30.7.03

MORE ON OPEC AND IRAQ. Claudia Rosett provides one set of answers to the questions raised here.
MORE ON TRANSACTION COSTS. Sonia Arrison 07/29/2003 looks at file-swapping, and down-loading music. The solution likely lies in bundling something the seller can monitor with the music. You'd think the music recording industry would be more imaginative. Years ago there was a court case involving blanket licenses sold to radio stations. (background as .pdf)
ALLOCATIVE EFFICIENCY? James V. DeLong 07/29/2003 looks at the difficulties of price=marginal cost, particularly with irreversibilities and non-storability of goods. The transaction costs of negotiating a price also matters ... what would happen if coalitions of air travelers formed for the purpose of negotiating rates to occupy the empty seats on a plane about ready to push back? Could you do something similar with the queue line at a roller coaster?
CRASHWORTHINESS MATTERS. First attempt to legislate fuel use in passenger trucks fails in the Senate. (Yes, I deliberately linked to a site dissatisfied by that development.)
PADDOCK FOR IRON HORSES. From Where Worlds Collide, some pictures from the recent Doncaster Open Day. Alas, if you wanted to see the paddock for some even faster iron horses, namely the West Milwaukee Shops, all you'd find would be some athletic fields and a casino.
LIFE IMITATES SCRAPPLEFACE? In lieu of Amtrak, Amcanal? The reality, if anything, is more ridiculous. Ever hear of the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, which brags on itself as the "most inland, ice-free river port in America." Yup, as in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The upper reaches of the Missouri River are open to barge traffic, after a recent agreement involving dredging and environmental protection, in order that a few barges can participate in the harvest in the Dakotas. There is, however, little job-protection for low-skilled Democratic constituents. The Army Corps of Engineers maintains the canal systems. No Belomor Kanal here, comrades!

The subsidies are completely reversed on the waterways. Passenger rail transport is a net recipient of subsidies, both from Amtrak legislation and the various commuter transportation districts, while the freight railroads pay taxes. About the only passenger river transport operating is on gambling "boats" (for many of them, a "cruise" involves pulling in the brow, casting off, then anchoring against the current) while the freight barges are net recipients of subsidies from the Corps of Engineers.
SENDING YOUR KIDS TO COLLEGE? Wendy McElroy has some suggestions for parents (via Betsy's Page.)
EVALUATING RISKS IS NOT THE SAME THING AS MANUFACTURING THEM. Take a day off to go to the air show and the story of a sting to smoke out terrorists surfaces. A bipartisan coalition of economically illiterate Members of Congress trashed the futures market in terrorist events. The ever-alert InstaPundit has roundups here and here. The American Mind offers a bit of economic analysis (if you wanted to forecast conditions over an entire summer, would you consult the National Weather Service or futures prices in May?) and additional links.

The air show was worth the day missed from the internet. Great weather, got my fill of barnstormer loops, hammerhead turns, and ten snap-rolls on the vertical axis downward. Sufficiently many vintage jets have been restored that they are a show in themselves within the war-bird fly-pasts, but there's nothing to match the sound of a formation of P-51s. Show organizers recognized that this is still a country at war. The conclusion of the war-bird fly-past was a minute of silence, Taps, and a perfectly-executed "Missing Man" formation at the end of Taps.
CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES calls at Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.

28.7.03

NO THANKS, JOANNE. Joanne Jacobs looks at an extension of identity-politics beyond finding qualified teachers of ethnic studies to finding qualified teachers of core courses. "U.S. history should be taught by white teachers, preferably white males whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower." Provided the school districts can cover such teachers' opportunity costs.
TO REMEMBER. One Hand Clapping links to biosketches of the fallen heroes and a story of Bob Hope's successors, including family members who are September 11 widows or parents.
THE WORLD POSES PUZZLES, THE UNIVERSITY OFFERS DEPARTMENTS. John A. Baden sees the value in crossing disciplinary boundaries.
PROLONGING THE MISERY. Hit and Run predicts that Amtrak is likely to limp along for a few more years. Some of the commenters remarked on the usefulness of an excursion and sightseeing type service. Such things already exist, many as private operations (go here for a few hints at their existence.) Amtrak is unlikely to be able to offer a truly deluxe service without being criticized as a subsidy to the rich, so the deluxe-class service such as the American Orient Express runs on an intermittent basis as an excursion train, and Amtrak cannot concentrate on a few high-speed corridors such as the Northeast Corridor or Milwaukee-Chicago without losing the support of Representatives from rural districts, and Senators, some of them powerful (anybody remember the North Coast Hiawatha?), from rural states.
PROVIDING THE EVIDENCE. The Ba'ath Party supplies the precedent.
RECOMMENDED RAILROAD VIEWING. Chicago Rapid Transit posters. (Hat tip: Peter Kaminski.) The main L site appears to be a City of the Big Shoulders version of this London Underground guide.
VERTICAL RESTRAINT. Number 2 Pencil is less than impressed by the efforts of management at the new Philadelphia stadium to ban carry-in food.
SACRAMENTHOLM? EconoPundit looks at the possibilities. (It is worth remembering that average Swedish living standards are lower than average Californian living standards.)
PRICE LEADERSHIP. Volokh Conspiracy's David Bernstein suggests that the occupying powers in Iraq take the opportunity to end OPEC's effectiveness as a price leader. At the moment, OPEC is relatively ineffective as a price leader, but the occupying powers (U.S. and U.K.) have some interest in the price their oil producers see, as do some of their neighbors (Mexico and Norway) that are not OPEC members. It is worth remembering that OPEC inherited the output-restricting role once enjoyed by the Texas Railroad Commission. As the nature of the trust fund for Iraqi citizens has not yet been spelled out, the interest of the Iraqi authorities in attempting to price their oil (cheap or dear) has not yet been determined. Simplest solution is to make no efforts to manipulate the price of crude, as attempts by OPEC to function as a price leader simply make it more attractive for nonmembers to produce more, which reduces the sales of the OPEC participants.
FIFTY DEFINING MOMENTS IN U.S. HISTORY summarized at Electric Venom. The Pacific Railroad properly made the list.
CREATING A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT. Common Sense and Wonder report that the Berkeley chapter of College Republicans have demanded an apology from the Berkeley administration, for hyping a derogatory psychological profile of conservatives. Time to use a little jiu-jitsu and find PC elements of the Berkeley judicial code to use against the university. The best way to demonstrate the folly of a rule is sometimes to comply exactly with it.
THE ACCUMULATION OF SMALL ADVANTAGES. Cal Pundit provides some perspective on Lance Armstrong's victory margin.

27.7.03

BOYCOTTING THE PARIS AIRSHOW? Air Venture opens Tuesday. If there were a way of bringing an antitrust suit against NASA ...

If postings are light next week, you've just been offered an explanation.
GET UP, GET UP, GET OUTTA HERE, GONE to the Hall of Fame. (Note to readers outside God's Country: the same Bob Uecker who has appeared in Miller Lite commercials is the announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers, and he has been for most of the team's existence, and his home run call comes from his playing days, when he noticed that the players in the dugout would urge the ball on using those words.) Congratulations.
THE RETURN ON AN MBA. Some time ago, I questioned the value of an MBA, and a reader asked if I had any evidence. At the time, I emailed to the effect that I had seen it "someplace." Found it during the summer cleanup and catch-up on reading. Economist, print edition of 27 July 2002, p. 56, cites Pfeffer and Fong, "The End of Business Schools: Less Success than Meets the Eye," Academy of Management Learning and Education, volume 1, no. 1. (No .pdf available yet, and it doesn't appear to be stored on J-STOR.) Short form (from Economist): "there is little evidence that getting an MBA has much effect on a graduate's salary or career."
PROCESS, NUANCE, FAILURE DOUBLEHEADER. No sooner do I comment on the fecklessness of the Silent Generation than do I discover two shining examples of their feckless thought to comment on. Here's Ira Chernus: "Change need not require war. A society that chooses stalemate because war is the only alternative it can imagine is an impoverished society. It has no way to pursue, or even consider, new possibilities for cooperation and progress. Genuine security eludes it. After fifty years, it is time for the U.S. to move beyond the frighteningly narrow policies of containment and conquest, to look for new approaches to genuine cooperative peace, in Korea and all over the world." Mightn't it be time for the North Koreans to consider new possibilities, such as joining the rest of the modern world and throwing off Communism? Might even make for a good doctoral dissertation or so. Then there's Hubert Locke, who no doubt knuckled under each time the administration cut his budget: "Yet at some point, we will have to turn Iraq back to its citizens and, given the demographics of the country, inevitably this will mean a nation in which a Shiite majority holds the reins of political power. That reality likely will give us a nation that looks politically, and perhaps religiously, very much like its next-door neighbor -- Iran." Sounds like a good reason to stick around and convince all the participants in the constitutional convention of the value of an Establishment Clause, not to dismiss the whole exercise as a quagmire.
IRAQIS MORE DANGEROUS WHEN THEY'RE NOT AIMING? Via Betsy's Page, news that 31 Iraqis died as collateral damage to celebratory gunfire (also a Detroit habit). More seriously, Iraqi partisans (or are they copper thieves?) have been attacking the infrastructure and key managers of the power authority.
PATIENCE. Quote of the day, from Victor Davis Hanson (via Betsy's Page, National Review's archives are not working -- and mine are!): "But if anyone on September 12, 2001, had predicted that 22 months later there would still be no repeat of 9/11; that bin Laden would be either quiet, dead, or in hiding; that al Qaeda would be dispersed, the Taliban gone, and the likes of a Mr. Karzai in Kabul; that Saddam Hussein would be out of power, his sons dead, and an Iraqi national council emerging in his place; that troops would be leaving Saudi Arabia, Arafat ostracized, and Sharon seeking negotiations; that new Middle East agreements under discussion — and all at a cost of fewer than 300 American lives — then he would surely have been written off as a madman." The Economist reviews its case for war, concluding, "Again, a long-term, costly commitment is going to be needed."
DEPOLITICIZING THE SEVENTH INNING STRETCH? A proposal.
CALIFORNIA BUDGET FOLLIES. I purchased a print copy of Newsweek for its coverage of California's fiscal troubles. Waste of four bucks. Here's all you have to read. From "Tarnished Gold," the true state of California's fisc: "The state government’s financial woes began with the tech recession, but Davis and legislators continued to spend money on popular programs long after tax revenues dropped. During the boom, state coffers were filled with taxes on capital gains and stock options from all those tech execs and dot-com millionaires. In the 2000-01 fiscal year, these revenues leapt to $17 billion, representing 25 percent of all state income taxes collected. But by last year, that tax revenue had sunk to just $4.7 billion." No Gini coefficient for tax incidence here, but it seems likely that most of those revenues were transitory, and any careful analysis of the tax forms ought to have discovered that. Then in "State of Siege" comes this lament: "Even if there is a deal—and one could come as early as this week—it will inevitably lead to draconian cuts in social services, highway construction and education; the state’s vast public-university systems—the invaluable source of upward mobility in a state founded on the idea—are likely to raise tuition at least 25 percent just as they are being flooded by a new generation of immigrants’ kids." Maybe it's time to take a look at those public colleges, particularly the community colleges. They might be a source of upward mobility, but here's a dissenting view. Perhaps higher tuitions will encourage some self-selection among students.
SYMBOLIC ANALYSTS ONLY? Probably mistaken academic policy, notes Photon Courier, coming to the defense of shop class. (Where do you suppose the Superintendent learned to drill and to tap? And posting may have been light the past few days, but twelve bad-ordered cars have returned to service.)
NO FISHING OFF THE COMPANY PIER. There are limits to the protection membership in a protected class provides.
ANKLE-BITING? Once upon a time, Newsweek made for good reading, or perhaps I've just grown. Out of curiosity, I purchased a copy for its coverage of the California budget and political problems (see infra -- if the infra comes at the top of the page where's the supra?) and I find an article on the African uranium flap. Reading carefully, I find, "According to this CIA official, an agency analyst cautioned him not to include the Niger reference. The NSC man asked if it would be all right to cite a British intelligence report that the Iraqis were trying to buy uranium from several African countries. The CIA official acquiesced. Though the British have not backed off that claim (a British official told NEWSWEEK that it came from an East African nation, not Niger), CIA Director Tenet publicly took responsibility for allowing a thinly sourced report by another country to appear in the State of the Union. (The White House last week denied that the Niger reference had ever shown up in an SOTU draft.) What Bush said in his address: 'The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.'" It strikes me that Director Tenet really has nothing to apologize for, and Newsweek's chasing of the Niger-Italy-wherever document is wasted space in the magazine.
EVEN MORE ON THAT BERKELEY SURVEY. There's more to it than inverting the psychological profile of a wimp. The SCSU Scholars brand it a "stupid Berkeley study" (more redundancy than on the leading edge of a Shuttle wing there, King) and recommend that you go down under and keep scrolling -- ayup, and promptly! Ipse Dixit has lots (go to the post headed "Bovine expression" if I provided the wrong permalink). InstaPundit is still on the story, as is Virginia Postrel (if you compare a big-time academic to Ann Coulter, is that creating a hostile work environment?). Kind of hard to muster much sympathy for the administrators at Cal, especially in light of a sympathetic Newsweek story that places "keeping a diverse campus" at the top of institutional priorities, never mind the lack of viewpoint diversity.
TRAPPED BY YOUR PREJUDICES. Newmark's Door links to a San Francisco Chronicle survey that cannot conceal its surprise that a majority of the Baby Boomers support Operation Iraqi Freedom. Key mistaken inference, by Republican pollster Frank Luntz: "They went through college in rebellion, and have been trying to make amends ever since." (Todd Gitlin can be excused his claim that the results are "counter-intuitive." He probably runs in the circle of people who to this day remain surprised that Ronald Reagan won (or John Anderson lost) in 1980, because nobody they knew voted for Reagan (or everybody voted for Anderson, mutant but true.) Here's a little demographic reality: the majority of the Baby Boom cohort is born from 1954 or 1955 on to 1962 or 1964, depending on whether you look at birth rates or the Kennedy assassination as determining the end of that epoch. That means they came of age during a time marked by a rising tide of social pathologies and ran smack into the downside of the Great Society programs so enthusiastically supported by their next-elders (the folks who were born on third base and devoted their adult lives to stealing second: never in human history has so much been given by so many to so undeserving) whose nostalgia for process, nuance, and failure manifests itself in their disapproval of the liberation of Iraq.
THE FATAL CONCEIT, REDUX. Invisible Adjunct looks at the pros and cons of tenure in light of a suggestion that academics take "a more holistic approach to our work, where what we write about is also what we practice and strive to experience in our daily lives. This means increased civic engagement and political participation in working to improve society." Invisible Adjunct attempts to unbundle this proposal from the campus culture wars, which she proposes to address in a subsequent post, expressing reservations about such an "academic culture change."

Huh, and again, huh??? The campus culture wars are the root of the problem, not tangential to the problem. Isn't one element of Profscam and other books along those lines the lack of viewpoint diversity in the faculty, which inter alia leads to a multiculturalism that looks the other way when bastardy, cannibalism, clitorectomies, jihad bombing, or protected status loutishness manifests itself? Put less provocatively, when a college president charges the graduating class to live a credo of "service and social justice," does the modal faculty member think of Thanksgiving at the Rescue Mission or supporting higher tax rates, or does he think of Mapquest and cheaper oil? One cannot address the difficulties of the university, including the budget woes that lead to reliance on cheap and contingent labor in many disciplines, without looking at the loss of status the universities have brought upon themselves by setting themselves up as experimental prototype communities for social transformation, where that transformation has been informed by dumb ideas, to put it bluntly.

25.7.03

MORE ON THAT BERKELEY STUDY here, with related topics here and here.
POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT. Some coverage and editorial comment on the effectiveness of "not everybody is doing it" antidrinking campaigns in college.
PATIENCE. Professor Drezner has posted progress reports on Afghanistan and Iraq. On the lighter side, Deborah Pickett (maybe there's a reason people don't take the Sun Times as seriously) complains that the opposition still has a pretty good poker hand (best I could find was a full house, kings high, or a flush in spades).
DANGEROUS ILLINOIS DRIVERS. Chicago chooses symbolism over substance.
EARLY FRIDAY GETAWAYS. India West looks at the thesis that labor is a normal good. (Your mileage may vary. Just about every introductory economics course I have taught looks at the curious case of labor supply, and most of my colleagues look at it as well.) To be sure, higher wages raise the opportunity cost of goofing off, but they also enable the seller to enjoy more money and more goofing off. The heirs to Herbert Croly in Europe are erring in attempting to mandate time-off. They might complain about the notionally Dickensian work schedules in the United States, but good luck finding anybody in the office this afternoon. (Gorgeous afternoon, the pool beckons. The wind is sufficient to race sailboats without playing too much havoc with golf shots.)
COMPENSATING DIFFERENTIALS, this time as "combat" pay for inexperienced teachers in rough schools.
REVEALING THEIR PREJUDICES. Steven Den Beste, who produced a column-length essay for Opinion Journal, collected a round-up of sneering reactions to the recent deaths of Uday and Qusay in a firefight. These reactions tell us more about the mind-sets of the war critics than they do about the progress of the campaign. One popular trope with the less reflective Leftists is the notion of a ruling class, with a Command Central someplace from where all shots are called. (A simple version of Marxism holds that it suffices for The People to discover and take control of that someplace, thereafter the resources can be directed for the benefit of all.) It does not surprise that adherents of such a primitive Leftism would speculate that President Bush knew all the time where those guys were, and offed them when the campaign hit a rough patch. (But why not off the guys before May 1, and have the frozen corpses delivered to the carrier?) It isn't necessary to be an unreflective Marxist to give voice to such speculations. There used to be a popular mode of model-building in economics, in which individual agents lack knowledge about something important, such that an inefficiency arises, but a sufficiently informed government could issue the right commands or calculate the right tax such that all else comes out right. That sort of thinking might also lead to the conclusion that a sufficiently informed government could time the showdown with the Hussein brothers. I suppose it's churlish to ask, well, if Intelligence could smoke out two Hussein brothers attempting to hide in Iraq, why couldn't it smoke out nineteen Saudis and Egyptians in plain sight in California, Florida, and Washington, D.C? But perhaps it's not so churlish: what has battered the reputation of the aforementioned strand of economic theorizing was a relatively simple question, made popular by Professor McCloskey: If you're so smart, why aren't you rich? In economics, any inefficiency leaves unexploited gains from trade, which provide powerful incentives to fix the inefficiency and harvest the gains from trade. It's that sort of alertness, not sufficiently informed governments, that usually fixes the inefficiencies.
POST HOC, NEC ERGO PROPTER HOC. Most economists understand this, the general populace does not, notes Econo Pundit. The post may be half in jest. Perhaps Stanley Fish's Road Map to the White House also is, although the Chicago Sun-Times treated it as straight news in its Thursday print edition. Get this, it's Dean Fish on the adverts the Donks should have run more aggressively (one of the local Donk court intellectuals was circulating something like it among the faculty at Northern Illinois University): "The ads on the economy could be a version of the ads the party should have run a thousand times a day in 2000. Uncluttered, black and white, with good production values and someone like James Earl Jones or James Garner or Sam Elliott saying, "The last time someone named George Bush was president, the nation's deficit was ___, the unemployment numbers were ___, and the stock market stood at ___. Now, after eight years of a Democratic administration the corresponding figures are ___." Yes, and how much of that tax revenue was capital gains taxes on stocks trading at 30-300 times earnings, reflected in the major market indices, and totally unsustainable (even Paul Krugman noted that.) Postmodern accounting, I love it. Fish goes on: "The ad on the environment could be largely visual (and in color): pictures of land before and after it was drilled for oil or strip-mined, wetlands disappearing in the wake of developers' bulldozers, water with arsenic levels marked in red, forests detimbered, public lands given to private special interests, children forlornly playing on concrete slabs, and then the slogan (delivered by Steven Segal) 'This land used to be your land; don't you want it back?'

To be sure, this would be crude hit-and-run, no details, no nuance, relentlessly negative, no positive proposals. But that's what's good about it. The message is so simple no one could mistake it; and after a short while no one will forget it. And not only does it do the defining-the-party job, it does the unifying job
." Leaving aside the obvious point that if it's your land, you ought to be able to drain the swamp, clear the brush, build a house, or extract the minerals thereunder, it also has the effect of defining the Donks as "I've got mine" elitists happy to stop any further development along their lakeshores or in their suburbs.

Perhaps Dean Fish has provided an explanation for why there are so many unemployed or underemployed humanities Ph.D.s: anyone can write an essay that gives bulls*** a bad name, and a few can prosper by it. Thus, many try. It's the same delusion that grasps a lot of kids with a good jump shot.

23.7.03

IN PRAISE OF GOOD SERVICE. On a recent trip through Milwaukee, I had a watch band and battery replaced. I later discovered that the alarm functions on the watch were no longer working. Called the company, sent the watch in, they replaced the electronics and sent it back within a week. No voicemail hell or long wait on hold either. The company is called Time Square, and their stores are in several Milwaukee malls. No website, either, but find their locations here.
CONSTRUCTING CONSERVATISM. InstaPundit points to Angry Clam's assessment of recent research on the psychology of conservatism. If you work out the antonyms of the structural characteristics (and isn't that "terror management" just the least bit ad hoc?), doesn't the psychology of non-conservatism equate to the psychology of a wimp? More seriously, it ought to be easy enough to work out the structural characteristics of the psychology of a liberal. If you read the post, read the comment section, and go here. Professor Ray has researched authoritarian personalities extensively and is unimpressed with the Berkeley effort.
LOYALTY. New York resident, Packer fan. (Via The American Mind.)
REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME. An assembly district that has been a safe seat for the same party for 75 years changes hands. Reason: a property tax freeze the winning candidate supports, which the Governor intends to veto.
PATIENCE. Today's roundup of commentary on the Iraq Campaign includes an InstaPundit meta-post, Phil Carter on some lessons headquarters has yet to learn, Jane Galt provides some perspective on the Marshall Plan, You Big Mouth on the quagmire in 1945 (post immediately below the picture of a German-commanded military parade in Paris), a Command Post essay on the Werwolf Saddam (or was that Fedayeen Hitler?), with additional cross-references.
THE JOYS OF SHODDY SERVICE. James Lileks reports his adventures on hold with tech support. What is it about the so-called high-tech companies, anyway? One of the telephone companies in Chicagoland has what I perceive as a rather effective ad featuring a frustrated customer who couldn't stay on the line any longer, because he was out of vacation days.
EIGHT DAYS A WEEK. Milt's File discovers Beatles goodies online.

22.7.03

WORKIN' ON THE RAILROAD. Postings will continue to be intermittent until the fall term begins. It hasn't been all research (or home maintenance), there's nothing that says model railroading is for winter only.



More pictures here, and thanks to the Fox Valley O Scalers for their help testing things on the weekend.
PATIENCE. Today's roundup of war commentary includes Andrew Sullivan, quoting a lengthy report filed by a Special Operations trooper; Vodka Pundit on the uncertain end of a campaign; Chicago Boyz, linking to the same report; and Den Beste with a Chicago Great Western style rundown on the nature of the war (in which Iraq is a campaign) and the progress to date.
THE THINGS YOU LEARN. Crooked Timber points to the Social Science Research Network. Might be something the Superintendent of Working Papers (guess who?) could use.
HYPOTHETICAL. Scrappleface looks at the intelligence success that might have been.
MORE ON THOSE TUITIONS: Truck and Barter notes that a majority of college students working full-time report themselves as "employees enrolled in school" rather than as working their way through colleges. There may be more to his story than meets the eye ... recently, entering classes have a larger proportion of adults mugged by reality, some of whom might be more interested in a credential, or perhaps a signal, than in thinking ideas through. And, at least in Illinois and Minnesota, there are explicit efforts in place to enable community college students to transfer from two-year to four-year programs without the usual credit matching hassles. Officially, no "inferior" here. (And we haven't even looked at the credential deflation implied by inflated grades at the more famous universities.)
THE ROLE OF THE COUNCIL ON ECONOMIC ADVISORS. Common Sense and Wonder speculates on Paul Krugman's descent into madness. Krugman supposedly advised President Clinton that Presidents can really do relatively little to "manage" the economy (something President Clinton discovered after he took office, in his famous imprecation of the bond traders) after which the President named Laura d'Andrea Tyson as chief economist. Something about Common Sense's hypothesis doesn't ring completely true ... the Washington gossip section at Washington Monthly (sometime in early 1993?) called the President out for looking too interestedly at Professor Tyson. Professor Krugman has contributed to the Monthly and would likely have known the story ... no point going 'round the bend just because a President has picked an advisor to serve as eye candy.
PREACHING TO THE CONVERTED. Madison's Capital Times proposes that the Democratic National Committee take its message among the heathen.
MAKING SCHNEIDER. If the reports are correct, three aces and three tens are good enough for schneider. Wizbang has a roundup of skepticism pending the report from the Coroner's jury.
TRAINING CAMPS OPEN. Right Wing News posts a list of favorite athletes. American Mind proposes some additions. Packers report to camp this week.
THE IOWA CAR CROP. Atlantic Blog fact-checks the New York Times on trade policy. Clearly everyone has forgotten federal supervision of transportation rates, where the Supreme Court once had to hold that a live chicken, or a dead chicken, is still a chicken. (The issue was whether dead chickens, because someone had killed them, qualified as manufactured goods subject to rate regulation, rather than as agricultural products eligible to travel under negotiated rates not otherwise regulated.) The punch line: any trade protection is a decision to screw some producers in order that others might do better. Consumers who are unable to buy from the screwed producers suffer, as do consumers who pay more to the protected producers. The subject line refers to a metaphor I've seen several experts use. It refers to producing cars in a cornfield: harvest the corn, rail it to the port, load it in a ship, ship sails over the horizon, ship returns later with cars in the hold. Protect the manufacturers of cars in a car factory, screw the manufacturers of cars in cornfields. The harm to the consumers is left as an exercise.
CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES calls at Wizbang, who pays tribute to Tom Wolfe (not to be confused with rail romantic Thomas Wolfe.)

21.7.03

TWENTY GREATEST FIGURES in American History, as selected by readers of Right Wing News. Interesting mix of political, military, and industrial figures. How quickly we forget James Jerome Hill. Bill Gates is comparatively a derivative tinkerer.
PARSIFAL ONLY FEELS LIKE A MARATHON. Truck and Barter evaluates Baumol's cost disease in service industries in light of evidence of improvements in record marathon times. There's a bit more to the story. First, the marathon record time curve looks a lot like an asymptotic curve: there are limits. Second, orchestras have other ways to collect the gains from trade. In Haydn's day, the orchestra could collect gains from trade only from the patron or from a relatively small audience in a hall. Today, radio and the various recording media provide ways to collect gains from trade from people who might want to nap through Parsifal without putting on tie-and-tails and sitting in the loge.
FOURTH TURNING ALERT. Would conscription promote civility among policy-makers? Latest Economic Principals considers the possibility.
THE DATE-RAPE SCAM. Not just for professional basketball players in Colorado resorts. Critical Mass finds a story similar in some details involving an Irish trackman, and contrasts (registration required) his experience under due process of law with his likely experience under campus process of feminism. (What was that Camille Paglia line about the woman who regrets her fling in the morning now having the option of crying rape?)
HARVESTING THOSE GAINS FROM TRADE. Arg Max looks at recent tuition increases among some well-known state-located universities. (These used to be state-supported, and for some time state-tolerated, but the correlation of forces has shifted.) As state universities are notorious sources of subsidy to upper-middle-class residents, advocates of horizontal equity ought to be pleased. To the extent that a degree is simply a signal ("credential," for those of you in Palm Beach County), a signal that is more costly to acquire might be more accurate.

UPDATE. Public reaction to California's tuition increases garners some scorn from SCSU Scholars. Apparently politicians still have trouble with the rationing function of prices. There is one component of the California plan that bears further scrutiny. The University of California has proposed a surcharge for rich undergraduate students. The way in which it is being introduced is clumsy. Higher education already operates in the spirit of Adam Gimbel: nobody pays list price. The way in which the special discounts operates is cumbersome: everybody sees the same base price, then a special committee evaluates "need" and works out a price cut in the form of financial aid, or a subsidized loan. The formula by which this magic takes place is only slightly less convoluted than the PHRF rating system for keelboats (you can be first to Mackinac Light and not win the race) but it conceals the surcharge to richer families (their students don't get any financial aid.) Although the surcharge is isomorphic to the existing system, its transparency works against it. The universities might better have copied the airlines, where everyone confronts the same base price, but depending on when you book and a number of other things, you get a special discount. There are surcharged services, called first class or business class, but those surcharges provide the payer with a wider seat, beverage service during boarding (d**n suits delay the loading almost as much as the pack rats who attempt to schlep all their goods aboard) and first crack at the storage bins.

I sometimes present classes with a hypothetical tariff including a Custom Class option (for an extra $2000 per course payable to me, the student gets the right to ring me at home, something that I discourage in a number of ways.) Other features include higher rates for enrollments in excess of 25, enrollments on the first day of class, enrollments after the first day of class, and enrollments the day before the final. (Am I selling a crash course too cheaply at $1x10^6?)
SPELLING OUT YOUR LOSS FUNCTION. There is more to statistical inference than reporting coefficients with suitably many asterisks on the "significant" coefficients. Although many economists -- not always students -- have yet to grasp this point, Prime Minister Blair apparently does. Consider the following passage (via Andrew Sullivan) from his speech to a joint session of Congress:

"Can we be sure that terrorism and WMD will join together? If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that, at its least is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I am confident history will forgive. But if our critics are wrong and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in face of this menace, when we should have given leadership. That is something history will not forgive."

The first couple of lines spell out his loss function in the case of a false positive (Saddam neither has nuclear, chemical, nor biological weapons, nor provided them to terrorists, despite what Intelligence concludes) and his argument that the consequences of removing Saddam are still to be preferred to leaving Saddam alone. The remainder of the passage spells out his loss function in the case of a false negative (Saddam deceives enough people into believing that he has no such weapons, then uses them himself or finds an agent to do so). His loss function is not symmetric with respect to false positives (small consequences from acting anyway) and false negatives (large consequence from failure to act.) No two-tailed t-test here.

18.7.03

BEGGAR-THY-NEIGHBOR. Daniel Drezner is unimpressed with rich country agricultural subsidies. Candidate for Quote of the Month (by default, I guess it's Quote of the Day): "Weak states thrive in stagnant economies. A failure to move forward in the WTO makes it that much more difficult for governments to stop the spread of terrorist networks. Further trade liberalization would also provide a boost to a lumbering global economy." Read and understand.

17.7.03

POSTURING. Transcript of Rep. Bernie Sanders berating Alan Greenspan. My between-the-lines reading suggests the two men appear to be talking past each other.
PREPARE TO BE ABSORBED. Charlie Sykes notes that Health and Human Services Secretary, and former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, is now negotiating with McDonalds on the content of food. Nothing like government creep. Meanwhile, Nightline covers the Fast Food Wars tonight, with the usual suspects. To repeat: in order for Stephen Hopkins to get into trouble selling beer to the Puritans on Sunday, there have to be Puritans who want to buy beer on Sunday. Fast food and fat people, no difference that I can see.
PARKINSON'S LAWS AT WORK? St. Cloud State University's administration has seen fit to recommend that all voice mail messages spell out that University offices are closed Fridays (is that to conserve on air-conditioning, Thursday nights to Monday mornings as is the case at Northern Illinois?) There is something to be said for opting out of summer school. My voice mail message stipulates that classes resume August 25, and regular office hours and regular call returns will commence then. If there's anything in the system for me, well, August 25 will come. There is, however, at least one assistant-to at St. Cloud who has just made a case for being made a beer vendor at Vikings games, or perhaps designing catenary poles for the Hiawatha Corridor, or removing all the Eurasian milfoil from Lake Minnetonka.
QUAKER MEETING HAS BEGUN, NO MORE LAUGHTER, NO MORE FUN. Apparently that's the new rubric for Roman Catholics, according to a Sun-Times story. One priest, Father William Kenneally, is less than impressed: "If I was an actor and some director was insisting that my head should be turned this way, and I was missing my lines, I would just be thinking, 'Don't you understand what's important any more?'" The problem of misbehaving priests arose because headquarters stopped correcting the small mistakes long ago. First you ignore irreverent behavior in the church and ultimately the priests stray. I once read some recollections of a new trainmaster on the Missouri Pacific who learned early on that if he enforced stringent sanctions for small violations, he had very few major violations because even the most independent-minded railroader didn't want to find out what would happen in the case of a large violations. My students hear something similar from me, in a somewhat more modern vein. "Take care of the O-rings, and the Space Shuttle will take care of itself." You have to take care of the tank cladding, too, but there is accumulating evidence that management shrugged off early hints of trouble with that system. From that perspective, returning a sense of reverence to church services is a step toward ensuring that the pastors behave properly. Father Brankin, whose church still offers the Latin Mass at noon (perhaps worth a trip on a Packer bye week?), sees it that way. "If we do that right, then it's an indication that maybe everything will at least follow in some sense. If the act of worship . . . is out of control, is it not possible that everything else could be out of control?" Sounds like a man who could keep his head in a dispatcher's office, or a large class of beginning students.

FOOTNOTE. Via Vodka Pundit, more about the consequences of neglecting that cladding.
AND AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN. On Transport Blog, Brian Mickelthwait comments on a recent Lileks bleat about progress on the Hiawatha Corridor light rail line in the Twin Cities.

(First, some geographical context: The Twin Cities are Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota, the Manchester Metrolink is a U.K. example of a light rail line that reuses some existing railroad tracks, with some new construction downtown linking the two intercity railroad stations, and "Strib" is "Minneapolis Star-Tribune" for Viking fans.)

Methinks Lileks doth protest too much about the overhead wires: do they really block the view that much? On the other hand, the people who build modern trolleys have this propensity for imitating the Japanese Shinkansen when it comes to holding up the wires. We used to do well with a simple span wire linking poles on each side of the street, and the boulevard bracket arms of New Orleans have ornamental ironwork rather than simple angle bracing.

On the other hand, half-hourly Sprinter service linking St. Cloud to the Cities makes sense, perhaps one of the latest generation of rail diesel cars (DMUs, for those of you in the Commonwealth) can be made up to satisfy crashworthiness requirements.

There is a future Bleat just waiting to happen. I have seen renderings of the new trolleys being built for the Twin Cities. They have artsy solid-black ends. (Well, artsy if you're into Star Wars, I suppose.) But come November, the morning and evening rush hours are after dark, and we're dealing with Minnesota drivers. It's just a matter of time until someone "doesn't see" a black tramcar. Credit to former Illinois Central conductor Richard Lukin for first pointing this flaw out. There was a bad collision on the Illinois Central in 1972, when some new-look electric cars had black ends, and after that collision among the changes we saw were orange ends on the new cars.

As an aside, Mickelthwait mentions the trolley buses in Reading. Funny Milwaukee story about those ... one of them was doing 40 mph plus in a 25 mph zone, and a traffic cop attempted to give the motorman (he has a steering wheel and foot pedals, why are you calling him a motorman?) a speeding ticket and the Transport Company's lawyer got the ticket thrown out. Why? Legally, those things were trackless trolley cars and therefore not subject to the speed limits applicable to motor vehicles. And if you search the pictures of Milwaukee trolley buses closely, you'll see ... no license plates! License plates and driving licenses are for motor vehicles. Trackless trolley cars have no license plates, and they have motormen.

16.7.03

WE WEREN'T ALL HIPPIES. Lileks notes the passing of psychedelic nostalgia, to InstaPundit's approval. If memory serves, Richard Nixon outpolled George McGovern by the widest margin among the 18-21 year olds who had only recently won the right to vote (and to drink beer in many states) despite the hour-long waits to vote at the Madison precincts adjoining the University.
DISCRIMINATING FOR EQUALITY. Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow considers the effects of Grutter v. Bollinger.
IN MEMORIAM. Joanne Jacobs notes a sale of the estate of Miss Frances. She may have hosted Ding Dong School on television, but we didn't have television in our house in those days. She did write some pretty good Ding Dong School books. Those, and the Little Golden Books, continue to serve the next generation of readers.
PUBLIC CHOICE? An Imponderable: do states that vote Democratic or vote Republican get more money sent back from D.C. than they send in taxes? Details here. Paul Krugman, before he started channeling James Carville, wrote a column along similar lines.
LOWERING THE BAR. Month-old post from Governor DuPont. Worth a read.
IN DEFENSE OF SHOP CLASS. Betsy's Page picks up Joanne Jacobs on industrial arts (duly noted here) and adds her own observation, "The nation is facing a shortage of qualified auto repair mechanics. Even if a student wasn't planning on working as a mechanic, this is a useful skill. As we plan to take our car in for repair next week, both my husband and I realize that we could have benefited from a car repair class in high school. We'd have used that much more often than four years of Spanish." I have to wonder how you can teach auto technicians these days without teaching algebra and computer literacy. The self-diagnostic gadgets in cars are marvelous, but nowhere near as intuitive as the old timing lights, dwell tachs, Allen keys, and the good ol' finger in the butterfly valve were.

The prospects for skilled workers whose work cannot be sent overseas electronically look relatively better. Much of the data entry that used to be done in cubicles in big U.S. cities, before it went to Sioux Falls, and then to Ireland, is now on its way to India (and once the electricity is reliable, Baghdad??) Troubleshooting a car on the internet is a bit harder.

This Highered Intelligence post on the subtexts of "no child left behind" is worth a look. Furthermore, the cheap-labor-subsidy from immigrants ultimately does come to an end: there is nothing like the difficulty keeping good workers to get inventors thinking about how to make the task easier and cheaper. I heard an interesting story about vacuum-cleaner technology being adapted to chicken farms to harvest the chickens....

Or would you rather have the French attitude toward industry?
DEPORTATIONS AND REPARATIONS. Dissecting Leftism has some thoughts. Shall we take it one step further and have reparations for people whose ancestors were kicked out for free-thinking?

The Kiwis tell a joke on the Australians: How do you tell a New Zealander from an Australian? Have him roll up his trouser leg. (The joke, which escaped me until my guide explained, refers to the permanent sun-tan line the shackle left on the Australian.)
WHO IS ABSORBING WHOM? Claudia Rosett and John Derbyshire have differing perspectives on the future of Hong Kong and the possibility of another popular uprising in China.


The picture shows the countdown clock running in Tienanmen Square in late June (22 or 23) of 1997, just before the transfer of Hong Kong to China. At the time I suspected from all the construction in Peking, providing office space for lobbyists from Hong Kong corporations, that the notionally Communist government wasn't fully aware of what it was in for. Rosett and Derbyshire suggest that my speculation might be right in part, wrong in part. Perhaps it's China, not Iran, that bears careful watching for popular sovereignty.

The photograph is from a travel journal first hinted at here. There will be more to the story, as time permits.
CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES visits Caerdroia this week. The itinerary through mid-November is here.

15.7.03

VIEWPOINT DIVERSITY. Professor Adams seeks to manage the diversity boondoggle, with the purpose of ending it. (Via Critical Mass.)
NIT-PICKING. It's not just for railfans, any more, as Cox and Forkum illustrate. (Hat tip: Little Green Footballs, with extensive commentary.)
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Qualifying for a skilled trade is more demanding than qualifying for most colleges." Joanne Jacobs has more, including indirect confirmation that you don't track students who aren't college material into shop class.

14.7.03

THE NEGLECTED "R". Policy paper here, related but independent comments here and here, why your kid's teacher may not care here, what the academicians would rather think about here.
PRIMPING FOR COURSE EVALUATIONS? Hey, if it gets teachers and professors to dress professionally. Substance at Atlantic Blog.
INTERNAL CIVIL STRIFE. Porphyrogenitus has a couple of lengthy posts. Scroll and click to read more, he's outdoing Bill Whittle or Den Beste in Chicago Great Western style essays.
CURIOUS CORE CURRICULUM. The SCSU Scholars have an extensively-researched post on this year's required pre-enrollment reading at the University of North Carolina. After last year's excursion into Koranic studies, this year the University requires Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickeled and Dimed (It's no Keep The Aspidistra Flying but you can read reviews or comparison shop.) My colleagues to the North were particularly disappointed with the discussion questions. Quite so. How informed are entering freshmen going to be about Law or Political Science or Education? For that matter, where is economics on that list, and is it a scandal that economics students might not learn about induced innovation until graduate school? The Scholars are correct about the supplemental readings being somewhat skimpy. John Derbyshire's observations ought to be good for an argument or three.
POSSIBLE SOURCE OF COMPANY MAIL? Provided the Buggy Professor delivers that "daily buzz of biting political and economic commentary."
LINE RELOCATION. Truck and Barter has moved off Blogspot. The new site has a new riff on "he who sells his product for less knows what it's worth."
LOOK WHO'S BACK. Letter from Gotham has returned, as has The Spoons Experience. (Instapundit flagged the latter, has yet to note the former.)

John has a long moustache.

13.7.03

PATIENCE. Instapundit's mentor builds the case for a Saddam-Osama nexus. Right Wing News hints at accumulating evidence for biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons in Iraq. The Washington Post reports on leads, leading to better leads, leading to better information about the location or the fate of the 22 of 55 senior Iraqi officials not yet accounted for. As I type, the evening news is again following up on the styrofoam sausage slugging.
SPRAWL IS GOOD FOR THE THIRD WORLD. Andrew Sullivan commends Victor Keegan's proposal to abolish agricultural subsidies by the developed countries. If anything, Keegan is understating the costs. Many candy factories have been moving their production lines from the Chicago area, which used to be Candy Maker for the World (to go with Hog Butcher for the World, now in Nebraska, and Player with Railroads, where these are the Good Old Days) to Canada, in order to benefit from U.S. sugar subsidies, which mandate tariffs on imported sugar and subsidize exports, so it's cheaper to buy U.S. sugar at subsidized prices in Canada and convert it into candy there, which, as a "manufactured good," qualifies under the North American Free Trade Agreement to cross without tariff.

In other trade news, I understand that the World Trade Organization has raised an objection to the U.S. steel tariffs, which hurt the same sugar farmers the sugar subsidies are supposed to protect. Got that?

12.7.03

BIN LADEN, LOSER. It is difficult to conceive of a story more September 10 than Pittsburgh Pirate Randall Simon's prank gone wrong. The story, however, was all over the national newscasts, the topic of conversation on national, regional, and local talk radio. I was travelling toward points north that day and the family and friends I met with along the way all had a lot to say, most of it in a jocular vein, about the story. Betsy's Page had the story, as did Best of the Web (go here for commentary.) The resolution is about right: Simon gets a suspension for doing something dumb, and pays a $432 fine for disorderly conduct. Both of the employees who fell down receive autographed bats and an apology from Simon. This Dale Hofmann essay got it about right. Dave Barry weighs in. as does Scrapple Face.
PLUS CA CHANGE. Just finished David Lindsay's Mayflower Bastard (details or comparison shop.) Lindsay is a descendant of Richard More, a man with a convoluted pedigree who along with his brother and sisters travelled on Mayflower. Richard More was either a foster child or an indentured servant of William Brewster. Some of the side stories merit note. Consider entrepreneur Isaac Allerton. At p. 68, Lindsay combines speculation with fact. "At the same time, as Allerton dropped in on Brewster more often to discuss such things, he began to let his gaze rest a little longer than usual on the body of Richard's foster sister, the twenty-year-old Fear Brewster. A cynic might say that he was taking out a little insurance. In any event, the same year saw both his marriage to Brewster's daughter and his appointment to the task of straightening out Plimouth's accounts." Puts Chelsea Clinton's entry level job in perspective, doesn't it?

As the colony developed, tensions grew between the Believers and the Adventurers. By 1636, religious tensions developed: ""Founded by the Dutchman Hendrik Niclaes in the sixteenth century, familism sometimes went by the name 'the Family of Love.' Its central tenet held that mankind had become sinless since the Crucifixion; thus, any human impulse should be deemed pure. Familists freely practiced adultery (with one early adherent going so far as to marry his own daughter) and sometimes held property in common. The most pernicious aspect of the sect, however, was the tendency of its members to infiltrate normal society, attending church and holding positions of prominence. Caught, familists would renounce their ways, then simply continue to observe them on the sly." Ye hippie communes and coate and tye radicals, forsooth!

The concluding pages, on the collapse and re-emergence of the Puritan tradition, now coexisting with the commercial tradition, is worth reading, particularly in light of the efforts of Old Believers to equate Iraq with Vietnam, and other returns to the skirmishes of the Sixties.

9.7.03

GEWITTER, STURM. Big blob of red and orange on the radar, heading this way, thunder rumbling. Toodles.
HABIT PERSISTENCE? The July issue of Backtrack features a provocative article: "How the Great Western threw away the Churchward Legacy." The author touches on streamlining, noting that CME Collett could have done better by imitating the Australian 38 class 4-6-2, which, in turn, borrowed heavily from the New Haven I-5 class 4-6-4. Advantage, Cold Spring Shops.
SILENCE FROM THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA. The Iranian general strike is today. Winds of Change has a roundup.
CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES visits Winds of Change. Time to rediscover the Concerto for Horn and Hardart.

6.7.03

IMMODERATE WEATHER MOVING IN. 'Net difficulties fixed. Close some slow-loading windows and reopen from scratch and get the work done. But now there are tornadoes to the north of me. More later.
DARWIN CANDIDATES? I'm inclined to agree with Milton Friedman that we are not property of the Public Health Service, and that motorcycle helmet laws are an abomination. But that doesn't preclude common sense. I would have to think that a biker babe wearing a spaghetti-strap top on the expressway would pick up a lot of road rash, despite riding in the biker-babe position.
MORE SUMMER READING. Recently finished (rather quickly) Robin Moore's The Hunt for Bin Laden. It's written by a reporter who has been a colleague of the Special Forces for a long time (details -- comparison shop.) Makes me wish the word about the Special Forces had been out many years ago -- perhaps I would have taken gym class more seriously and followed up in a different way on the aptitude I showed for languages. There's a lot of interesting stuff once the forces get in country, including their efforts to avoid being used by one warlord against another (some of the Northern Alliance people followed the maxim, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, as long as the Main Enemy was Taliban, then all bets were off,) and one English-speaking, former-biker warlord, who later discovered a Koranic justification for primum nocte, and no longer received support from the Special Forces.) In the epilogue, p. 319, is a passage that might shed some insight on "bring 'em on." "Occasionally, a quiet and humble man brought his wife along to visit the wounded in Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In the rare moments when there was a small opening in his schedule, he would take the time to visit his soldiers.
One day, on a visit, kept quiet as usual for security reasons, the couple paused to see a soldier whose distraught wife had just arrived. Laura Bush hugged her close, not knowing what else to do.
After eight long years of neglect and embarrassment, the U.S. military finally had a real commander and chief
."
RECOMMENDED RAILROAD READING. Just finished J. W. Orr's Set Up Running (details or comparison shop -- looks like the press run was a bit optimistic,) a tribute to Orr's father O. P. Orr, who retired from 45 years on the Pennsylvania Railroad with a perfect service record, despite some close calls after World War II. Most of that service was on the secondary freight lines in the Susquehanna River Valley northwest of Harrisburg. The elder Orr took quite an interest in getting the best out of his engines, and some of the firemen taxed his patience, particularly after the automatic stoker came into use. But as long as the train got over the road without a steam failure that blocked the main line, he had no cause for official complaint. On p. 261 is a useful insight for professors: ""[Students] and locomotive engineers both fell into the same types of categories, those at the top of the class, the A students; those that were average; those that were lower in the class but tried; and those who might have had higher grades but did not care. The only time the latter group was interested was when report cards [or pay day] came out. ... Then too there were some engineers who could run an engine capably but couldn't handle a train properly no matter how hard they tried. For them, running a train proved to be a frightening experience." Comparative advantages, even on the branches of the Standard Railroad of the World.
IN PRAISE OF SMALL-TOWN FOURTHS. Despite the immoderate weather elsewhere, viewing conditions were severe clear with not too much humidity. The Concert Band did its usual good job with the accompaniment, and the fireworks show did not disappoint. It appeared to be more heavily-attended, with a lot more little kids around, than I recall in previous years. The setting allows the kids room to run around, play catch, chase fireflies, use the playground equipment, or nap. I have to wonder if attendance isn't rising because the DeKalb show has Chicago's beaten in a number of ways: less crowded, shorter traffic tie-ups afterward, better viewing angles (if you don't mind the odd tree in the way), musical accompaniment you can hear, and more ordnance shot off for more minutes.


I must confess to being a bit spoiled in my youth when it comes to viewing angles. So far, I have seen no fireworks-viewing site that matched Milwaukee's Juneau Park bluff when the north throat of the C&NW Depot was at its base. (I don't go back to 1911 but note some of the other landmarks we've lost.)
AVOIDING THE IMMODERATE WEATHER. Conditions, however, have been nastier elsewhere in the neighborhood. Freeport, Rockford, Belvidere, and Libertyville all suffered storm damage. As of Saturday evening, about half of Rockford's houses did not have electricity. One television station brought in a temporary generator. (The list of emergency advice and news stories there is typically Midwestern, in that a golf course that will be hosting a local charity tournament is scrambling to have everything ready.) The winds toppled another station's broadcasting tower. There will be no broadcasts for at least a week. The Chicago area also suffered damage, with as many as seven swimmers washed into Lake Michigan by storm effects on the eastern shore.
PRODUCTIVITY GAINS OR LOSSES. The Atlantic (scroll down) looks at the college basketball tournament, with particular reference to Challenger, Gray's look at the lost work attributable to office pools. (The report appears to have been withdrawn, so any further discussion is speculation on my part.) I have to wonder if the article overstates the cost of the office pools: don't people work together better if they have some reason to view each other as human? (Steven Landsburg wrote, long ago, about how drinking coffee might make people more, not less, productive. I'm simply revisiting the same argument.) Furthermore, office pools are intellectual ammunition for economists.
NOT ABLE TO DO MUCH CATCHING UP: The Internet has become quite sluggish in the past half hour. Perhaps there will be time to post a few things this evening.

4.7.03

STILL FRACTIOUS AFTER ALL THESE YEARS. At the time Solomon Hopkins, Jeremiah Hopkins, and Tracy Ballard took up arms in New York, and Enoch Crosby began spying on the Regulars, maybe one-third of the colonists favored independence, one-third remained loyal to the king, and one-third were willing to give up the choice. The more things change .... In 1821, John Quincy Adams noted the following in praise of Independence:

"But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

She is the champion and vindicator only of her own
." Read the rest of the speech. Some things may have changed. Jacob Hornberger: "Let’s not mince words: The “freedom” that Americans celebrate today is opposite to the freedom that Americans celebrated on, say, July 4, 1890.

"Think about it: In 1890, Americans were celebrating a way of life in which there was no income tax, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, drug war, gun control, or immigration controls. There were virtually no economic regulations, mandatory government schooling (public schooling), or welfare. There was neither foreign aid nor involvement in wars thousands of miles away. There was no paper money or monetary central planning. Americans and foreigners alike enjoyed the rights of habeas corpus and due process of law
."

Sheldon Richman: "How else to explain that few people give a hoot that we were obviously lied into war by the president of the United States, the vice president, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and others, without a proper congressional declaration, and led to believe that Saddam Hussein was both willing and able to launch so-called weapons of mass destruction against us on 45 minutes’ notice?

"How else to explain that hardly anyone notices that with respect to criminal suspects the Constitution has been all but consigned to the paper shredder, with American citizens and others being held indefinitely without charge and without the right to go before a judge to challenge such treatment?
"

John Nichols: "Should we celebrate the founders themselves? Yes, within reason. It is true that many of the men who made this nation were flawed. The best of them admitted as much at the time. The worst were revealed in time. But no one who cherishes liberty should hesitate to raise a cheer for old Tom Paine, who wrote of Americans in 1776: 'We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation similar to the present hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of the new world is at hand, and a race of men, perhaps as numerous as all Europe contains, are to receive their portion of freedom from the events of a few months.' "

Natalie Maynor: "I plan to celebrate July 4 with hope that the damage the current U.S. administration is doing to the country can be contained, with hope that American voters will put an end to the terrible turn this country has taken by ousting the deceitful and dangerous leaders. Serious damage has surely been done. After four years of the Bush administration, getting this country back on the right track won't be easy. But it can be done. After eight years, it might be impossible. I urge you to celebrate July 4 by thinking of ways to help turn things around."

Everybody is hyperbolic, over the top, selectivly indignant, offering food for Fiskers (TM) once the holiday ends. As it should be. Gentlemen, the project goes on.
JOINING FORCES? Crooked Timber is a new joint venture by Chris Bertram, Maria Farrell, Henry Farrell, Kieran Healy, and Brian Weatherson. Looks to be in the testing stage at the moment.
HOGWARTS CALIFORNIA? Virginia Postrel finds lots of magical thinking about policy.
ARE YOU A POWER FREAK? That was the topic of discussion on Extension 720 earlier this week. The guests designed some quizzes which are available, without the usual weblog tags. I scored a six on the power quiz, which the scorer assured me was in the normal range, although if "normal" is 4-6, I probably scored close to one sigma toward the power freak end. The Field Marshal site is also worth a look.

3.7.03

BUYING BOOKS? Kieran Healy is not impressed with the offerings of his university bookstore or those of the mega-stores. He's particularly bothered by the share of space devoted to logo clothing relative to that devoted to optional books. Perhaps there's a technology shift at work. One of these days Reason will get its July-August stuff up, including an interesting bit on the learning potential in computer games. (Try Carlisle 1957 for great frustration.)
A QUOTE FOR INDEPENDENCE DAY. "Some people believe rights are what you can afford when you become rich. But rights are what make countries rich." Meelis Kitsing provides the context.
RECOMMENDED RAILROAD READING: "Could anyone mistake a Russion locomotive running today in the Ukraine for an American locomotive in Wisconsin?," teases J. W. Swanberg in Trains. Yup, notes the print article, which also notes that parts of Ukraine aren't that different from Wisconsin. Indeed not. The first picture in the article shows a locomotive and train standing in Toporishche. That's the center of the Prussian Baptist colony in Volhynia. Many of those Prussian Baptists, including my mom's mother and several grand-aunts and grand-uncles lived not far from there, in Valki, and they migrated to Coleman and Pound in northern Wisconsin. (Is there a way to combine a steam trip with a research trip? Thinking, thinking ....)
WORKS WELL WITH OTHERS? Nightline is doing a brief look at the possible commitment of U.S. troops to Liberia. Put in context, there are troops deployed in some 130 countries, including 10,000 in Afghanistan and 130,000 in Iraq. That's as good a time as any to mention a little bit of my summer reading and join the conversation about the international institutions and the role of the United States within them. Victor Davis Hanson prefers to look inward: " Keep quieter and carry a far bigger stick. Methodically and politely transfer, redeploy, and reduce troops from countries that have opposed our efforts of the past two years or whose populations simply profess no overt support for the United States." Two presenters to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, on book tours, presented a different perspective (first mentioned in these pages here.) Newsweek's Michael Hirsh, recent author of At War with Ourselves (details or comparison shopping) advances the thesis that go-it-alone in either the Clintonian or Bush the Younger model doesn't quite work, and both administrations eased, ultimately, toward working more with others. Perhaps that's what's at work with respect to Liberia -- some U.S. cooperation in Africa, some French and U.N. help in Iraq. Hirsh notes that U.N. workers are already active in Afghanistan doing what he characterizes as the "scutwork" of nation building. In addition, German and Norwegian forces have gone in harms way there.

Such cooperation would please Clyde Prestowitz, a trade negotiator during the Reagan Administration. He was touring his somewhat more polemical Rogue Nation (details -- compare prices.) Prestowitz's book is a bit hard to figure -- it is as if he concedes all the criticisms of the blame-America-first crowd and then offers a series of "yeah, but ..." responses. For instance, he proposes a reorganization of the U.N. Security Council with a European Union representative rather than the U.K. and France. He notes that President Bush may have missed an opportunity in September 2001 to assure the U.S. that the rest of the world doesn't hate us, and to thank the rest of the world for their outpouring of support (you may recall the unofficial "thanks" websites that went around the internet in those days.) His proposal that the U.S. ratify the Kyoto Treaty as amended rings a bit hollow, as does his complaint that one or two key Senators can hold up a treaty. If memory serves, it was more like 95 Senators that held up Kyoto, and the U.S. Constitution ought to count for something in our decision making. (To grant unelected international bureaucrats the ability to trump the Constitution is to grant somebody -- in the best case a benevolent bureaucrat -- despotic powers easily abused.) His thinking about the euro as a competing reserve currency has strengths and weaknesses. Many years ago, Jane Jacobs (I think it was in Life and Death of Great American Cities) noted that the currency union called the United States inflicted steep adjustment costs on cities that fell on hard times, because they could not devalue their currency relative to other cities. Something similar will be at work within Europe -- France can no longer devalue the franc (or have franc traders bid it down relative to other currencies) to cope with its recent difficulties exporting to the United States. Lots of food for thought.
FREE SPEECH ZONES UPDATE. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports a partial victory at Citrus College and seeks extension of spontaneous assembly areas at Texas Tech beyond a gazebo. There's something telling in the story: Tech attempted to enforce its rules for the use of the gazebo against anti-war demonstrators. FIRE's position is that their intervention stopped that enforcement. War protestors used to be made of sterner stuff. During the major bombing and mining efforts late in the Vietnam war, all it took was a few "Rally at Noon, Library Mall" notices chalked on sidewalks and blackboards to get people out.
COALITION OF THE UNWILLING? France, and U.N. Secretary General Annan, are soliciting U.S. military help in Liberia. Right Wing News is neither impressed nor being facetious, "evil hegemon" imagery not withstanding. Common Sense and Wonder suggest that the situation will resolve itself, unlike, say, Osama's Taliban or Saddam's bankroll. Both Little Green Footballs and Best of the Web note Governor Dean's sudden hawkishness. Still no war manifesto on Common Dreams, however.
BATTLE OF THE SEXES. Wednesday's Rush Limbaugh show turned into a dish session after he quoted at length from Susan Reimer's essay complaining (for the n-th time, for n large) about young adult men acting badly. Hasn't anybody thought through the implications of "if it feels good ('for the present' usually goes unstated) do it?" Does it come as any surprise that if there are no consequences for behaving badly, people will behave badly? Dig down, and note the separating equilibrium conditioned on whether Mom and Dad are married, or not. Newmark's Door finds an article on a related topic that offers a slightly different perspective from the Popular Perspective.
AT WAR. The Superintendent notes with respect and regret the deaths of U.S. and allied troops in the various theaters of war. Best of the Web (scroll down to "Homer Nods") has some information about U.S. military and police losses. Training is dangerous, as are activities such as mine clearing and bomb defusing.
SAYING NO THANKS. What would James Carroll do without rhetorical questions? Resurrect the arguments of the Sixties, of course. Reminds me of a Tom Lehrer song from just before that era: "Remember the war against Franco?/That's the kind where each of us belongs/Though he may have won all the battles/We had all the good songs."
SAYING THANKS. Little Green Footballs provides a list of organizations that are providing support to troops overseas, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Philippines, Liberia (?!), and elsewhere, and their families at home.
LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE. Diane Ravitch proposes a laugh test for future bowdlerizations of the curriculum (otherwise known as Ignorance is Inclusive.) She's on to something. Many of the guardians of the curriculum, and the pious pontificators on university committees, not to mention the fans of Senator Clinton, are people who have trouble distinguishing earnestness from seriousness.
PROCESS, NUANCE, FAILURE. Karyn Strickler laments the corrosive effects of "realism" and "consensus" on "progressive" political organizing. Hint: any organization that has a "steering committee" is an organization headed nowhere. The skipper handles the steering. Perhaps there is a tactician to call the shifts. Anything further breeds misdirection, or winding up in stays.
THAT WAY I'M SURE THEY'LL UNDERSTAND: General Patton supposedly "gave it to 'em loud and dirty" when that was his objective. It may not be the approved teaching method any more. Go to Critical Mass and start scrolling. Number 2 Pencil has a Wild Professor story of her own, to the approval of Betsy's Page and Joanne Jacobs.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: "Explain to me again how it helps minority students to be admitted to colleges for which they are not ready?" Details at Number 2 Pencil.
ZACHARY TAYLOR IS MY COUSIN. Betsy's Page links this Mayflower pedigree page. (The page appears to be incomplete, as it doesn't provide President Bush's descent from Governor Bradford, which makes him a cousin of Hugh Hefner!) For the record, here's mine:
Stephen Hopkins Karlson John Hopkins Karlson Lucile Irene Hopkins Ira Lincoln Hopkins Francis E. Hopkins Ira Hopkins Joseph Hopkins Jeremiah Hopkins Solomon Hopkins Mary Berry Mary Freeman John Freeman Mercy Prence Patience Brewster WILLIAM BREWSTER


(Typesetting conventions borrowed from the Mayflower History page.) The line I provided is one line ... the best thing that happened to the Hopkins family might have been moving to Wisconsin when they quit marrying their cousins. My pre-1800 family tree looks more like a network. You might, for example, want to look at the Bing Crosby entry further down. He's got some common Hopkins ancestors not shown on the page. The elder Nathaniel Crosby married Bethia Hopkins.