31.10.03

A NEW FORM OF TENURE QUOTA? Invisible Adjunct and King at SCSU Scholars use this report on four of six professors at Wisconsin's Carroll College who were recommended by their departments and the college promotion committee for tenure but denied by the college president. Invisible Adjunct and King Banaian both draw parallels between the president's action and administrative tyranny elsewhere, and in particular with whether Carroll's administration might be behaving badly by attempting to replace tenure-track faculty with temporary faculty, as an economy measure.

The Chronicle article, however, is misleading in part: "Every year professors at colleges around the country come up for tenure -- and, inevitably, some of them miss the mark. But what has made the decisions here so unsettling and unusual, some people say, is that by all accounts each of the four professors excelled in teaching, research, and service -- the traditional standards by which tenure candidates are judged. Nonetheless, Carroll's president and trustees simply decided that it didn't make good business sense to keep them.

"Financial issues typically don't figure into tenure cases unless a college is facing financial collapse, or enrollment is declining and a college wants to close a program. Neither is the case at Carroll
."

Actually, financial issues do matter, and they have mattered for a long time. Some university administrators keep track of something they call tenure "depth," referring to the proportion of a department currently tenured, and I have an old set of suggestions for students on the job market that includes looking at the dean's strategic plan, if you have an interview with the dean as part of your visit. The author of these suggestions noticed that one such dean had characterized the economics department as tenured up, and presumably took a job elsewhere. Moreover, during my time at Wayne State, we were able to hire a very good demographer and economic historian who became available to us because a dean at Cornell decided that department already had one of those specialists with tenure. Nearly 30 years ago, The Progressive did an article on the phenomenon of universities discovering that it was cheaper to do searches at seven-year intervals rather than grant tenure. The Carroll College case might be unusual, but not astonishing.
TESTING THE PERMANENT INCOME HYPOTHESIS? Insta Pundit links to a Cointelpro post that suggests Scrapple Face (first pedantic note: a professor might move from UCLA (motto: On! Wisconsin!) via Boston University via Fisk to MTSU, but not via Columbia) and Counterspin Central are praising, the first for fun, the second for profit, Democratic fiscal policy going back to the first Clinton-Gore administration. It's worth thinking about the tax rate cuts, the tax rebate checks, the deficit, and the third quarter growth rate figures in perspective. President Bush's original 2001 proposal included cuts in marginal tax rates, which were to be phased in over ten years and then abolished. (At a discount rate of eight percent, which is my best guess as the right risk adjustment for Congressional action in eight ((2011-2001)-(2003-2001)) years, the effect of that abolition, or not, on my perceived permanent income is neglgible.) The compromise that went into effect that year included some immediate tax rebate checks (anybody else remember the assurances that the last batch WOULD be mailed out after September 11, assurances that did stand up?) which contributed immediately to larger deficits and which provided transitory income to consumers. The compromise this year involved more rapid decreases on marginal tax rates and some supplementals to the earned income tax credit, which, again, provided transitory income to some people and immediate enlargement of the deficit. The lower marginal tax rates, provided they stay in effect for the next eight or ten years, imply changes in peoples' permanent income. Should be plenty of dissertation topics in the next few years to tease out the effects of the permanent (within meaningful discounting) and transitory tax changes.

Daniel Drezner has some additional coverage, including some good news about inventories being drawn down. (The existence of inventories to draw down is one source of a "jobless" recovery: reported sales and thus national income increase, but inventories represent past jobs that might not have to be filled immediately.) He's also linked to Outside the Beltway, with more cross-references and a reminder that Presidents take too much blame for recessions and claim too much credit for expansions.

One further phenomenon that bears watching is the possible shortening of the business cycle. I was at a steel industry technical session in beautiful Merrillville, Indiana, last night at which I learned that where steel used to enjoy two good years in seven (this would be from the mid-1970s on) it's now more like enjoying two good months in a year. Going to have to dig out the Metal Statistics and take a closer look.
STAY THE COURSE. Ralph Peters takes stock of the Iraqi resistance and evaluates criteria for success in the Global War on Terrorism. We are unlikely to live long enough to see a dispassionate analysis of the war, which would require an assessment of how many attacks were disrupted prior to September 11, 2001; how many have been disrupted since; have the plots subsequent to September 11 been more frequent and more clever, more frequent and less clever, less frequent and more clever, or less frequent and less clever. (No doubt the historians will come up with more precise categorizations. A 2x2 classification works for many economics problems, which no doubt influences my classification scheme.)
POSSIBLE SOURCE OF COMPANY MAIL. Steven D. Krause's Official Blog compares and contrasts life in the academy with life in industry. Well worth a look, not just for the MAC connections. (Via Invisible Adjunct.)
TODAY'S AMNESTY PUZZLE: William Raspberry, looking at differing willingness among states to offer in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants: "The guy who illegally makes himself at home in my shed may turn out to be a pretty good deal for me. Maybe he keeps the grass cut and the snow shoveled and the porch painted -- all for less than I could manage on the "legal" market.

"But it doesn't follow that I have to put him in my will or otherwise give him the status of family. Isn't the in-state tuition rate for family?

"And even that misses the point, which is: If the federal government fails at its job of keeping the illegals out of the country, why should it fall to the states to pay the costs produced by that failure?

"The problem, at bottom, is the inability of the federal government to enforce existing immigration policy and its refusal to reform it. The states are simply stuck with the unhappy result.
"

All of the foregoing presupposes that the policy is a failure. The facts recited above are consistent with a coherent policy. There is room for further research, to investigate the hypothesis that states are using the in-state-tuition as an instrument to further fine tune the mix of illegal, but productive, immigrants within their borders.

(Thanks to Milt's File for finding the column.)
NOTICE OF LINE RELOCATION. The Knowledge Problem has moved to a new site, with a new design. (I can't offer any suggestions on the Internet Explorer glitch noted here.) The posts appear without any truncation problems if I use the horizontal scrolling arrows to read the posts. (That cuts out the extensive link list. Scroll to the left and look around.)

29.10.03

MARKING OFF. Expect light or sporadic posting the next few days. Business and other pleasures will come first.
THOSE PURITAN ROOTS ARE SHOWING: This site is certified 60% GOOD by the Gematriculator

(Via Betsy's Page.)
WELCOME DISSECTING LEFTISM READERS. The post Professor Ray found worthy of linking is here. There is a cross-reference to it at this Invisible Adjunct Gender Poll (and if you're reading the university weblogs and haven't discovered Invisible Adjunct, have a look.) There are at least three interpretations of my post that people are discovering. First, it is making fun of academics, because they deserve it. Second, it is laying down a marker in the culture wars, which is what I suspect Dissecting Leftism is reading, and at least one commenter on the poll concurs. Third, it is being excessively pedantic, which drives another commenter slightly around the bend.

(But "conversation ender?" (toggle irony)What a limp-wristed, quiche-eating perspective to take.(/toggle irony) There has been a shift in usage, and it has coincided, whether causally or accidentally, with the emergence of Race-Class-Gender theory ... all three of these terms being used to indicate dimensions of a person's identity that are objectively defined by attitudes beyond that person's control. Years ago, when I was helping construct Divisia indices of labor quality for two-digit industries, the index had a five-way classification: Sex, Age, Education, Experience, Occupation. Employment and enrollment applications had a space to indicate "Sex." The substitution of "gender" on applications and as the name of the regressor formerly identified as "sex" has been within the past fifteen or twenty years. And in that time some academics who misname themselves as "theorists" have proposed additional "genders." Trans-sexuals appear on campus only in screenings of Rocky Horror Picture Show)

Back to the Dissecting Leftism cross-reference. There's another post, here. Suggestions for a more accurate three-word summary of this are welcome. (I have not been able to rule out a logician sympathetic to Leftist arguments defending tu quoque fallacy as the summary. Fire away!)
CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES visits Who Censored Blogger Rabbit? (not Who Framed Blogger Rabbit, as erroneously noted in the vanity post.) The Superintendent at Blogger Rabbit advises me that the movie, "Who Framed ..." is loosely based on a book titled Who Censored Roger Rabbit (details or compare prices.) The things you learn participating in this new medium. Welcome, Carnival readers, and thanks to Who Censored Blogger Rabbit for hosting it.

Carnival 59 will call at Wizbang, which means I have to have something extra special to tease Tim Hall.

28.10.03

RECOMMENDED RECREATIONAL READING. National Public Radio war correspondent Anne Garrels has written Naked in Baghdad (you'll have to read the book, the usual details or price comparisons for your use.) Well written and a quick read. My copy has some unusual annotations in it as I was reading it on Train 1243, the 3.58 semi-fast to Aurora, which got into an interesting drag race with a late-running Southwest Chief that featured two trains running flat-out, nose-and-nose, from Berwyn to Clarendon Hills.
TONIGHT'S WICKED THOUGHT. I received a form from Staff Benefits that had a few fields blank, including one marked "Gender." I crossed out the word "Gender" and enterered "Sex: Male." I resisted the temptation to send a memorandum back reading as follows:

I was brought up to understand that "sex" was a biological term and "gender," a grammatical term. I understand that some people use the term "gender" as a way of making the point that the actions people take, including acting on their sex, have elements that have evolved over time, something loosely described as "socially constructed." My sense is that your office is using the term "gender" to determine my biological makeup, which is "male." You probably are not interested in my gender, which is "Non-Quiche Eating Real Guy," a category probably deserving of protected status as under-represented around the University.

SECOND SECTION: The Gender Genie (correct use of the terminology, as it is looking at evolved patterns of writing) strongly agrees:
Words: 143
(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)

Female Score: 39
Male Score: 437

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

In this longer post, it's another boot to the head for the quiche-eaters:
Words: 684
(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)
Female Score: 679
Male Score: 1349
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

IDEAS MATTER MOST. Porphyrogenitus has been writing and generating commentary on the continued conversation over the role of the Trivium and Quadrivium, particularly in light of the conversation over Certification U or preferred alternatives thereto. Porphyrogenitus proposes another (ranting screed?) shortly. It is not to that post that I wish to speak tonight. Rather, it is to his contrasting of cyclical and linear time, particularly as viewed by the academic Left. I'm not sure there's that much of a contrast, particularly if one uses the Fourth Turning (details or compare prices.) The notion of cyclical history bothers me for the same reason that cobweb cycles bother me: the existence of a cycle implies the existence of an arbitrage opportunity, which has the effect of dampening the cycle. There is, however, a dialectic present in the cyclical view of history: the thesis, antithesis, contradiction, and synthesis appear in recursive, rather than convergent, ways.
THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES. Apt. 11-D, Invisible Adjunct, and Sara at Crescat Sententia weigh in on the tensions between moms caring for their kids full time, women caring for their kids and doing paid work, and women without kids doing paid work. (I hope that distinction is consistent with 11-D's and Invisible's observation that raising kids is work and not really equivalent to a hobby.)

But there is a deeper theme running through several of the paid media posts inspiring the commentaries linked above. In Ellen Ostrow it's this: "The problem, it seems to me, is that issues of equity have been framed in the context of balancing work and family life. Understandably, this renders the concerns of people without children or other family obligations as irrelevant." Cady Wells puts it this way: "As a childless faculty member I wonder why the ability for me to have evenings and weekends is not as important. I'm sympathetic to the difficulties of the faculty parent, but it's not necessarily easier being childless. The pressures are just different." And Lisa Belkin goes beyond the Battle of the Sexes: "Women started this conversation about life and work -- a conversation that is slowly coming to include men. Sanity, balance and a new definition of success, it seems, just might be contagious. And instead of women being forced to act like men, men are being freed to act like women. Because women are willing to leave, men are more willing to leave, too -- the number of married men who are full-time caregivers to their children has increased 18 percent. Because women are willing to leave, 46 percent of the employees taking parental leave at Ernst & Young last year were men."

But methinks Belkin doth claim too much, and Ostrow and Wells doth protest too much. We are all ... whether raising children or not, whether working late with the help of artificial light or not, whether tenured or not, whether taking derivatives or playing on the Internet ... seriously underemployed compared to our ancestors of 100 or 150 years ago. Consider, for example, the time squeeze that comes from making time to work out, or to run, or to get the kids to a sporting event. Fast-rewind to a time when we got PAID to work out, shoveling coal into a locomotive, or walking behind a plow, or doing the laundry on a washboard, or chopping wood for the cookstove, or gathering water. Whether I'm keying into Maple or checking the math with paper and pencil, I'm not burning anywhere near the calories I would on any of those other jobs.

And, as I have argued before, we are likely to have a de facto 35 hour work week in the United States, and without the French to legislate it. On the other hand, as I have also noted before, some high-achievers are going to self-identify by working harder than others and that phenomenon is likely to be more visible at universities than in private-sector businesses, because the transaction costs involved in setting up a high achiever university from scratch are likely to be more daunting than the costs involved in similarly setting up a high achiever business.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF OTHERS' SUBSIDIES? Spoons Experience notes that prescription drugs are often expensive in the United States and cheap in other countries because the single-payer health care providers in other countries use a form of monopsony power (sell to us at the price we offer, or sell nothing at all) with the effect that U.S. consumers bear most of the burden of research and development (if the single-payer's price exceeds the avoidable cost of producing the drugs, taxpayers in other countries are kicking something in toward research and development.) Such price policies set up a short-term arbitrage opportunity (this Chicago Tribune editorial recognizes the point) to buy abroad at the controlled price and consume here, which has the effect of exacerbating the shortage of drugs abroad (it is no accident, comrades, that "socialism" comes just after "shortage" and just before "sophomoric" in the dictionary) albeit by reducing the revenues the drug producer expects to earn from the open-market (is it really an open market price with a constraint on overseas prices?) price. Insults Unpunished has been following the price-control and reimportation debate for some time, and the posts cited therein are worth a look.

In other health economics commentaries, Shark Blog notes, yet again, the deleterious effect of third-party payments on the incentive to shop for the best price, a phenomenon also present with guaranteed student loans.
REDISCOVERING APPRENTICESHIPS? Joanne Jacobs notes that trade schools, many of which are private and for-profit stand to benefit as rising populations and tight budgets lead to stiffer admission standards in Arizona (motto: we don't match outside offers to potential Nobel laureates,) a development which is likely to please Highered Intelligence, and perhaps will get the institutions of lower and higher learning to rethink what the highest result of their efforts might be.
IRRATIONAL EXUBERANCE? Would you pay $1000 for a railway-station poster that produced $10 per year in profits?
CRAYON DIVERSITY AWARD. Shark Blog also has a wicked thought. (Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs.) The crayon-box metaphor is popular with many in the ed biz, as it permits all sorts of statements about different colors coexisting in the same box. That crayons come in a box and have pointy heads doesn't seem to occur to such people.
FORCING A NASH EQUILIBRIUM IN PURE STRATEGIES. There is no fortress that Bolsheviks cannot storm. (Hat tip: Volokh Conspiracy.)
BOOKS FOR TROOPS. Will the following address become the next address to be overloaded by civilians?

CPT David Spencer
Task Force 1-63 Armor
c/o 173rd Airborne Brigade
APO AE 09347

Hat tip: The Command Post, who suggests including a brief "thank you" with the book(s) you send.
WALKING THE GREAT HALLS OF OUR YOUTH. Michael Jennings pays tribute to London's St. Pancras, soon to be home to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and the adjacent King's Cross, starting point for the steam-powered non-stoppers to Edinburgh (and, in fiction, for a mis-directed GWR Hall that somehow sneaked under the main trainshed.) London has done better than most North American cities at retaining its classic terminal stations. Although there are still three major stations in Chicago, all three and the Metra Electric are best described as annexes to office towers, although the main waiting room at Union Station honors the classic forms.
SELECTIVE INDIGNATION. Fraters Libertas is unimpressed with the American Library Association's resistance to some provisions of the Patriot Act.
WINNER TAKES ALL. Betsy's Page notes that the New York Yankees scored more runs than the Florida Marlins, but lost the World Series anyway. (And no Florida Supreme Court attempted to rewrite the ground rules after game 2.) She links to a colleague who is attempting, perhaps too earnestly, to draw parallels between the Bowl Championship Series and the primaries. Perhaps the method will work to determine which of the candidates gets the most buzz based on the outcome of the previous week's primaries. There is a parallel between the views of pundits, and the logic of a rating system in which a team with a win over the current #10 and the current #12 and a near-tie with the current #6 fails to crack the top 15 while the #12 it defeats falls to about #25. (Time does not permit an analysis of the weighting of the computer power indicators that figure in calculating the rankings, although there is an interesting mathematics problem in there.)
VISUALIZE GLOBAL POVERTY. Ira Chernus has, although he doesn't recognize it. (Hint: it's not the rich countries that practice import substitution and autarky.)
SECOND BEST? Deionychus antirhopus takes issue with an Economist editorial looking at future substitutes for fossil fuels. He hits on a problem that frequently perplexes students, the effect of a monopoly price on the production of a good that has a negative nonpecuniary externality.

I was reading the editorial in question this morning, and had a wicked thought: wouldn't successful hydrogen fuel cell technology for automobiles lead to even bigger land yachts?

SECOND SECTION: Day By Day has a somewhat different wicked thought.
CUE ZARATHRUSTRA. Details at Newmark's Door.
OVER-RIDE. Marginal Revolution discovers that the traffic-light override transmitter intended for emergency vehicles is available commercially.
NOSTALGIA TRIP. Econo Pundit pays tribute to John McCutcheon's "Injun Summer." I still have a yellowed copy clipped out of the Chicago Tribune Magazine, possibly the last time it ran.
DICTATORSHIP OF THE NOBEL LAUREATE. Excellent precis of many of Joseph Stiglitz's writings, at Econ Log.

27.10.03

OSAMA'S BEST FRIEND. Via Milt's File, more on a possible Saddam-Osama connection, and some new information about Fall Porsche.
SEPARATING EQUILIBRIUM? Invisible Adjunct comments on the potential instability of the academic caste system (particularly in the humanities, but it's a cautionary tale for other disciplines) and on the bidding war for academic superstars, linking a David L. Kirp editorial column that King at SCSU Scholars evaluates somewhat differently.

To repeat: (Put in professor-speak: even the brightest among you could benefit from a modicum of repetition. In Road Foreman-speak, it's more like "No matter how #@*& many times I say this, one of you %@+$ is going to *@%= it up!) The academic job market does not exist in isolation of the rest of the world. Good researchers can command high salaries for doing research on problems others find interesting, and if they're devoted enough, they can make time to publish some of it. Academic research is not so devoid of value added that universities can tell good researchers to teach more classes and forget about their researches, without at least some of them leaving. And as King notes, some people might want to stay in the university for the teaching opportunities, and a few might express relief at being exempt from doing further research. In the absence of more precise instruments, it makes sense to see salaries and job descriptions being tweaked in such a way as to attract people to jobs. Those tweaks might even match the right people with the right jobs.
SWIM SAID THE MAMMA FISHY, SWIM IF YOU CAN. Via Invisible Adjunct, additional coverage of Stanley Fish's career development.
PRINCIPAL-AGENT PROBLEM? The Calico Cat takes a look at the possibly perverse effects of government-guaranteed student loans. Salient points:

"The article fails to ask the basic question of why the federal government is involved in this business at all. If the colleges the students were attending really offered such a valuable proposition to the students, then I'm certain that the colleges themselves would be able to arrange loan based financing."

Or, the students could borrow against their future earning power. Problem: jobs offer differing combinations of pecuniary and non-pecuniary benefits. Lenders expect to be repaid out of the pecuniary benefits. (None of what I'm noting here is original with me. I choose to borrowing freely from Free to Choose (details or compare prices.) Students who borrow against future earnings have incentives to seek remunerative careers, which furthers the transformation of an institution of higher learning into Certification University, to the exclusion of those nonpecuniary externalities and the love of learning. Put another way, that might mean the end of theologians, social workers, poets, and musicians.

"The article mentioned how the cost of college education has been increasing faster than the rate of inflation, but the issue of why was never addressed. I believe student loans are part of the reason. By making more money available to students, this just gives the colleges the leeway to raise tuition even more."

Ayup. Here's the principal-agent problem in a nutshell. The taxpayer has given the student a put option on the education received, and attenuated his incentive to conserve resources. That's a separate issue from optimally financing the production of the next generation of preachers and composers.

Here, however, the Calico Cat's argument begins to break down:

"I know it's very anti-mainstream to question the value of a college education, but I'm going to go ahead and question it anyway. My experience is that the majority of college students are just in it for the piece of paper they get at the end which they think will be a ticket to a 'good job.' Yet we have so many college students graduating with no job awaiting them at all. And then to add insult to injury, they are burdened with student loan payments of hundreds of dollars per month. This is debt that can never even be discharged in bankruptcy.

"How are we benefiting society if we make kids get themselves deeply into debt so they can obtain the same jobs that people obtained a generation ago with no college degree at all? Student loan proponents will say that without student loans, people will be denied the opportunity to advance themselves. I say that without federally guaranteed student loans, the bright students who would be able to benefit from a college education will still be able to obtain funding. The marginal students, who don't belong in college anyway, will also be better off because they will be able to get the same job they would have gotten anyway, except they won't be burdened with having to pay back student loans
."

If I grant the first and second sentences, I see no reason not to grant borrowing against future earnings (or, for that matter, charging tuitions for high schools.) The third to the fifth sentences conflate a number of things: students picking the wrong major, students opting into more enjoyable but less rewarding careers, and students exercising the put options. And the transition to the second paragraph doesn't work. What Calico Cat has really recognized is the breakdown of the existing elementary and secondary education, such that the university degree often certifies an entry level file clerk who in years past would have been so-equipped by the tenth grade, with six to ten years of additional on-the-job career development available to him that Self Esteem High and Beer and Circus U have taken for the non-productive reasons the Calico Cat has noted. (And it is also worth noting that the return to experience on the job might be greater than the marginal return to years of schooling, although evaluating these returns on a ceteris paribus) basis is difficult.
CIRCUMSTANCES ALTER CASES. Dissecting Leftism rediscovers this ancient maxim. (Hat tip: Common Sense and Wonder.)
DO SEATBELTS KILL? De Longs, father and son revisit the research.
MORE ACREAGE THAN PESHTIGO, MORE PEOPLE THAN CHICAGO. Citizen Smash has continuing coverage of the California wildfires, with the right answers to some uninformed questions. And so soon after Fire Prevention Week.
59 MINUTES. OK, I'm prepared. Arnold Kling's nonlinear thinking problem is a variant on the lily-pad problem: you see a lily pad on your pond. The next day you see two, and the day after that you see four. It takes a week to schedule the pond service. If you make the appointment when the pond is 1/4 covered, will you save your pond? But there's more to modelling than getting the functional forms right. As the essay goes on to note, you have to think about the omitted variables as well.
SIMPLIFYING. Apt. 11-D notes women and men opting off the treadmill. Number 2 Pencil commends voluntary simplicit. A caution: if you go to the link, you will be offered numerous books. There's something about doing all that reading up that strikes me as anything but "simplicity."

SECOND SECTION: Via Milt's File, some coverage of the 25 percent of adults living alone, and the growing recognition that employers cannot treat the singles as a reserve army to cover for the family men and women leaving work early.
LOSS LEADER? Transport Blog is looking for the value to an airline in flying a supersonic aircraft that loses the airline money. Ah, the economics of common and joint costs. There is a market test, but reality doesn't permit sufficient impoundment in ceteris paribus. Specifically, does the airline lose business on conventional aircraft once it discontinues the supersonic aircraft? This is a non-trivial problem with real penalties for getting it wrong. Case in point: the Milwaukee Road becoming the operator of the Union Pacific City trains from 1955 to 1971 in the hopes that doing so would attract more freight shippers. That strategy failed, miserably.
YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST. World Series television ratings second-or-third lowest. Advantage: Cold Spring Shops.

In other entertainment news, Britney proposes to clean up her act.
CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME?. Marginal Revolution compares remittances by immigrant workers, usually to family members, with foreign aid, extracted from taxpayers and transferred to government officials, in ways not favorable to the foreign aid or to the donor nations. The numbers suggest that additional work on the economics of illegal immigration, in light of remittances and the recent raids at Wal-Mart.

SECOND SECTION: Truck and Barter has coverage of these topics, with some impressions about how well-paid (compared to some pretty crummy options) some illegal migrants are.
CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS calls at The Noble Pundit. Carnival founder Jay Solo solicits comments on the suggestion that the term "Carnival of ..." is becoming overused as indicating a compendium of submitted weblog posts. I maintain that such a signal has value provided the object of the preposition is well-defined. "The Capitalists" doesn't quite do it for posts involving both business, where it fits, and economics, where it doesn't, but it's close enough. On the other hand, the editors of this Carnival have been identifying interesting non-submitted posts, suggesting something more akin to a proceedings volume.

26.10.03

A DILBERT MOMENT. From the latest announcement of faculty "development" workshops (most of the "development" is training in the use of various electronic gadgets including online gradebooks, Blackboard, and Power Point) is this:

Faculty Diversity Workshop for Department Chairs

"The purpose of this workshop is to discuss the definition, the context, and the significatnce of diversity, share experiences in the recruitment of diverse faculty, and engage in a dialog on addressing faculty diversity. The workshop will include a panel presentation by several department chairs, and small group and large group discussions. The workshop will be an opportunity to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialog on these diversity issues with your colleagues and share ideas and success stories that could benefit your department and college. This workshop is for academic department chairs. Advanced registration is required."

I wonder if "meaningful and constructive" includes incorporating viewpoint diversity in the definition or significance of diversity, or if it's simply a way of reducing confusion.
NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED. Critical Mass discovers whistleblowers and cowardly administrators. You'd think that information about unscrupulous competitors would be something a university administration would welcome being circulated, but remember as you read the article, and the extensive cross-references, that you're dealing with the University of Illinois.
NOT PHOTOSHOPPED

There is nothing wrong with this picture.

Details, and more pictures here.
FARMING OUT THE KIDS. In this post I noted that a Mother Jones quote would likely turn up after I had logged off. It proved to be somewhat longer after than I had anticipated, but it turned up. Or did it? The only Google reference I found to it was this Bill Kauffman essay, part of this The American Enterprise issue, without further footnoting. Note also the context: Mother Jones was in particular displeased with the upper-class practice of contracting out child rearing to poorer people, generally poorer women.
CORPORATE WELFARE WINS THE SERIES. There is more to my complaint about the Florida Marlins than the symbolism of edgy mixing with phony artiness in their black-and-teal uniforms. Reason's Matt Welch has done some research, commending in particular some research by economist Andrew Zimbalist.
THOSE MISSING RED CARS. With the next Carnival of the Vanities to call at Who Framed Blogger Rabbit, it's fitting to visit, once again, the sub-plot in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? about the disappearance of the Red Cars. (Only a temporary disappearance, they've returned to San Pedro and there's more background here.) Anyway, here's a summary of research on the disappearing Red Cars, and this site might be of interest.

SECOND SECTION: The electric cars are making a comeback elsewhere, and yes, the author is that Paul Weyrich.
NEITHER LIBERTY NOR SECURITY. Opinion Journal proposes another look at U. S. immigration policy. Note in particular the discussion of immigrant enrollment in Ph.D. programs. There are at least two hypotheses that come to mind for those programs not attracting domestic students. One, the return to a professional degree such as law, medicine, or accounting, is greater than the return to a research degree, employment opportunities in high-tech notwithstanding. Two, the secondary and undergraduate education has become sufficiently watered down that domestic students simply cannot cut it in the graduate programs.

SECOND SECTION: Although not specifically about immigration, Academic Game's thoughts on funding graduate programs based on Ph.D. placement are worth a look.
BOGGED DOWN?

(Via Insta Pundit. News story here, and Hit and Run comments on the geopolitical implications. More here.)
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW. Instant replay preserves a Bear victory, when the Detroit player who caught an on-side kick attempt is discovered to have caught the ball before it had bounced 10 yards.
CALLING SENATOR PROXMIRE, who used to issue something called the "Golden Fleece Award." Taxpayers for Common Sense have taken up the cause, at Senator Proxmire's urging, and the linked site provides a great deal of history of the awards, which often made the academy angry (and which inspired parallels here.) Over the summer, I learned of a project that is almost certainly worthy of a Golden Fleece Award. I received a lengthy survey from something called the Human Dimensions in Natural Resources Unit at Colorado State Unit seeking my comments on the aesthetic effects of allowing elk to browse in Rocky Mountain National Park. The last time I visited that park was nearly 40 years ago, and at the time bears would roam the camp grounds. The survey did not include "reintroducing wolves" or "extending elk season" as options. Your tax dollars are at work measuring Public Preferences for Elk and Vegetation Management in Rocky Mountain National Park. (Are there any gold-bearing streams in the area? One could skin a mountain goat, leave it in the stream for a while, and get some real golden fleece to present to Colorado State.)
TRULY GOOFY PASTIMES. From Where Worlds Collide comes news of the ten dorkiest hobbies (as viewed from a San Francisco perspective.) Model railroading is not on the list, but one wonders about the accuracy of the rest of the list. Consider the description of scrapbooking. If memory serves, just about everybody who gets married puts together a scrapbook or six, and as far as I know, the scrapbookers as described in the final paragraph have not discovered spontaneous generation.

25.10.03

GROWING MARIGOLDS IN NOVEMBER? A Small Victory compares and contrasts the current antiwar protests with those of 1968. And Leon Trotsky has to be shaking the very foundations of hell upon learning about this.
DIRIGISME KEEPS THE FRENCH POOR. Marginal Revolution surveys some research on the effects of lower marginal tax rates on economic welfare in France.
MEAN REVERSION? Econo Pundit offers a lengthy evaluation of the consequences of the unwinding of a bubble economy on economic growth and the employment rate.
CHUNKING, AND HIGH-SCHOOL ENVY? Academic Game objects to the tyranny of the fifty minute MWF class.
LIBERTARIANISM, DEPENDENCE, CHARITY, AND EQUALITY. Chris at Crooked Timber has some thoughts here and here.
THUD. The celebrating in the State Line area is by Northwestern fans, after their team outthought Wisconsin, including a couple of trick plays on fourth down in the red zone. (What's that old line about "fool me once ...") Bowling Green, a team that came within an end-zone interception of forcing overtime with Ohio State, ended the Northern Illinois run, which figures, given the recognition the team has begun to attract, including an evidently successful fundraising campaign for the indoor practice field.
STANDING DOWN. The University of Illinois at Chicago announces that Dean Stanley Fish will not be seeking reappointment. Too soon to interpret what that means. Perhaps Illinois-Chicago will appoint a dean who recognizes that with academic freedom comes academic responsibility, both of which Dean Fish has been complicit in degrading during his career, and neither of which he grasps.
FRAMING BIASES? Avrum Lank sees some pitfalls with proposals to make consumer economics classes mandatory in high school, and with some of the test questions.
THE DOWN SIDE OF TENURE. Joanne Jacobs links to a Bob Herbert column identifying uncaring (and difficult to fire?) teachers as one source of misbehaving students. Jacobs focuses on one encouraging trend: opinion leaders in minority communities losing patience with the popular notion that behaving badly is a manifestation of authentic behavior. (One of the more discouraging things I discovered in Detroit many years ago was the equation of doing well in school with "acting white." That is not exactly what my parents and their peers envisioned in seeking an end to separate-but-equal.)

Herbert's column does not mention teacher tenure, but the hypothesis that teachers more difficult to fire for cause are more likely to look the other way at students opting out merits further investigation.
THE OPTIMALITY OF LESSER-EVIL POLITICS? Lexington Green at Chicago Boyz elaborates a corollary to the median voter theorem, which, to the extent that it is correct, illustrates the unintended consequences of supporting third party efforts in national elections.

23.10.03

ICH NAJPIEKNA GODZINA. Wednesday evening's Extension 720 featured Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud providing some information about their new book, A Question of Honor: The Forgotten Polish Heroes of World War II. The heroes in question are aviators of the Kosciuszko Squadron, who were instrumental in winning the Battle of Britain.

There is currently no Kosciuszko Squadron in the Polish Air Force. Perhaps with their purchase of some F-16s, it is time to start a new one. The Polish Embassy website provides a link for letters (sending thanks for their help in Iraq is also a good idea) and Poland has lots of potential as a tourist destination. (For something really different, check out the Wolsztyn Experience (it's the only place in the world where a visitor can run big steam on the mainline under the supervision of a pilot engineer.))

(A note on pronunciations: it's kosh-CHOO-sko, and more's the pity that baseball announcers couldn't handle Aloysius Szymanski.)
FINDING THOSE MARKET TESTS. Invisible Adjunct has weighed in on Stanley Fish's response to Congressional criticism, first noted on these pages here, where I focused on the role external labor markets play in disciplining the university. Invisible Adjunct puts rather precisely a different, yet related point: "The one point that I would query: as I read it, it's not so much that Fish's elitism undermines his argument as that his argument is underpinned by an elitism that will no longer fly with the public." That, dear readers, is where the market test still comes in, protestations contrary to "And on the matter of accountability, I think Fish does a bit of pandering of his own, invoking the spectre of college curricula determined by popular plebiscite in order to highlight the dangers of running the college as a business that responds to consumer demand" notwithstanding. Let's walk the cat backwards. In the absence of some kind of demand (from my earlier post, "we have not yet disposed of the hypothesis that creature comforts are cheaper than a prestige faculty as means to encouraging enrollments" still remains an open question) there is no university. The reason I focus on the failures of the universities is that those failures drive recruiters away from the job fairs, those graduates who get hired as symbolic analysts will lose their audiences (classes, congregations, readers, viewers, clients, you name it) and the students will find other ways to demonstrate their capabilities. (If you really want to worry, imagine internships without sophomore or junior standing. We used to call such things apprenticeships, and they ran for seven years.) Although the academy operates in part apart from the market, it cannot operate in complete isolation from it. I think Invisible Adjunct gets that. Problem: the following paragraph presupposes that there are some nonpecuniary positive externalities to a university degree: "Ultimately accountable in the sense that public institutions must serve, and must be seen to serve, some public mission and/or some idea of the public good. This is tricky to argue, the more so as some members of the broader public would use 'accountability' to undermine the very principles on which higher education in a liberal democracy must rest." Absent a sound core curriculum, there might be no such spillovers. (That was one of my observations here.)
IF YOU'RE SO SMART, WHY AREN'T YOU RICH? A Fisking (complete with grammar checking) of some wishful thinking. Frederic Bastiat, call your office.
RED LIGHT DISTRICTS. The plague of badly-timed traffic lights spreads to Des Moines, Iowa. (Hat tip: Cornfield Commentary.)
PONDEROUSLY BAD WRITING. Photon Courier found a Chronicle of Higher Education colloquy using a Richard Wolin commentary (not quite a review) of Ted Honderich's After the Terror (details, including some provocative consumer reviews, or compare prices.) It is difficult to take seriously any writing that perpetuates, however innocently, the distinction between revolutionary and reactionary violence, in particular when it involves a stretch such as linking the nostalgia for the Caliphate with the class struggle because 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center. To his credit, Wolin doesn't buy it either. The moderated comments are worth a look (this one suggests the academy might ask of the populace, "does this conversation induce them to hate us?) and Academic Game both participates and provides a roundup.
LOWER YOUR VOICES. EconoPundit asks the court intellectuals among the economists to keep their disagreements civil. While you're visiting his site, look at this. There are other kinds of rollbacks at Wal-Mart.
MORE ON THE ACADEMIC RHUBARB. Number 2 Pencil, Twilight of the Idols, and Number 2 Pencil yet again have some more commentary and information about the grade-change lawsuit at Northwestern. Commentary is still conjectural; nothing to change my previous assessment of a test of power gone wrong.
BUILD SERIOUS TRAINS. Chris at Crooked Timber points to a Guardian article about the latest thoughts about dealing with leaves on the rails. Key sentence: "The real problems began with the advent of the lighter diesel and electric trains, particularly the fleet of 158 diesels introduced in 1992-93." I think what the reporter is referring to is the Class 158 DMU, otherwise known as the Sprinter units. They are lightweight trains without much by way of sand boxes.
RECOMMENDED RAILWAY REFERENCES. Where Worlds Collide introduces each edition of Carnival of the Vanities with a diesel-themed pun. For North American readers, here is a little background. British Rail adopted a numbering system wherein each type of locomotive has a two-digit class number, roughly suggestive of its power (thus a Class 66 is more powerful than a Class 57 and a Class 57 is more powerful than a Class 20) and a three-digit unit identifying number, which sometimes communicates via the third digit additional information about the type of service intended for that unit. Such a numbering scheme, while sensible, would not be practical in the United States, where a computer program for keeping track of locomotives allows a maximum of four digits in the locomotive number. (As Dave Barry would put it, I am not making this up. I forget whose computer program this is and what its purpose is, but recall that it is very useful to the railroads. Union Pacific registered a new reporting mark, UPY, so as to keep track of more than 10,000 locomotives without requiring a rewrite of this program.)

The latest Carnival invokes the Class 57, an upgrade using the bodies and trucks of the Class 47, an alternator from retired class 56 units (the link points to what looks like a train simulator,) and a new diesel engine from Electro-Motive Division. That makes the Class 57 something with no direct analogue to North America. The 2500 hp SD-35 of some 40 years ago had the 567-series (cubic inches per cylinder) diesel whilst the Class 57 gets a 2500 hp 645-series diesel not applied to anything currently running on rails.

The link to Carnival 55 underplays the significance of the Deltic Class passenger diesels, so-named for the triangular shape of the three banks of opposed pistons that made up the engine. The result is a compact and powerful prime mover. At the time of construction, these were the most powerful twin-engined diesel locomotives in the world, but the statement that they were also the "fastest at the time of construction" is accurate only because Electro-Motive Divisions E7 passenger diesels (2X1000 hp engines) with a design speed of 117 mph were already out of production for 10 years.

The opposed-piston design concept made for powerful prime movers. The most notable was the 1954 Fairbanks-Morse Train Master, with one 2400 hp engine. The idea was probably 10 years ahead of its time, and if you could fit two such engines onto one frame, you'd exceed the power of the Deltics. The problem with the Fairbanks-Morse opposed piston design was with the lower crankshaft, which was not easy to maintain. Moreover, the engine was very tall.

Where Worlds Collide also kindly provided a link to this picture. North American readers, what you are looking at is a European double-ended Electro Motive F7. (Wouldn't the Belgian paint scheme have looked good on a New Haven EP-5?) British Railways might have spared themselves a lot of trouble had they figured out a way to further shrink the European double-ender to fit the loading gauge, rather than fool with all sorts of experimental units, and German hydraulic transmissions, and other such follies.

Where Worlds Collide also finds a description of an advanced-technology steam locomotive good for 125 mph, proposed to be built new. A shame that the UK loading gauge does not permit any of these (particularly the Milwaukee 4-6-4.)
TRIBUTE TO A DISTINCTIVE AIRCRAFT. Transport Biog notes the end of the production line for the Boeing 757. It is a distinctive plane, unlikely to be mistaken by an observer for anything else, although perhaps not as distinctive as the Stratocruiser or the Constellation.
NO VANGUARD HERE. Go your own way and leave a trail. Truck and Barter's mom did.
CONJURING TRICK. If you're a university administrator, the word "access" has for a long time meant "enrolling unprepared students." The conjuring trick the PC crowd has pulled off is to make denial of that reality into a virtue. Namely, anyone crass enough to point out that "protected status" means "admitted with less preparation" is guilty of incorrect thinking for daring to point that out. Joanne Jacobs discovers a recent example of the conjuring trick at work.

In a related post, Milt's File finds a guide to a few other verbal conjuring tricks.

SECOND SECTION: The University of California at Los Angeles (motto: On! Wisconsin!) apparently also provides such access.
UTILITARIANISM. Invisible Adjunct questions the University of Nebraska at Lincoln declaring a financial emergency and laying off tenured faculty members whilst diverting more resources to the football program. To answer one of her questions with a question: what do we know about the accounting procedures at Nebraska? The football program might generate a surplus on a cash flow basis, but if it pays no rent (explicit or implicit) on the stadium, practice field, alumni house, golf course, (you get the picture) or if, as is the case at Northern Illinois University, student fees go to pay the mortgage interest on such things, then on an opportunity cost basis it loses money. I recall reading a book a few years ago, one of the late-1980s criticisms of intercollegiate sports, that asserted no program made money once such transfers and subsidies were taken into account. The effects of on-field success on alumni giving, or on enrollments were also mixed.
PRESERVATION. Common Sense and Wonder discovers industrial policy, California style. I wonder if among the favored industries are the rice growers. That was the source of a trade flap some 20 years ago when Japanese Customs blocked the entry of a display that included some U.S. grown rice. (That's still a rather tender subject.) Some Midwestern industrial policy types were quick to complain about Japan exporting cars and protecting their rice farmers. The growing of rice in Northern California, however, using subsidized water from flood-control projects, is hard to distinguish from dumping.
POSITIONAL ARMS RACES. Apartment 11-D has about the right reaction to the status anxieties of some of her neighbors (she has not yet mentioned the expensive Brio trains that may be mandatory for high-achieving kids) and some experience navigating school choice in New York City.
WHY I'M PROUD TO BE AN ECONOMIST. Newmark's Door finds an economics department that has about the right attitude toward administrative assessment of the obvious.
57 VARIETIES. Carnival of the Vanities makes a surprise stop this week. Next week's stop is at Who Censored Blogger Rabbit (are we going to revisit the National City Lines case again?) who promises not to be surprised by submissions. (Hat tip: the ever-hit-welcoming Jay Solo's Verbosity.) Go bump his daily counter!

21.10.03

INCOMPLETE COVERAGE? (No, this is not an editorial on the Packer secondary.) Of what value is a report on college tuitions and fees that gives only the industry's story and laments the passing of the old social compact as if the universities are blameless in breaking it.
DON'T SURF IN THE SUBWAY. There are no handholds on the roof, and clearances are restricted. Once again we see a rule underlined in blood.
THE STATE STREET SUBWAY L. Moving commuters for sixty years. Most exotic train movements in the subway? Has to be the two Electroliner detours.
LEFT, RIGHT, LIBERTARIAN? Nolan Finley sees the concentration of state power for conservative purposes, correctly notes, "Conservatives shrug off these erosions of their principles because the people who control the White House and Congress have R's after their names.

"But they should remember the inevitability of political cycles. Someday, the more powerful federal government they've crafted will be run by Democrats. What will they say when the National Education Association is writing local school policy?

"How loudly will they whelp when those new powers to poke and pry into private lives are in the hands of President Hillary?
"
DERIVED DEMAND. Let's see, if you attempt to protect the incomes (or pension funds, or maybe it's the blast furnaces) of steel producers, you make life more difficult for fabricators of steel products including all sorts of automotive stampings. (Hat tip: Liberty and Power, who commends this source.)
CORNER SOLUTION. Truck and Barter has other commitments. Atlantic Blog has other commitments. Make that three. Postings will continue to be light the next few days. Thanks for your interest.

20.10.03

BEER AND CIRCUSES. Invisible Adjunct proposes a closer look at the disconnect between college sports and higher education. It's worth taking that look. The Northern Huskies got some ink from Sports Illustrated for inter alia recruiting local players and making do with a locker room smaller than one of Saddam's palaces. That doesn't stop some people from dreaming. The latest plans are for a new indoor practice facility on the former outdoor track and field site (there is a new track squad, Title IX and all that, thanks, Hillary, and presumably there will have to be a new track and field site) and for a new alumni house. The latter has prompted some resentment, as there was money from somewhere to hire a plane towing a banner plugging the alumni house, but there is not at present money for paper to duplicate assignments.
FUTURE GARY BECKER? The economics of student dating. (Via Newmark's Door.) Looks like evidence of successful teaching. At the end of last semester one student, a secondary education major seeking a social studies certificate, noted that she could no longer make a decision without thinking about the opportunity cost. The cited column is evidence of a little bit of learning going on.
IN PRAISE OF HOME SCHOOLING. What he said. (Via Highered Intelligence.)
PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES. Students at Northern Illinois University pay an activity fee to underwrite the operating deficits of the Athletic Department and to pay the mortgage interest for the arena. In exchange, students in good standing may view athletic events on the strength of a current ID card. The system told us something about the scarcity of an unpriced resource, or about sunk costs, in that an ID card holder would be able to get a pretty good seat right up to game time. Until this fall, that is. The Athletic Department has set aside 6000 football tickets to be claimed by students, initially at the arena, more recently (after complaints about how out of the way the arena was) at the student center. Those tickets have become the hottest football tickets in the State Line area of late. What happens when the Athletic Department sets up an arbitrage opportunity? Yup. Is the phenomenon at all well understood by editorial writers? Nope.
KEEPING THE POOR POOR? Common Sense and Wonder discovers a new twist on that theme.
HIT AFTER HIT AFTER HIT. Joanne Jacobs was kind enough to link to this article (October 9 postings, in case the permalinks are not working properly.) If you've arrived here looking around for more on the misplaced priorities of the recreational university, look here (October 14 postings) for some followup. More on that topic on deck for tonight's launches. Derivative taking first.
CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS calls at Jay Solo's Verbosity.

18.10.03

RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS. Chicago's Metra commuter railroad charges passengers a $2 surcharge for purchasing tickets on the train, if the passenger boards at a station with an open ticket office. (A lot of occasional passengers boarding at Chicago get caught at this. The stories they give about the ticket windows being closed are sometimes amusing.) Today, a passenger on a train (I will not disclose what train or what destination) offered a cash fare on a train leaving Chicago. The collector determined that the passenger would pay less for the $5 weekend pass than for the one-way cash fare, and sold the passenger the weekend pass with no surcharge.
THUD. There's a potentially interesting research paper, provided the information is available, on the pricing of commercial rights to the World Series broadcast. A week ago, those advertising rights might have had great value, with the possibility still alive of a Series featuring the country's two sentimental favorites. The actual Series features a metaphor for everything that was wrong with the 1990s playing the Yankees. What value are commercial rights to that?
7-0. That's both the record and the margin after two plays for the Northern Illinois Huskies. No need for come-from-behind heroics on Homecoming Day. North of the Cheddar Curtain, Homecoming did not turn out so well for the Badgers.

Whether or not there is a Sports Illustrated jinx, the print edition of Sports Illustrated that featured Northern Illinois at 5-0 put the Cubs and the Red Sox on the cover of the issue.
NO RELOCATION TO A PAID HOST. Check out this opportunity cost. (The big radiators aft are there because the builder adapted a submarine cooling system to a locomotive.)
TRANSPARENCY? Is a stealth pay raise for high university officials less bad if some of the participants in the meeting exoress qualms?
NO DROPPED SIGNAL. The reporter, clearly, has little experience with railroads. It's yellow. YELLOW. The rubberheads refer to amber lights. The only reference I've ever seen to amber lights in a railroading context is with respect to the bulbs in the Pennsylvania Railroad position light signals. The Rock Island Line did not use those. (I know of an obscure installation on one of the other Chicago suburban lines, now removed. Any guesses?)
THE TWO INCOME TRAP, CLIFF-NOTES-VERSION: The authors of The Two-Income Trap (book details and initial statement of their logical error here, followup here,) are no better with the short form (registration required) of their argument, couched in the form of an open letter to Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. Key point: "Mr. Greenspan, you are widely credited with a long-running economic boom and a soft recession. But what has happened to middle-class families during your reign? A generation ago, the average American family lived on one income, put away 11 percent of its take-home pay in savings and carried a consumer debt load of less than 4 percent. Today, for a typical two-income family, inflation adjusted income has risen 75 percent, but by the time they pay the mortgage, health insurance, car payments, taxes and day-care bills, they have less to spend on everything else, from food and clothes to life insurance and vacations. And they put away a scant 1 percent in savings, while shouldering a whopping 12 percent in consumer debt load--triple the load their parents carried."

Yeah, we were a lot richer when all the women were at home barefoot and pregnant and mindin' the youngins. Curiously, a lot of those women, and not a few of the men who appreciated them, thought differently. There are laws of conservation in economics, of which the Say Aggregation Principle is an important one. There's more to the middle-class squeeze than monetary policy. There are also coping strategies available to families. Don't buy the McMansion in the first place. Ditto the SUV that looks like a Kenworth bobtail. Homeschool. Ditch the organized sports and let the kids organize their own recreation. Encourage the kids to work their way through college. Cut up the credit cards. Start a victory garden.
NOTICE OF LINE RELOCATION

Operation Give
7155 Columbia Gateway Drive
Columbia, MD 21046

(Hat tip: Citizen Smash.)

16.10.03

WHAT'S WITH THESE KIDS? Football and hazing isn't just for Pennsylvanians anymore. Some students in the Rockford, Illinois area misbehaved in a locker room. The attitude of some parents: no big deal. OK, is it no big deal when, after seven years at Beer and Circus U., they become boomerang kids? In Port Washington, Wisconsin, a cheerleading coach saw something happening and didn't get involved for fear of being hazed herself? What's up with a school district paying a 20-year old $2800 to be a cheerleading coach?
CASSUS BELLI? Q and O evaluates nineteen justifications for ousting Saddam's government. Round III of the moderated debate on the rhetoric is up at Daniel Drezner.
BENEFIT PRINCIPLE? Chicago contemplates a variety of fees rather than higher property taxes. A. C. Pigou, call your office. Meanwhile, the Tribune auto section reviews the latest tax magnet. Something there is about the Cadillac truck line that leaves me cold. I have visions of some now naturally-bald Thirteener, with saggy tattoos and a gray dirty-face goatee, driving one of these things with the bass cannons booming.
COMPENSATING DIFFERENTIALS? So much work left to do ... here is a letter lamenting the outcome of the new trash-haulers' contract:

"Most people in the helping professions, such as teachers and social workers, don't earn as much as garbage collectors.

"While watching the news, I heard that the drivers make as much as $60,000 per year.

"There are professionals who have master's degrees who don't make that amount.
"

OK, you get up at 3.30 on summer mornings, in order to have your run done by 2 pm so that the stuff you're collecting hasn't festered in the heat all day. Or contemplate setting your rump against a UPS triple ... that's another kind of truck, and it goes to nicer neighborhoods than your truck does, and it hauls nicer-smelling cargo. Maybe the opportunity to sit in an office and do corporal acts of mercy, or compel others to do the acts of mercy for you, is worth a few dollars off your pay. Or maybe, just maybe, those Master's degrees are devalued credentials.
DROPPING A SIGNAL? The latest news (requires registration) about the weekend Metra derailment gets curiouser and curiouser. The engineer continues to claim he saw signals indicating a clear route. The dispatcher did set up the route after the train had left the station. A safety inspector makes a strange comment about "only one warning." That would be true of a signal system without an advance approach aspect. The previous stories suggest the Rock Island line uses an advance approach aspect. But then the engineer ought to get two warnings: the approach aspect on the distant signal and the medium clear on the home signal. Once the train has passed the distant signal, the circuitry ought to lock up, indicating that the train has accepted the signal. The dispatcher can reset the route, but a timer prevents him from changing the positions of any switches. The home signal immediately goes to red, and the engineer has a very nervous time of it. The purpose of the timer is to prevent the dispatcher from throwing any switches under the train or in advance of a train travelling too fast to safely negotiate a reversed switch.

There are some interesting simulations of signals and of trains should you want to try any of this at home. I recommend the products of Signal Computer Consultants. The dispatcher simulator includes the run-time feature if you change your mind, and you'll discover with some of the track territories why you can't set the entire route for a train before it leaves its first station. This train simulator is not as well known as Microsoft's, but in some ways it is better. For instance, if you want to put a diesel on its side, just run the Virginia Rail Express train northbound and disregard the first open crossover you'll encounter, near Fredericksburg. Rather spectacular graphics.
HOLD-UP PROBLEM? City claims the trains are blocking the road crossings unreasonably. Railroad says there are too many crossings. Throw in a whistle-blowing law (registration required) and an experimental noise-abatement project, and things get ugly.
OUR NEIGHBORS AT WAR. Northern Illinois University volleyball player Brooke Dodson has a brother billeted in one of Saddam's houses, probably the poshest rat-infested parts of Baghdad. (The family group picture in the article shows the Hudson River Valley near West Point. Pretty country.)
MINIMUM DIFFERENTIATION. Truck and Barter takes up the perpetual discount problem and the minimum differentiation principle by identifying minimal clustering of rug merchants in his neighborhood. The general topic might reward further study; in fact there might be a dissertation or so lurking in it. Readers might want to look at Jean-Claude Thill, "A Note on Multipurpose and Multistop Shopping, Sales, and Market Areas of Firms," an extensively documented positive theory of shopping behavior in the November 1986 Journal of Regional Science, and at Charles ReVelle, "The Maximum Capture or 'Sphere of Influence' Location Problem: Hotelling Revisited on a Network," which is an attempt to cope with the analytically intractible multi-firm, two-dimension location problem, in the May 1986 issue of the same Journal. Atsuyuki Okabe et. al. offer "A Statistical Analysis of the Spatial Association of Convenience-Goods Stores by use of a Random Clumping Model," in the February 1985 issue, and that paper cites some previous efforts to determine why some types of stores cluster and others scatter.
SCHADENFREUDE. There is joy in Chicago this morning, for White Sox fans. (Requires registration.) Regular readers will recall that these pages took some joy in the end of the season for the team formerly known as the Milwaukee Braves. (And if you go here and advance to picture 5, you just know he's thinking, "I shouldn't have whacked that sausage.")

Some biographical information about the fan who got his hand on a pop foul in the sixth game are germane to the more serious topics featured on these pages. We have a twenty-five year old boomerang kid with a degree from Notre Dame working as one of thousands of benefits specialists at an outsourcing and consulting firm. A college degree to answer phones? Do I hear an echo? On the other hand, he took the job in order to be able to schedule travel time to coach some high-achieving Little Leaguers. That sounds like an alternative to the 24/7 treadmill. And Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass correctly notes, the Cubs folded on their own. The weakness noted here manifested itself again.

15.10.03

PADDING? Airlines don't do it, notes USA Today's Ben Mutzabaugh. Perhaps not as notoriously as Amtrak, where the Hiawatha Service trains and the westbound Empire Builder routinely do Chicago-Glenview in about twenty minutes, while the eastbound Empire Builder has close to an hour. But an observation by Scott McCartney, "The reality is that padding the schedule is an extremely expensive, potentially disastrous thing to do." from a Wall Street Journal paid article, misses the point. The problem with lengthening the schedule and the turn-around times is that the airline will have to have more airplanes (railroads have a similar problem) on hand to fulfill all the schedules. But if planes get behind schedule, whether account weather or traffic control problems, or bad gate management, or slow-loading passenger, planes will in time be unable to fulfill the next leg of their scheduled trip. (If you want to complicate things further, make sure that each plane gets to the right maintenance base in time for its next required inspection.)

One reason you'll sometimes read a gripe on these pages about how slow Amtrak's schedules are is that the carrier would likely be able to provide a bit more space on the more popular trains at peak times if the cars moved about the country more rapidly. There is a standard consist for many of Amtrak's long distance trains, such that a train might run New Orleans to Chicago and after cleaning become a Chicago to Seattle train. Similarly, a train from California might be cleaned and dispatched to Washington, D.C. Many of these cars spend a day sitting in Chicago because the slow schedules (and late running anyway) mean the cars arrive Chicago with insufficient time to properly clean and restock them to go back out later that day.
ROUND AND ROUND ON HOMEWORK. Joanne Jacobs suggests that it isn't homework that contributes to the time squeeze confronting 'tweens, teens, and their parents. Shot in the Dark sees some value in some of those other activities. (There's something to be said for more un-structured play time for kids.) Last week, a letter in the print edition of USA Today (a quick perusal of the site at the time did not reveal any electronic letters column) offered yet another perspective.

Leave work at school


"Why do we require kids to study more than two hours a night? My teen has many interests, not all of them involving school and not all about television,

"I don't give my employers more time than the hours I am scheduled to work.

"Why do we ask children to give up their family time for work that should be done at school?

"Most of the people I know like to leave work at work. My child has spent most of her childhood in a school, and she doesn't have the inclination to study for two hours more each day.

"Homework stinks. It always has and should be outlawed."


(Name has been withheld out of charity.) Anybody catch that "my employers?" Is the poster somebody who is working two jobs "to make ends meet" whilst showing no ability for greater responsibility, with a social circle similarly disinclined? Although these pages have frequently suggested inefficiencies in the 24/7 treadmill, the Superintendent also sees merit in rewarding initiative and separating the performers from the slackers. Homework whether from school or from shop or office is one way of achieving such a separation.
MOORE BLAMES IRAQ. Andrew Sullivan reads Michael Moore on Crossfire, discovers "I'd like to ask the question whether September 11 was a terrorist attack, or was it a military attack? We call it a terrorist attack. We keep calling it a terrorist attack.
But it sure has the markings of a military attack. And I'd like to know whose military was involved in this precision, perfectly planned operation
," asks, "What on earth is he getting at?"

Somewhere in my September 11 files are some articles I clipped or downloaded, from sources potentially opposed to the Afghanistan campaign, who made similar suggestions, and on occasion alleged Iraqi involvement. I don't recall any of these people being Bush Administration officials. Time permitting, I'm going to those files and reporting what I find.