Jewish or Muslim neighbors and grills bratwursts. Is there an externality? Does the externality rise to the level of a hate crime? What is the most efficient assignment of rights?
ANCESTOR OF NIKOLA TESLA? Advanced design ancient wheel located in Slovenia. (Hat tip: Betsy's Page.)

13.3.03

CAREER ADVANCEMENT STRATEGIES? It's not presidents, provosts, or deans that get the most abuse, rather, it's editors of refereed journals.

UPDATE: India West links to a post and a followup study on the joys and pains of academic life. There's too much time lost after tenure on committee assignments.

12.3.03

DOXAGORA HAS MOVED here, with thoughts on this recognition of a Fourth Turning Alert.
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN A CARTOON. That's what my parents told me when I saw something that defied the laws of physics, something that happened just about every time Elmer Fudd went duck hunting or Wile E. Coyote failed once again to capture the Road Runner. Apparently a psychologist never heard that advice, or he's extrapolating from research on the effects of televised violence involving living actors. The latest program to run afoul of the TV-violence lobby:



Thomas and friends (and enemies)

(via Power Line.)

Perhaps Academician Young has some time to test his hypothesis. The world awaits. On the other hand, real locomotives don't have faces (or yellow warning panels, but I digress.) Aren't children clever enough to notice that there are no eyes on the trains they ride.

Where Worlds Collide offers that Thomas is "steamist propaganda" and the series is due for an update. There is a book, now apparently out-of-print, called Thomas the Privatised Tank Engine that offers a few such things whilst pointing out the follies of fragmented railroad operation, British style. (Just paint the whole lot Armour yellow and run it from Omaha, I say!)

For all the fears about train crashes, Day Out with Thomas sure brings the kids to the Illinois Railway Museum, there are stroller jams on all the platforms.

UPDATE: The Guardian discovers safety appliances. (Hat tip: Where Worlds Collide.)
EXPECTING DIFFERENT RESULTS, AGAIN. "The mere allegation that a hate crime has occurred allows campus activists to mask ideology as necessity. At UVa, a variety of student, faculty, and administrative opportunists are currently in the business of casting their self-serving appropriation of an isolated--and unproved--event as a noble good work. Channelling the hysteria they have themselves produced, they are now using the Lundy episode to try to transform the campus culture in ways that should be openly and freely debated--but cannot be because to question measures taken in the name of combatting racism is to open oneself to accusations of racism," notes Critical Mass. The usual solutions are being offered. The money graf is toward the end of the article: "Everybody stays in their own little groups," notes a student. Quite. The status "groups" subjectively defined receives leads to no other outcome. Would that be true of the chess club? Of the model railroad club, if the university had one?
CHANNELING ADAM SMITH? Newmark's Door quotes P. J. O'Rourke: "They want to be good in order to be better than other people. And they want to be better than other people in order to push the rest of us around." "I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good," notes Adam Smith. (Wealth of Nations, Book I, p. 478 of my well-worn Chicago Bicentennial Edition.)
BADGERS, PANTHERS, AND THE TEAM FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE WARRIORS, notes The American Mind. (Not to mention the Phoenix. Carol who?) Yes, and there's a lot of good locally produced cheese and beer (Principles of Microeconomics students take note) to savor during the upsets, bracket-busting, and one-and-dones to come.
IT'S NOT THE THIRD TURNING ANYMORE: The murder of Serbia and Montenegro's prime minister noted by Professor Drezner: "[Although] the events are entirely unrelated, there's something spooky about the assassination of a Serbian leader coinciding with the world being, say, 45 days from an international conflagration.

At least it's not July
."

True enough, but the analogue to the Congress of Vienna and the Crowned Heads of Europe, cousins all, is the two European alliances (NATO and the Warsaw Pact) and International Communism. The latter has been toppled and the former is already crumbling. The resolution is likely to take more than a few months (which is what the European powers anticipated in the summer of 1914, if memory serves.)
JE NE PARLE ANGLAIS. By way of Joanne Jacobs comes further cocking of the snook at the French including this advice which revisits the fries and chips and proposes instead to annoy the help at French restaurants by mispronouncing the words. Perhaps that last is not such a good idea. The latest Classic Trains has the recollections of a one-time assistant superintendent on the Canadian Pacific Lines in Maine (now property of a regional railroad, but I digress.) Upon arriving at his U.S. base in Newport, Vermont, he discovered that just beyond the Canadian border was Quebec, with a recently passed Language Bill making Canadian French the official language. (Canadian French permits the use of "buffer car" rather than wagon de tampon among other things.) Not everybody took too kindly to the Act. In particular one trainman chose to order foods in English spoken loudly and slowly. Big mistake, when he got his breakfast of cold liver and prunes, whilst the Superintendent (surintenentadjunct) slowly learned his French (which has a strange way of counting by twenties) but got a really good breakfast for his efforts to speak the language.
MARCH MADNESS. A double-double! Welcome, visitors from Atlantic Blog and Joanne Jacobs.

11.3.03

BRING THEM UP RIGHT WHEN THEY ARE YOUNG. Some suggestions from Catherine Seipp.
ROTE IS NOT A FOUR LETTER WORD. Joanne Jacobs has some stories of what passes for learning how to figure these days. I don't see what all the fuss is about. The simple act of working problems provides the mind with many shortcuts. You'd think that even with a calculator or an abacus-emulator, 45-6=39 would register eventually. Same thing with multiplication. Here are a couple of tricks for kids. To multiply any number by 11, tack a zero at the right end of the number, then add the number to the result. (Why it took me so long to figure out the distributive law is another matter.) To multiply any number by 9, tack a zero at the right, then subtract the number from the result. It's still automatic after all these years. And why people persist in the whole-language obsession continues to baffle me. I read a memoir by an Omaha Road telegrapher who noted that after you get adept, you start picking out the rhythms of individual words such as Chicago or extra rather than the dots and dashes. But first you have to learn the dots and dashes. Your Army or American Radio Relay League experience was no help, either: the metal sounder has a double-click unlike any buzzer or oscillator, and the code itself is different.
NO REICHSTAG FIRE YET. Discriminations has extensive coverage of the battery of a University of Virginia student government candidate that may or may not have happened, and may or may not have been a hate crime. The opposing candidate withdrew from the election.
BY THEIR FRUITS SHALL YE KNOW THEM. Vanguardist self-destructs whilst defending the diversity boondoggle's latest guerrilla theater. Tightly Wound discovers a vanguardist self-fisking.
VANGUARDISM. The student government at Indiana University votes down a resolution opposing U.S. action against Iraq. A number of representatives were unimpressed by the noisy presence of some supporters of the resolution. These representativeswanted to consult with their constituents first. The vanguardists were unimpressed, vowing revenge on those who voted no. I wonder if the vanguardists read this advice about consensus, or if their attitude was that consensus is achieved when the demonstration begins.
THE NCAA IMPOSES DEATH SENTENCES. Critical Mass has some critical observations about the University of Michigan (motto: we'll be champions of the west by the book) employing more advanced undergraduate students as teachers. Perhaps it's a way to cope with budget woes whilst allowing professors to conduct some research regularly. It is, however, an illustration of a scam first noted by Martin Anderson, that of selling the collegiate experience as a chance to take classes with famous professors, then letting the students (in Anderson's argument, first year graduate students) do the teaching. One wonders if Michigan will be as forthcoming about irregularities in its delivery of degrees as it was about fundraising in the basketball program.

UPDATE: There's a thesis topic nailed to Newmark's Door: what is the per-pupil expenditure at The University of Michigan, death sentenced of the west? (For that matter, what is it at Northern Illinois University? Developing...)
FOURTH TURNING ALERT: "The war with Iraq will constitute one of those momentous turning points of history," claims Lee Harris (hat tip: InstaPundit.) There's a theme running through Harris's essay that I have seen elsewhere: sovereignty based on nation-states irrespective of type of government is often destructive. That idea, however, has to be very threatening to conventional nation-states, including France and Germany but not including the United States. What's the difference? The United States represent an idea. We often disagree over exactly how best to implement the idea, but there is pretty widespread acceptance of a few core principles: popular sovereignty, membership open to all who wish to buy into (some form of) the idea, mind your own business and let your neighbors mind theirs. It has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. We can convert 12,000 African Muslim immigrants into hotel managers in a generation, for example. I dare the Germans or the French to achieve the same thing.
PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES. Discriminations reports that an Iowa State University summer program in agricultural research, ordinarily intended for the current set of protected-status students, will this year be open to all applicants. Hmm, in the face of falling food prices and fewer trade barriers, would agriculture have a relatively less promising future than, say, house building?

10.3.03

REGIME CHANGE AT A BASKETBALL SCHOOL. That last is March-speak for institutions, many of them Catholic, of undistinguished academic accomplishment but prowess in the gym (disclaimer: Marquette did employ my dad as the circuit analysis professor for night school). One such school is St. Bonaventure, where basketball scandals have led to the replacement of the president.
SHEEP'S BLOOD ON THE DOORPOST? Is North Korea going Biblical?
STUCK WITH A 1995 MENTALITY. The Economics Department at Northern Illinois University has received word that its next two faculty to retire will not be replaced. That might be driven by the current budgetary exigencies, but it might also be evidence of the persistence of old habits, namely the downsizing mentality of the early 1990s, a period of falling enrollments owing to changing mating behavior in the 1970s. I still recall a 1995 meeting of a university committee discussing ways to increase "retention" by providing some, shall we say non-academic, courses that purported to help students find their way around university. Nobody was terribly interested in my observation that the middle schools were bursting at the seams and those would be our potential students in six years. We now face the possibility of enrollments returning to their mid-1980s highs, with a faculty smaller than we had in 1995, at the nadir of recent enrollments. There is scant consolation in learning that we are not alone. From Newmark's Door comes a William R. Johnson essay on the problems he faces at the University of Virginia (once home to Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase, but that's a rant for another day.) The money graf: "The future of the University of Virginia is in the hands of the citizens of Virginia. Continued tuition caps and depressed state funding will, in the absence of phenomenal private fundraising, surely defeat the goal of advancing to the top tier of national universities, broadly defined. Just lifting the tuition caps will help -- and it is appropriate that our students pay a larger share of the costs of their own educations. But if Virginians want a public university of the quality of a Michigan or a Berkeley, they must have the political will to finance it. For years the state has been lucky in getting a leading university at bargain prices and may be lulled into thinking that it always will, but eventually you get what you pay for." Professor Johnson notes that some students have discovered low tuitions are not a bargain. Indeed not: if courses are not available, key faculty take early retirement and are not replaced (or change jobs, albeit this is generally exchanging one set of nightmares for another) and degree completion takes five or six years even for students well-off enough to take a full load of courses. He has also discovered that there is no reserve army of the unemployed in economics, particularly those with interests in finance. I can confirm that: we were allowed to bring three candidates to campus for one opening. All three are good people and we have hired one. A second took a job with another institution (and advised us accordingly) before we had completed our interviews.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS. Cut on the Bias comments on Mel Gibson's plans to make a movie of the last twelve hours of Jesus, which is attracting attention from a founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center concerned about the revival of the canard treating Jews as Christ-killers Cut's real point: there is no such thing as collective guilt. Some Jewish leaders may have intrigued against Jesus: not all Jews are Christ-killers. Some Roman governors may have gone along with it: not all Romans are Christ-killers. On the other hand, that canard is some 2000 years old; there are still some white guys who are members of the Klan ...
YAKUTIA YAK. There's a lively discussion accompanying Jane Galt's assertion that a (shot at a) degree and (opportunities for) visibility to pro scouts is a poor exchange for the shoe contracts, television exposure, and opportunities to sell your integrity that the coaches, athletic directors and university administrators get. True enough for the "revenue" sports (they generate revenue to be sure, but also expenses) but not true for the rest of the sports, which often go for budgetary or Title IX reasons. Missing from the comments is this relatively simple, hence radical, proposal: jettison the entire structure of intercollegiate competition. Sell the rights to use the arenas, stadiums, and what have you to minor leagues (including using the university name if you wish) but go out of the competition business. Use the resources instead to expand opportunities for intramural competition and individual workouts. Just that quickly, your largest Title IX compliance problems disappear.

9.3.03

A LITTLE PAINT HIDES A LOT OF DIRT. Where Worlds Collide is not impressed with the latest image makeover on the Midland Main Line, and asks, "I notice American railroads don't feel they have to rebrand themselves every couple of years; doesn't Union Pacific still stick to the same colour scheme they used in the 1950s?" The Armour yellow dates at least to the M-10000 streamliner in 1934, and the nose wings are from about the same time. The red lettering is a bit newer. The shield dates to the early 1900s. Many railroads did make over their images in the 1950s and 1960s, usually not successfully. The new large systems have gone back to classic colors of their predecessor companies. The red and silver of Burlington Northern Santa Fe is another streamliner design from the mid-1930s, and the orange and green borrow from the Great Northern's 1947 redesign. Canadian Pacific have brought back the shield and the beaver. Norfolk and Western and Southern both painted their freight diesels black. The South Shore Line has been traction orange and maroon since the 1920s.
THEN A MIRACLE OCCURS. Stolen from one of those marvellous S. Harris cartoons about the academic life, in this case it's a mathematician at the chalkboard getting to Q.E.D. It's also a useful way of thinking about the transformational tapestry our colleagues to the North are contending with. I looked through the model, and attempted to make sense of it, and attempted, and attempted, and ultimately failed. The objective is "maximizing equity." But how? Presumably there is some kind of an ordering of states of the university in which some are more equitable than others (perhaps including different criteria for reaching consensus), and presumably that ordering permits the comparison of states that have differing levels of "access and success," "campus climate and intergroup relations," (that's a tempting straight line but I'll be good) "education and scholarship," and "institutional viability and vitality" (meaning not offending the people who pay the freight? meaning no administrators get fired?) Unfortunately, the report does not spell out how one makes these comparisons, or under what constraints that optimization takes place. Assessing one's situation is always useful, but absent some basis for judging whether desirable improvements are feasible, it is not equivalent to optimization. That's where the miracle occurs, I guess, in the form of transformation via intervention. That, incidentally, sounds like the L from Hell. First you ride transformation (the T train?) for an eternity, then change at Intervention for Eternal Damnation (the D train?)) Whose intervention? Lucifer's? God's? The committee with the funny voting rules? It would be funny except that it's supposed to be a major policy change at an institution of higher learning.
LEARN YOUR STUDENTS' NAMES. They'll notice. They'll even credit you for making the effort, not always successfully, if the class is a large one.
RETHINKING INTRODUCTORY ECONOMICS. From the SCSU Scholars comes news of a proposal to change introductory economics at Harvard. The student comments offered here suggest that the course is a survey of price and income theory (it is a full year course, particulars here) that might well be spiced-up by some puzzles. It's not clear to me that the methods of behavioral economics necessarily give you behavior that is not optimal; a close reading of the article suggests that perhaps there are other constraints that people work under, and that these constraints might get slighted in an introductory economics course, particularly if that course seeks to cover a lot of material once over lightly rather than focusing on a few big things.
TURNED ON BY HEILBRONER? Atlantic Blog offers some recollections about how he learned economics. Well worth reading (most of my regular readers probably already have, thanks for your patience whilst I've been on other tasks.) I cannot claim to have had as many colorful professors as Mr Sjostrom, but perhaps here's why Heilbroner would say macroeconomics is more exciting: Heilbroner is also author of The Worldly Philosophers, a very good introduction to the history of political economy. Where did I read this? In the first economics course I took, a Principles of Macroeconomics course taught by Bob Lampman (and in those days it was a prerequisite to the Principles of Microeconomics, which I took from Claudia Goldin who had just finished her Ph.D.) Bob Lampman's macroeconomics was a bit different from standard fare today in that we spent the first three or four weeks on the history of economic thought: Smith, Malthus, Ricardo, Mill, Marx, Veblen, and Keynes, and we then got some advising-the-powers-that-be recollections to go with the Keynesian Cross. (I'm not sure one could get away with that today, monetary policy was "pushing on a string," rational expectations had just turned up in the Journal of Economic Theory and thus not yet ready for sophomores, and real business cycles hadn't yet been invented.) My next exposure to income theory was in graduate school.

Mr Sjostrom takes a dig at universities that separate principles from intermediate courses. Perhaps there is some merit to his point: I characterized the Intermediate Price Theory (this is at Wisconsin years ago, mind you) as making somewhat more rigorous some of the things we took for granted in Principles of Microeconomics. On the other hand, I got lucky again, drew Morgan Reynolds, who was finishing his Ph.D. and got to read Alchian and Allen and Stigler, both much better sources of puzzles than your standard issue Microeconomics tome of today. All the same, there might be reason for creating an introductory and an intermediate course: get the basics (trading for mutual gain, specialization by comparative advantage, institutions evolve to economize on transaction costs, competitive markets allocate resources efficiently) in an introductory course, and reserve the heavy graphing (isoquants, indifference curves, monopolistic competition if you must) and game theory for the intermediate course.

Oh, and don't forget to push the basics in the more advanced courses. I'm offering an antitrust economics course to an audience primarily of seniors. As a courtesy, I circulated a copy of a previous year's exam. Some people wondered if I wasn't concealing something posing a question that required facility with those four basics recited supra (nope) and more recently they had a similar revelation in the economics of a per se rule (legal resources have opportunity costs.) But what to do about the history of thought that gets crowded out? It's straightforward enough to introduce U.S. v. Addyston Pipe (Judge Taft's appellate ruling: the primary purpose of the agreement is to fix prices, hence it restrains trade) and U.S. v. Trenton Potteries (here the Supreme Court endorses instructions to the jury limiting their work to discovering that an agreement existed.) Then comes U.S. v. Socony-Vacuum. It helps to know something about how severe the Great Depression was and about the attempts to end price-cutting and firing cycles in order to understand why it looks like the same case is coming to the High Bench yet again. Not taught any more, I discovered.
RAILROAD READING. Backtrack editor Michael Blakemore speculates in the March issue (delivery times across the ocean vary) on some additional names for famous locomotive classes, e.g. Bouncy Castle (somebody help me with that reference), Elephant and Castle, Temperance Hall and others in a similar vein. He punts when it comes to the Granges (6840-6879). That would be a problem for a Cornishman, but a trivial exercise to a flatlander, where The National Grange is a political and social organization of and for farmers. Here, though, is a temptation: design a mixed traffic 4-6-0 called Grange Hall.

The substantive parts of the magazine include an article on the Western class diesel-hydraulics, which had some introduction difficulties attributable in part to their being rushed into use. Author Keith Hill's take: "In a perfect world, the existing diesel-hydraulic locomotives, supplemented by a stud of the best remaining steam engines, should have been allowed to plod on delivering the existing timetable until such time as a 'Western' prototype had been tested to destruction. This would have proved its capabilities and highlighted any flaws before work started on a production run." There is no railroad operation from Land's End east to Moscow capable of doing such a proof. Witness what happened to another German derivative of the so-called King of the Diesel Locomotives that attempted to become a mountain engine on the Rio Grande (scroll around, and enjoy that VW microbus, another failure on the mountains.) Three of the 4000 hp units went to Rio Grande in 1961, with high hopes for something light, powerful, and rail-holding. No joy. What was most telling, however, were differences in attitudes toward running trains. The German technicians who accompanied their locomotives to the States were startled to learn that "turning an engine" means refuelling it, checking the oil and water, inspecting a few things, and sending it right back out over the mountains. No eight hours of scheduled maintenance after each trip.
ON THE BILEVEL. Transport Blog has some information about the electric commuter trains in Sydney, Australia. One of the most tempting but difficult things to do with a passenger coach is to fill up otherwise empty space with additional seats. Sydney's railroad attempts to put two levels of seats in a standard-height passenger car. That's not easily done, although the Long Island Rail Road and the Southern Railway (of England) operated such things, the Long Island's for over 20 years. (The new sets of double-deck cars on the Long Island are something different.) Metra Electric, the old Illinois Central electrification, manages to do the job with motorized cars with interiors similar to the gallery coaches in use elsewhere in Chicago, but with a lot more vertical clearance than your Commonwealth or East Coast railroad has to work with. The cars run on 1500 volts D.C., advanced for late-1920s electric traction, as does the connecting South Shore Line, which still offers riders the interurban experiences of flagging down the car with a lighted newspaper and of using the middle of the street for a station stop.
GOTCHA. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has not filed the proper paperwork for his London congestion tax exemption. (Hat tip: Transport Blog.) The newspaper report describes the congestion tax thus: "The charge was introduced last month with the lukewarm acquiescence of the Government, a stance that changed to active support from transport ministers when traffic levels in central London fell 25 per cent in the first week." In fact, Chicago Metropolis 2020 likes the idea.

Booting and towing of cars are common in Chicago, never mind the legalities.
SHIPPING OUT. A Soldier's Tale is a weblog operated by an Army person currently at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, in the driftless area of the state, where the winter is not pleasant at all. (Hat tip: InstaPundit.)
DELEGATE. And focus on a few big things, according to Craig Gilbert's look at President Bush's management style. There probably is no one best way to manage things, which is a reason for enumerating and limiting the powers of a government, and for chartering corporations and holding them to those goals. There is also something to be said for not spending endless time on what-ifs, my experience with faculty senate meetings suggests that some people are not happy unless there is a contingency plan in midwinter for an instant thaw, and another one in summer for an instant ice age. The essay does raise a good point, though: the President is putting a lot of weight on a specific outcome: continued successful prosecution of the war on international terrorists will lift the uncertainty that is dampening the economy.
RESENTMENT AGAINST ACHIEVEMENT. Entrepreneurs prosper, buy improved homes with running water for their relatives, now enjoy living standards better than their formerly-more-prosperous neighbors. The neighbors are not happy despite the job opportunities the entrepreneurs offer. Potentially intriguing case studies galore here.

8.3.03

THE END OF BADGERBALL. Wisconsin coach Jane Albright, formerly of Northern Illinois University, has coached her final game at Wisconsin. The athletic department would like to see more post-season success (perhaps that is a better goal than using the womens' sports to score diversity points, but I digress.) Ah, but will the new coach get better players at the expense of academic achievement. Successful basketball teams often have low graduation rates and Wisconsin's football program has managed to skirt yet another scandal.
HOW OTHERS SEE US. InstaPundit on the extra credit for writing the President to support the professor's position: "An apology to Bush? How about an apology to the academic community, for making it look like a bunch of politically-driven weasels?" Isn't it more accurate to say "for confirming the perception that politically-driven weasels work there?" Why have a Foundation for Individual Rights in Education if not to defend those rights from the weasels who would eat them?
THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES. Virginia Postrel links to a weblog listing the good and bad points of the several states. The Illinois comments mention some of the usual suspects. They also note that the buffalo roam where the charmed quark plays. The Wisconsin comments are not so well developed yet. A Small Victory, the poster who inspired all this, also brings back a moment of nostalgia. I, too, wondered why the song that aired (yes, radio used to cover the National Anthem before Play Ball) at the beginning of Milwaukee Braves games was called "the national anthem" and it ended "o'er the land of the free and [County Stadium]."
THE RUSH TO SKIP CLASSES. The local student opposition to military action in Iraq has called for a walkout at 1.30 pm on the first day after war starts in Iraq, should war start in Iraq. Apparently some people participated in a protest on Wednesday just past, although the online edition of the university newspaper offers no coverage -- there was a photograph in the print edition of someone holding a sign reading "no war on Quebec"(??!?) Unsullied and Undismayed (citing an older Best of the Web) notes that relatively few students attended the protests. Information not controlled for: weather (Wednesday was dig-out day after a moderate snow in Northern Illinois) and class schedule (we are currently on spring break, perhaps these other locations also are?)



Going Underground - which London Underground tube line are you?

I'm the DISTRICT line!

(via Michael Jennings. Got to check my Tube mouse pad when I get home, see if the District has anything in common with the Ravenswood, the last L line to go the proper way around the Loop.)
EUPHEMISM. The weekday commuter train parade on Metra's Burlington Route begins with the 2.28 departure of train 1235, first stop Downers Grove Main, and the 2.32 departure of local 1237, following 1235 on track 1. Also in the traffic mix is Amtrak's California Zephyr, which leaves at 2.15, adds its express cars and cargo trailers, and usually run on track 2 to Cicero, where it crosses to track 1 ahead of 1237 and behind 1235. On Thursday I was on 1235 returning from a function in Chicago. We left Union Station as scheduled, passed the Zephyr adding its freight cars, took the right turn onto the Burlington and ... stopped. After a few minutes the conductor announced that there were "signal problems" and that we would be moving shortly. Shortly became minutes. The Zephyr finished its air test, pulled past us on the Amtrak lead to the Burlington and ... stopped. The conductor made an announcement that our delay was likely to be prolonged, without further explanation. About then, some light engines off the Union Pacific crossed in front of our train, eastbound from the intermodal yard lead onto the Lumber Street connector. Shortly thereafter, 1235 got its signal and finished its run about 20 minutes late. The train crew then noted, in conversation with some passengers, that the Union Pacific crew had passed a stop-and-stay signal (which prevented the Burlington dispatcher from clearing any signals) and that there had been an investigation. Icy rails, cold temperatures, not the best day to operate trains, train crew perhaps facing suspension. I have to wonder, though ... the traffic reports frequently announce delays to Metra trains attributed to signal troubles. Might instances of trains passing stop-and-stay signals be more frequent than I perceived them to be?
WHY MANDATE SCHOOL ATTENDANCE? Instruction manuals for child-safety seats read at seventh-to-twelfth grade degrees of difficulty. Un-named "literacy experts" suggest that instructions be provided at the fifth-grade level for best results.
TAKE A VOW OF CHASTITY. Asparagirl's send-up of the Lysistrata Project (motto: Women Say Yes to Men Who Say No) has not convinced everybody. As certainly as March brings out the brackets and the office pools, it brings out the International Womens' Day essays about how much more peaceful the world would be if run on "female" principles. Never mind that the findings in John Gray's Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus have been taken apart by communications theorists in just about as many ways as there are coherent arguments. I attended a particularly lurid demolition of Gray presented by a visiting scholar some years ago, it was a clinic in distinguishing the professional researcher from the amateur. That doesn't stop Leah C. Wells, recently freed from duties as a target designator, from trotting out the old standards: "Two great principles govern all interaction on earth: the male principle of competition and the female principle of cooperation. The judicious balance between these opposing forces functions both as a means of perceiving the world as well as guidance for getting along in it." Huh? Since when did these principles develop gonads? Anyway, "War and peace are often interchangeably substituted for what we identify as the male and female principles." Put another way, men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Don't bring that research 'round here. Or if you're going to, have a look at The Odd Girl Out. Perhaps there are sex differences in methods of competition.

Tightly Wound continues the punishment. Go read her work. Perhaps she'll also be set off by Noeleen Heyzer's venture onto similar turf. "If women allocated the world's resources, would they invest in more weapons, or would they choose to invest in the much broader notion of human security -- through development, environmental protection and social services -- which could be provided with a sliver of current military spending?"

Development, environmental protection, and social services all require rules of trading and rights of access, which just might have to be backed up by force.

"Prioritizing human security would see HIV/AIDS as the real threat faced by millions and would provide money for drugs instead of fighter jets."

Here's a classic non-sequitur. Isn't the incidence of AIDS greater in places with relatively little money for drugs or for fighter jets? And what are the implications of referring to HIV infection as a sexually transmitted disease?