30.11.03

PRACTICE MAKES A MASTER. All the same, requiring introductory (read: middle-school) ciphering and composition courses to be graded on a credit-no-credit basis with apparently unlimited repeats, and only one "credit" appearing on the transcript, strikes me as neither efficient nor desirable. (Or have the folks at Alabama discovered a dodge for keeping the football team eligible?)
PLAYING FOR LEASTER? Rams defeat Vikings.
RENAMING STUDY HALL? Yup. But to argue, as one school administrator does, that it's the traditional high school that is the root cause of dropouts, Columbine, vandalism, and harrassment is a bit much.
BAD DAY FOR THE FEDAYEEN. We mourn the deaths of our neighbors and our allies. The bad guys take losses as well.
WATER WARRIORS. The Governor of Michigan can be a one-man blocking coalition when it comes to exporting Great Lakes water. The depopulation of Chicago provides a boost to suburban development along the Sanitary and Ship Canal.
WEBLOG CONTESTS. Wizbang offers a Weblog Awards poll (at writing, this site is under construction) and notes that the 2004 Dead Pool opens December 1.
ONE FISH, TWO FISH, OLD FISH, NEW FISH. John at Discriminations is unimpressed with soon-to-be-ex-dean Stanley Fish's special pleading as was I, but his responses are instructive, proposing some word substitutions and letting old Fish fisk new Fish.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Bush is doing what parties in power do." Why else set up an office in the Commerce Department for manufacturing?
PRESENTING A SEMINAR. Resist not the notion that you are delivering a performance. The paper is merely a prop. Read and understand. (Hat tip: Milt's File.)
AUDITORS REPORT. Reader Chris Lawrence notes that in Characteristics and Mantissas, (a+b)-(c+d) = (a-c) + (b-d), which would have come out right had I simply copied and pasted the formula from here in the first place. Five demerits for the Superintendent, and thanks to soon-to-be-Dr. Lawrence for finding it. Hustle on over there and read some thoughts on occupational birth control by limiting Ph.D. production and some advice on whether there should be a Ph.D. in your future.

29.11.03

SETTING THEM UP FOR FAILURE? "Any kid who has an SAT score of greater than 1300 who doesn't know that he or she is most likely good college material is definitely attending a school with a poor guidance counselor. And again, I ask, why should it be considered inviting for Amherst to tell these kids that their race (which they have no control over) is as important to the college as their SAT score (which they do) in admissions?" That's Number 2 Pencil looking at some admissions follies.
THEORRHEA. Invisible Adjunct offers "A Brief Note on Parody and Self-Parody" that expands on this theme. The comments to her post include some excellent examples of earnestness taken to an extreme. Perhaps there are some individuals that deserve institutionalization, not a position at an institution of higher learning.
EVADING THE QUESTION. Soon-to-be-ex-Dean Stanley Fish continues to tilt against what The Leiter Report characterizes as a "right-wing attack" on the university. (Professor Leiter correctly points out that viewpoint diversity requires well-reasoned viewpoints, and that there's likely some bad teaching going on -- you get what you pay for -- but methinks he doth protest too much about a right-wing smear machine.)

Soon-to-be-ex-dean Fish, however, quickly goes from the polemical to the ridiculous. Let's start with his response to the second rhetorical question (from this website, which the soon-to-be-ex-dean brands dishonest):
If students or parents wanted to understand college financing (an understanding apparently beyond the reach of members of Congress), wouldn't it be their obligation first to frame the question (easier said than done) and then to do the research, just as it is the obligation of buyers in any marketplace to make themselves into informed consumers? I use the vocabulary of "consumers" and "marketplace" only because Boehner and McKeon do (I consider it wildly inappropriate), but in the mercantile contexts from which the vocabulary is drawn, the rule is still caveat emptor, and no vendor is expected to explain in detail how the product he offers is made.
Really? I guess you can get tenure and a reputation as a Milton scholar (or perhaps as enfant terrible) without ever having to understand nutrition labels, instruction manuals, Material Safety Data Sheets, or patents, not to mention the class of books (used to be called "boy's books;" the girl worth the while has read and understood such things) that revealed the inner workings of steel mill or cereal factory. Never mind that no such things exist for universities, and university administrators seem reluctant to reveal some of the more basic things.

None of which deters Dr. Fish:
The "consumers" for whom McKeon and Boehner show such solicitude are, in the jargon of any trade, lazy; and indeed it is the beauty of the question that it allows those who haven't bothered to learn how colleges work to transfer the culpability of their ignorance to another party. "I don't know what I'm doing; it must be your fault." Answering the question makes you feel good and even self-righteous about a failure that is finally yours.
The previous is a paradigm of disdain. First you produce glossy brochures that suggest that your students will work with professors working on cutting-edge stuff. You then give them the opportunity to enroll in the few sections that remain open, which might be staffed by graduate assistants just off the plane (why not make the case that professors CANNOT possibly be underworked and overpaid given the reluctance of lazy Americans to get into doctoral programs) or by temporary employees (start here and surf around for some additional career hassles.)

Not content to blame the students and their parents for discovering the university's bait-switch-and-drag-completion-out, the retiring dean tries a little sleight-of-hand with the issue of building construction.
But what would it be? Constructing laboratories? Dormitories? Libraries? Classroom buildings? Could an academic institution be doing its job and not be constructing facilities? What's the point of this question? No point really, except to add one more (underdefined) item to the list of crimes of which colleges and universities are presumed guilty in this indictment masquerading as a survey.
Sorry, Stosh, you're writing a lie masquerading as an essay. You neglected to mention jacuzzis, administration buildings, additional offices for therapists to prolong the fiction that the unprepared can finish college, and athletic facilities.

Add to the lie a whine: why is everyone always picking on me?
It is not an indictment solely constructed by Boehner and McKeon, who are merely playing their part in a coordinated effort to commandeer higher education by discrediting it. If the public can be persuaded that institutions of higher education are fiscally and pedagogically irresponsible, the way will be open to a double agenda: strip colleges and universities of both federal and state support and then tie whatever funds are left to "performance" measures in the name of accountability and assessment.
And why should the taxpayers pay for failed programs? For that matter, where is the refutation? I search the balance of the soon-to-be-ex-dean's post for anything resembling evidence that the money is being spent well or that the universities aren't taking on the task of certifying entry-level file clerks that the high schools (heck, the middle schools) used to do. I see more polemics:
The folks who gave us the Political Correctness scare in the '90s (and that was one of the best PR campaigns ever mounted) are once again in high gear and their message is simple: Higher education is too important to be left to the educators, who are wasting your money, teaching your children to be unpatriotic and irreligious (when they are teaching at all), and running a closed shop that is hostile to the values of mainstream America.
I see half-hearted attempts to defend research, but it's a muddle of talking points lacking coherence. Sometimes the essay gets silly:
I would say first, that it is a supply-side problem -- if conservatives really want to spend their lives teaching modern poetry and Byzantine art, they should stop whining and do the dissertations and write the books, and they'll get the jobs -- and second, that it's not a problem.
Interesting. These are two of the fields most in need of occupational birth control, and it might help to have like-minded advisors on the dissertation committees, something Stoshy doesn't care to address. Then comes this howler:
Brooks laments that students "often have no contact with adult conservatives" (a version of the "role model" argument that he and his friends usually reject as demeaning); but the real shame would be if students had no contact with highly qualified, cutting-edge instructors
The real shame is that the deans and curriculum committees have control over how many sections the cutting-edge instructors teach -- and those folks get first dibs on the graduate seminars and other classes with self-selected students. The real shame is that Illinois-Chicago appoints such a shameless hustler as a dean. Get this:
Intellectual diversity is not a respectable intellectual goal. The only respectable intellectual goal is the pursuit of truth, and if in the course of that pursuit many different approaches arise, as they will in some fields, that's fine; but it would also be fine if in a particular field there were (at least temporarily) a convergence of views and not very much diversity at all.
By that standard, who needs to study poetry? And doesn't it matter what the convergence of views is? If historians agree on the chronology of events, is that equivalent to the department agreeing that the liberation of Iraq is a bad thing? It is the lack of intellectual diversity of the second kind to which the academy's critics wish to speak.

Unfortunately, Dean Fish will leave his position believing that he and his Silent Generation brain-brothers had noble intentions and some primitives spoiled the party.
I could go on listing the signs. They are everywhere, and what they are signs of is the general project of taking higher education away from the educators -- by removing money, imposing controls, capping tuition, enforcing affirmative action for conservatives, stigmatizing research on partisan grounds, privatizing student loans (here McKeon is again a big player) -- and handing it over to a small group of ideologues who will tell colleges and universities what to do and back up their commands by swinging the two big sticks of financial deprivation and inflamed public opinion.
Again, note the bundling of a number of things. Privatizing student loans might make a lot of sense, as the primary beneficiary of a university degree is likely the recipient. Let the beneficiary bear the burden. And to claim that control will be handed over to a small group of ideologues is to distract people's attention from the reality that a small group of ideologues have hijacked the university and use it to their own ends. I for one will be happy to see the day when the Diversity Advisory Committee and the various Commissions on the Status of This Group and That Group stand down, and the remedial classes vanish from the catalog.

28.11.03

LOUTS WHELPING LOUTS. Did anybody really expect "do your own thing" to lead to better decorum? (Via Joanne Jacobs.) Silent Generation grandparents, Thirteenth Generation parents, neglected and crude kids, is anybody surprised?
RECOMMENDED THANKSGIVING READING. Make haste to Michael Graham and scroll thee down. (Hat tip: Insta Pundit.)
AVOID THE STRAIN, SIT IN TRAFFIC? A Voyage to Arcturus looks at the difficulties of commuting in most cities with bus service, finds the walking, waiting, transferring, and difficulty of combining trips to be costly. (And you can't even get to Williams Bay, Wisconsin (iceboating capital of the world) on the bus. (Via Chicago Boyz.)
CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES NO. 62 calls at Setting the World to Rights.

24.11.03

MARKING OFF. I give thanks to you for looking in. Count your blessings, and happy Thanksgiving. Back toward week's end.
WHAT PART OF "NO LAW" DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND? Read the following directions silently while I read them aloud:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances
.Kindly be advised that there is no limitation of these stipulations for reasons of diversity or who is seeking redress or the purposes for which people are assembling peaceably.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Indeed, the state of the humanities has real implications for the state of our union. Our nation is in a conflict driven by religion, philosophy, political ideology and views of history--all humanities subjects. Our tolerance, our principles, our wealth and our liberties have made us targets. To understand this conflict, we need the humanities.
That's from an essay by National Endowment for the Humanities chairman Bruce Cole. How much reclamation work is there to be done? It's not just the follies of a sex-gender continuum; it's the intellectual dry rot implicit in making a virtue of transgressiveness, which Theodore Dalrymple (via Porphyrogenitus) dissects.
RULES WRITTEN IN BLOOD. 36 dead, many hurt in a fire at the quarantine dorm for students recently arrived from overseas at Moscow's People's Friendship University. The building had numerous doors and windows locked apparently as part of the quarantine procedure. How many times will people have to learn what a dangerous practice that can be, particularly if they're not paying much attention to fire loadings inside?
RESTORING THE DEMPSTER ST. SHUTTLE? The Chicago Transit Authority is contemplating adding stations at Oakton Street and Dodge Avenue, restoring two of the five local stops from days when the Chicago Rapid Transit Company was a tenant on the North Shore Line main line to Milwaukee. Current plans to extend the Skokie line to Old Orchard would bring the line nowhere near Milwaukee, although it has the potential to resurrect the Harms Woods station.
BRONZE STAR, PURPLE HEART, CY YOUNG. Warren Spahn, 1921-2003.
GENDER IS A GRAMMATICAL TERM, SEX IS A BIOLOGICAL TERM. Via Best of the Web, a University of Chicago Maroon article about the theoretical and practical problem of providing necessary rooms for Ladies and for Gentlemen. Excerpt:
Ana Minyan, the moderator of the panel, said that bathrooms will be called gender-neutral, rather than co-ed, because, “this terminology is generally used to refer to two sexes while the gender-neutral tends to be associated with more diversity and fluidity within the sex-gender continuum. As our aim is to make everyone, no matter what their gender and/or sexual persona is, more comfortable, we are using the term gender-neutral.”
I believe she has just made my point. If a form asks me to provide a "gender" I am completely correct to enter "Non-Quiche-Eating Real Guy" without fear of reproach.
RETURN TO HUDSON TERMINAL. Jeff Jarvis files a report on his routine train ride to the Hudson and Manhattan station in lower Manhattan, still referred to as "World Trade Center." (As I understand the rebuilding, the temporary platforms are at the World Trade Center location. The original, stub-end platforms of Hudson Terminal remain mostly in place elsewhere in the tube.
BROOKINGS LINKS ON IRAQI RECONSTRUCTION. Common Sense and Wonder located this survey of a variety of primary sources.
CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS NO. 7 calls at Company Mail source Truck and Barter.
MEASURING INPUTS, NOT OUTPUTS? Perceived advantages and disadvantages of basing grades in part on attendance. My position? Too much recordkeeping work for too little return. Some people can be in a class regularly, and ask a lot of questions, and still grasp nothing. Others can keep current with the requirements, slip their assignments under the office door, and show up only for the examinations and do just fine. The latter are few and far between. Typically, the irregular attenders are the irregular performers, grade policies notwithstanding.
CHARACTERISTICS AND MANTISSAS: Coda to Tom Lehrer's New Math: "Come back tomorrow night. We're gonna do fractions." Wouldn't it be nice if the teachers understood that (a+b) - (c+d) = (a+c)-(b+d)? It's not as if you have to be Leonhard Euler to figure this out.

23.11.03

TODAY'S DILBERT MOMENT. Former Texas Railroad Commissioner Jim Hightower is not impressed with the Union Pacific Railroad's licensing requirements ("Applicants are reviewed carefully to ensure they will positively represent Union Pacific brand values") which the company is now attempting to require of all manufacturers of model railroad equipment.

Commissioner Hightower: "Over the years, railroad corporations, including Union Pacific, have been delighted to be the subjects of model trains, seeing it as a form of flattery, free promotion, and goodwill. For it now to threaten and demand loot from these small modeling companies is an act of PR suicide." Indeed. Not only that, the company is setting itself up for all sorts of teasing by the manufacturers. It has, for example, announced its continued ownership of the Chicago and North Western ball and bar (I'll let the lawyers make the case that if the ball and bar is no longer in use as a trade mark, the claim to ownership of the shape is no longer valid) but its site does not similarly claim ownership of Chicago Great Western, Minneapolis and St. Louis, Litchfield and Madison, or Galena and Chicago Union, and as those have not been in commercial use for years, those claims might similarly not be valid.

Trademark law aside, it's pretty stupid for a company to antagonize potential supporters in this way. How many heavy industries have legions of enthusiasts who are neither consumers nor workers? Dumb, dumb, dumb.
SOMETHING DOESN'T ADD UP. Last Thursday, I attended a steel industry technical session that focused on the international expansion of U. S. Steel (motto: At United States Steel, we're involved) in light of the world trade in steel. The presenter noted two features of the steel market that struck me as internally inconsistent, and one feature of the restructuring of the U.S. steel industry that leads to friction between the old and the new manufacturers.

Short term, the speaker anticipated a world steel shortage in 2004. Here is one trade publication's view. Note the internal inconsistency. We first read, "World Steel Dynamics says there is a better than even chance for a steel shortage in 2004, which portends rising prices." OK, and for full credit, note that rising prices have the effect of calling forth more supply and encouraging conservation, thus eliminating the shortage. That's not what the commentator expects, however: "Despite improving demand, the U.S. market will see fewer imports due to the weakening of the dollar, leaving a larger market share for domestic mills. A nearly 30 percent drop in the value of the dollar vs. the euro in the past year has made it untenable for steelmakers in Western Europe to compete in the United States." (Yes, but if steel prices rise, won't the steel price of a dollar fall? Wouldn't it be nice if business analysts understood markets as they really work rather than as abstractions to be trotted out for polemical purposes?)

The next paragraph introduces the internal inconsistency: "Little steel production capacity is being added to the world market, with the exception of China, WSD notes. The number of companies producing sheet steel in China will rise from 13 to 28, adding 50 million tons of capacity by 2010. Meanwhile, in the United States, the trend is toward consolidations, as evidenced by the high-profile mergers of U.S. Steel and National, ISG and Bethlehem, and Nucor and Birmingham." And why might that be? Might the existence of 200 million tons of excess capacity (the article doesn't specify the prices at which this capacity is uneconomic) have some bearing on the unwillingness of investors to build new capacity? The existence of that capacity suggests that there will be a price at which suppliers will be willing to provide sufficient steel to serve buyers; there might be some difficulties in some types of product if there isn't sufficient casting and rolling capacity for those shapes or grades.

To put the global excess capacity in perspective, 200 million tons of annual production is roughly equivalent to twice the steel production of the United States. And it's that excess capacity, rather than any export subsidies or any dumping, that drives the industry difficulties the trade barriers are supposed to address. Scroll down and read, "In negotiations conducted under the auspieces of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, major steel producing countries have pledged to cut excess steel capacity by 115 million tons by 2005. While the Bush administration has welcomed these pledges, U.S. officials said that much remains to be done with the 100 million-ton excess capacity and market-distorting practices in place." The developed countries, in fact, have a plan to manage the withdrawal of resources from the steel business. It is not only the developed countries that complain about the excess capacity leading to economic hardships.

Capacity rationalization is not everybody's strategy, however. In China, a rather primitive steel sector anticipates further expansion, perhaps as an import-substitution strategy? Vietnam is another country with plans to expand steel production. Something there is about building additional capacity in a mature industry where there is currently excess capacity that doesn't make sense, but it certainly does not bode well for the ability of tariffs or quotas to protect U.S. steel producers.

In the United States, the old-line producers have been closing plants and reducing their work forces for years. The antitrust authorities have allowed mergers that the Carnegies and the Morgans would have feared to attempt: see this and this. The consolidations are not without controversy, as the old steel companies have contractual commitments to retired workers, referred to as legacy costs, which current earnings might not be sufficient to cover. The old steel companies propose to shift those pension costs to the taxpayers in exchange for closing some capacity. Not surprisingly, the new steel companies don't like such proposals, suggesting inconsistencies in working to close outdated capacity elsewhere while subsidizing it here. This release notes an interesting way of financing the legacy cost relief -- which didn't pass Congress.

What, then, for the future of the steel business? Until there's something resembling equilibrium in capacity and consumption worldwide, look for continued trade spats. And perhaps it's time to short China.

22.11.03

THE COMPARISON IS INSULTING TO THE CIRCUS.

Invisible Adjunct is not pleased with a Regina Barecca essay on the sartorial failures of academics. (The article notes that most professors are sartorially challenged, although its references to tweed jackets with elbow patches is a bit off the mark. It is rare any more to see professors wearing shirt and tie, and that might contribute some to the academy's losing some respect. Schoolteachers, too.)

The part of the article that most annoys the Invisible Adjunct is the reference to female academics dressing like circus ponies. I haven't seen anybody with the feather plumes or the other attire mentioned. On the other hand, one of the identity politics cliques on campus recently hosted a visiting speaker, a bearded lady (wearing a beret, of course) with several tattoos. Therein lies the insult to the circus. No self-respecting circus would ask the Tattooed Woman to double as the Bearded Lady.
THE COMING WATER WARS. Not Mexico and California. Not Iraq and Turkey, or Israel and Jordan. How about Waukesha County and Milwaukee County. Why? Because Great Lakes water cannot be piped outside of the Great Lakes Basin. The Mississippi River watershed begins very close to the shores of Lake Michigan in places.
FREE THE POLITICAL PRISONERS. Is there some way to persuade the Global Fans of Saddam that Michael Jackson is a victim of the Patriot Act?
ONCE A CARTEL, ALWAYS A CARTEL. Thus King at SCSU Scholars on the latest attempts by the university presidents to temper one principle (access) with another (academic integrity in sports.) The latest set of rule changes lend themselves to all sorts of possibilities, depending on how you perceive the sports program. Some degree programs continue to offer refuge to potentially marginal students participating in sports, particularly the (misnamed) revenue sports. Number 2 Pencil (what did I say about Bulletin Orders?) draws some of the more evident inferences. But there is more. Big-time sport well might be the Berlin Wall of higher education. Demonstrate the frauds behind that wall, and perhaps the frauds elaborated here and commented upon in this Bulletin Order will prove easier to bring down.
ONE DAY THEY'LL FIGURE IT OUT. "DuPage traffic signal project cites quicker rides on 2 roads." D'oh! The timing has speeded up westbound commutes by several minutes. The effects on fuel consumption, wear and tear on brakes, and driver patience remain to be calculated.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Her mother is against it. 'Tough shit', I believe is what I said to my mother-in-law. (I actually have a great relationship with her, and can say such things). I cut the debate off when she said 'But what about socialization?'. My answer: 'I smoked my first joint because of 'socialization'. How bout you?'" That's from a Number 2 Pencil post about homeschooling and the school establishment's reactions thereto. The Friday posts are today's Bulletin Orders. Read and Understand them all.
SANITIZING HISTORY. It's not just teaching Milton without Puritan doctrine, it's now teaching Thanksgiving without Pilgrims, this time in the elementary grades.
OUR NEIGHBORS AT WAR. Northern Illinois University honored troops past, with veterans from all the armed services except the Coast Guard, present, with a color guard provided by the Department of Military Science, and future, with a march-past by about 24 young people who have opted for a deferred enlistment into the Army at today's halftime show. (The team was on the road closer to Veterans' Day.) There was a game. The results are not yet available online, but I can report that it's 38 cents off on a cup of pop this week, and the fans have been developing a tradition of ringing the Victory Bell in in the west campus parkway. 10 wins, now it's up to the vagaries of bowl-eligibility elsewhere.
PRETTY PATHETIC POSTURING. This post might have been too generous to the English departments, if this collection of word-noise (courtesy of Milt's File,) these Critical Mass case studies on managing politics in essays and teaching Milton without Puritan doctrine, and this misuse of critical thinking are representative of what's going on in the discipline, if I can even use that term.
THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS? Atlantic Blog finds an Eric Zorn column that finds some good in a recent hate-crime hoax, this one at Northwestern University. Summation:
For a crisis that's basically insignificant and built in part if not in whole on lies, that's not bad at all.
Atlantic Blog's reaction:
He does not say whether she withdrew the remark when it turned out to be based on a lie. But suppose her remarks were based on a real incident. On the basis of one person's actions, she accuses the entire campus of racism. This is pretty standard behavior in the race hustler business. And the consequences are ugly. Because if students are going to be declared racists regardless of what they do, there is really very little cost to being a racist.

This makes for a lousy university, and it makes for poor race relations. But it is a good situation for the race hustle business. Their jobs are secure so long as they can claim there are problems, even if they are the ones making them.
On the other hand, it suggests a hypothesis. Perhaps there haven't been enough incidents of research that reaches Acceptable Conclusions with manufactured primary sources or of pure bunkum translated into post-modern posturing, or of brain coaches writing papers for athletes (heck, here's a whole list) or of threats to Wrong Thinking speakers to get people upset. In the World According to Eric Zorn, perhaps some fake research scandals would be Good Things if they had the effect of making people take notice.
WAS DR. SEUSS A CHICKEN HAWK? Long before he wrote The Cat in the Hat and Horton Hears a Who and all those other children's classics, Dr. Seuss was a political cartoonist with little use for the isolationists of his time. John J. Miller of National Review offers some art criticism, and some political theory. (Hat tip: Betsy's Page.) Michael Totten weighed in on the political cartoons some time ago.
MORE THAN THE MONEY INVOLVED. Northern Star columnist Rashida Restaino analyzes the reasons young men leave high school and identifies more, much more, than a lack of spending on the schools.
RETURNING TO HUDSON TERMINAL. Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine, who was on the last PATH train from the World Trade Center, reports that service from Exchange Place to Hudson Terminal (the station is a temporary covered area while planning for the replacement office towers and memorial continues) will resume Sunday morning.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Notice how the latest “nuanced” European criticisms of America often start out on the Left—we’re too hegemonic and don’t care about the aspirations of poor countries—and then, in a blink of an eye, they veer to the aristocratic Right: we’re a motley sort, promoting vulgar food and mass entertainment to corrupt the tastes of nations that have a much more refined tradition. That Europeans now eat at McDonald’s and love Hollywood trash—that’s simply the result of American corporate brainwashing.

"Our old-fashioned belief in right and wrong along with our willingness to act on that belief also infuriates the Europeans. Americans have an ingrained distrust of moral laxity masquerading as “sophistication,” and our dissident religious heritage has made us comfortable with making clear-cut moral choices in politics—“simplistic” choices, Euros would say.
That's Victor Davis Hanson, "Why History Has No End," in the latest City Journal. (Via Milt's File, which is a particularly useful source of commentary on the Global War on Terrorism from less-widely-read albeit more intensively researched sources.)

19.11.03

NATHAN AL-TIKRITI FORREST? This One Hand Clapping post (via Insta Pundit) is a useful followup to the latest recreational reading, April 1865: The Month that Saved America (details or compare prices.) This passage from pp. 274-275 is of particular interest.

Of all the men whom one would choose to carry out a prolongued guerrilla campaign against the Union, none was more suited to it than Nathan Bedford Forrest, an incongruous amalgam of the proudest and the darkest sides of the Confederacy, walking not in awkward contradiction, but boldly and comfortably hand in hand.
Forrest, as Rev. Sensing notes, stood his command down. He later became involved with the Ku Klux Klan, which evolved into a terrorist organization.
An expert in the surprise assault and a virtuoso at overcoming impossible odds, Nathan Bedford Forrest was the South's legendary answer to the Union's fighting general, William Tecumseh Sherman: ornery and innately brilliant, an uneducated farmer from the low country and an unabashed racist, a self-made millionaire and a tactical genius, inflammatory, headstrong, imperious, he was the South's most innovative and ruthless fighter. Admirers called him "the wizard of the saddle." Sherman himself once praised Forrest as "the most remarkable man our civil war produced on either side." But he also called him "that devil" or "the very devil" or simply "the devil," and demanded that Forrest be "hunted down and killed if it cost ten thousand lives and bankrupts the Federal Treasury." To friends and foes alike, even before the war was over, Forrest's reputation had become the stuff of folklore legend, and he himself had become almost a living myth.
And yet Forrest was never schooled in the operational arts.

Elsewhere in the book one discovers precisely how harsh a lesson General Sherman's troops, in particular, delivered to civilian supporters of the rebellion.
RAP FLAP. Thirteenth Generation role model Marshall Mathers: "I'd just broken up with my girlfriend, who was African-American, and I reacted like the angry, stupid kid I was. I hope people will take it for the foolishness that it was, not for what somebody is trying to make it into today." Right. And the French police, shocked! shocked! to discover anti-Semitism in their country, take decisive action and arrest rappers. "The crackdown on the lyrics comes at a time of concern about France's failure to integrate its large North African immigrant communities, and a rise in anti-Semitic incidents blamed on anger among French Muslims over Israel's treatment of Palestinians."
NO MENTION OF PIGOU OR RAMSEY. Chicago raises several taxes, including the city parking tax for large sport-utes, the restaurant sales tax, and water and sewer rates.
SEEKING NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE? Lewinsky Says Her Past Has Hurt Her Love Life. No scarlet letter required. As Betsy's Page notes, d'oh!
DISPLAY SIGNALS AND RUN AS SECOND 18. Some of yesterday's posts are running in two sections.
THE PRESENCE OF THE ABSENCE: "Conservatives, thus, were simply those who were either uneducated, or who 'didn't get it' when it was taught.

"Looking at the world that way, a Ted Kennedy might easily think of a Janice Rogers Brown as an out-of-date ignoramus. Being himself ignorant of both the profound intellectual basis of modern conservatism and the latest paleontological research, he might even call her a Neanderthal.
" That's Jay Bryant (via Betsy's Page) with a caricature version of the default college curriculum. But to criticize the coreless curriculum and then to excuse Senator Kennedy, a college dropout, is a bit much.
FIRST, GIVE NO OFFENSE. Tongue Tied discovers an affirmative action bean bag game that, by attempting to be inclusive, offends somebody.
CAN'T RAISE THEM, CAN'T LOWER THEM. Marginal Revolution and Truck and Barter report more than you'll want to know about price-gouging laws, also known as prohibiting the rationing a very limited stock by its price.

Thanksgiving comes next week, and I will do my search for a story about a turkey sale that violates a minimum-markup law, also known as prohibiting the clearance of an overstock by its price.
THE INVERTED UMBRELLA. (A supplement to this post.) Cox and Forkum have a visual worth fifty scholarly papers on the effect of the inverted umbrella, and links to additional commentary on the steel tariff. I will be attending another industry technical session Thursday, and expect to report the industry position by week's end.
AFFLICT THE COMFORTABLE? Cartoonist Tom Tomorrow has a rather circumscribed view of who the comfortable are. Day by Day apply the corrective.
A CHOICE NOT AN ECHO? Harold Meyerson observes, "Meanwhile, the Democrats have become more liberal -- in part because more conservative Democrats have been re-registering Republican. Pew shows support for governmental intervention to help the needy clearly on the rise and support for foreign military intervention in decline." I suspect Mr Meyerson is referring to survey results from Democrats. "In the primary season soon to be upon us, Dean looks strongest where Democrats look strongest -- on the coasts." (Hat tip: Betsy's Page.) Not exactly a national party, as Vodka Pundit has often pointed out. Hugh Hewitt offers a related comment, "The lengthy debate in the Senate these past few days was exactly what the Republicans needed to do --bring attention to the increasing radicalization of the Senate Democrats. The more time that Boxer, Leahy, Kennedy, Levin, Landrieu and the rest of that gang get before the camera, the better off the Republicans are."
WHIP UP THE USUAL FANATICS. The plague of fake hate crimes has come to Northwestern, where until recently the greatest fakery would be for their football team to go bowling while the Huskies stay home. Atlantic Blog and Tongue Tied comment. Is it any surprise that the liar is a communications (motto: all the posturing of the English department with even less content) major?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "High schools no longer prepare most students to express ideas coherently or follow accepted English, let alone carry on serious intellectual work. My students can read carefully, when they do the reading. They ask good questions about lectures, showing attentiveness and curiosity. They discuss ideas and texts capably. Their weak spot is writing." Max Clio is an academician who takes his work seriously; read between the lines to discover the follies of admitting unprepared students and calling it "access." (Via Invisible Adjunct, who found these thoughts on the art of grading.)
BRATWURST, DESIGNER PLUMBING, AND HANGING TEN. Everybody's going surfing, the Sheboygan way. (The local yacht club might still have Laser racing in January if the air temperature exceeds freezing, to prevent the rigging from jamming.) Hat tip: Newmark's Door.
CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES Number 61 calls at Peak Talk. Lots of submissions from weblogs new to me. I'll punch you an extra-long transfer to go over there.

18.11.03

CERTIFYING A-LEVEL FILE CLERKS. The university becomes backup for the failings of the high school in the UK. Visit Number 2 Pencil and the links provided therein.

SECOND SECTION: Atlantic Blog discovers a scandal among the bohemians: "Can you imagine having to borrow £9000 for a university degree? In Britain, £9000 will buy you a little 5 door Ford Fiesta with a 1.2 liter engine. For that, people take out four year car loans every day. But apparently if you spend it on schooling, it is a horrible burden of lifetime debt." I suppose the distinction is that the Fiesta will get you to the park-and-ride or to the Telford train show or to the Channel Tunnel. The degree might not get you anywhere, a point one of the commentors to the post has noted.
SHORING UP THAT SILENT GENERATION BASE? "The odd thing about the Hoover-obsessed Democrats is that they are the ones advocating Hooverite economic policies. Under Hoover, the top income-tax rate went from 25 percent to 63 percent, and 40 percent tariffs were imposed on imports." That's National Review's Rich Lowry, fact-checking Democratic comparisons of President Bush with President Hoover. (Another reason the Democrats might be foolish to draw such analogies is that the subset of the population that cringes at the thought of Herbert Hoover is few in number and high in median age. The youngest World War II veteran is 76 or 77, and the youngest Baby Boomer is 61.)

Lowry citation via Betsy's Page.
A FOURTH TURNING MANIFESTO. Coming of age during the Unraveling, and how The Nanopundit sees it. (Hat tip: Insta Pundit.)

SECOND SECTION. This Intel Memo (a Free Republic spinoff) site seeks regime change in the Democratic caucus of the U.S. Senate.
FINDING THOSE MISSING MEN. Discriminations quotes extensively from a Chronicle of Higher Education paid subscription article asserting that many of the campus curriculum wars are over masculinity. Real Men don't do Mentoring. Real Men don't do Workshops.

From the article:
"In one corner reside the standard-bearers of academic machismo: the hard-nosed male professors of math and physics, economics and politics, as well as those stout-hearted men in English, history, and philosophy who have fought the good fight. By their side stand several equally stalwart women -- the tough-minded, the blunt-spoken, the widely published; in short, the women "with balls." In the other corner reside "those people": the politically outspoken women -- feminists, multiculturalists, and the like -- in French and Spanish, psychology and anthropology, environmental and gender studies, who have dragged the campus into its current morass of soft, mushy interdisciplinarity (read "undisciplinarity") and -- workshops. And by their side stand (however limply) those emasculated men who occupy the bottom rung on [his friend’s] ladder of academic virility."


Herein lies a research project, and with final exams and the requisite procrastination time during grading looming, comes the opportunity to do it. My impression is that the disciplines the essayist characterized as the "harder-nosed" are those with less imbalance between Ph.D. production and Ph.D. hiring, higher starting salaries, and more difficulty attracting U.S. born graduate students. Thus a problem: why are the disciplines that by any market test would suffer from overcapacity, if my impressions are supported by any evidence, calling the shots in the academy? Developing ...

SECOND SECTION: King at SCSU Scholars notes that it is the faculty from the failing disciplines that become administrators, as a way of raising their salaries. Faculty from the tougher disciplines that have had enough accept offers in government or industry. Point noted, but rather than begging the question, that shifts the blame. Where have the trustees and alumni been? Can better football teams (there's a research project, parity as a cover for expense preference behavior) excuse a multitude of sins in the classroom and interview suite?
PREPARING FOR PRELIMS? Deinonychus antirrhopus provides readers' guides to the Arrow Impossibility Theorem and the Folk Theorem.
THE CLASSIC VIRTUES: "After all, in the new century, it cannot be of that much comfort to Europeans that the one country that was decimated by a terrorist attack at the heart of its commercial capital has already leapt ahead economically of everyone else. If France's third quarter growth rate was 7.2 percent, it might make more sense. But, no. It's the country run by a moron, devastated two years ago by the worst act of war on its soil in history, and governed by know-nothing policies, that is doing so well." That's Andrew Sullivan, in an extensively-researched commentary on the President's visit to the United Kingdom, titled "London Calling: Bush Ambushed." Well worth a look.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I suppose if stealing from each other keeps the place from breaking out in its usual 30-year cycle of death and destruction EU agricultural policy isn't such a bad thing." That's The Cranky Professor, reporting on the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles of the oh, so subtle European Union.
FINDING THOSE TRUMAN DEMOCRATS. Citizen Smash discovers some among his military colleagues, in the course of pondering the potential disconnect between military and civilian life, as increasing proportions of the ranks comprise the sons and daughters of military families, and as the volunteer force proves to be more effective than the conscripted force. Go there and contribute ideas for ending that disconnect, if they occur to you.
HIGH SPEED RAIL FOLLIES. Live from the Third Rail finds the idea of a jet-propelled train praiseworthy. The occasion for the post is the dedication of a historical marker along the New York Central's racetrack west of Toledo, which provided the current railroad with an opportunity to demonstrate its stodginess.

The picture shows the test train being repositioned (the jet propulsion does not lend itself to being reversed.) Find the accompanying discussion and an additional picture here. There are some notes on the speeds obtained here, and here is an impression of the test run. (For an April Fool story based on the jet test, read this.)

The New York Central used the occasion of its speed test to announce its intention to discontinue all passenger trains running more than 200 miles, including the famous Twentieth Century Limited, in favor of short-haul service in populated corridors. Amtrak's Empire Corridor along the Hudson and Mohawk rivers in New York is the only part of that project that came to fruition. You will search the rails of the New York Central in vain for frequent service between Chicago and Indianapolis, Chicago and Cleveland, Cleveland and Cincinnati, Buffalo and Cleveland, and other thickly settled areas.

And let us not praise American can-do spirit on the rails until one improves on these schedules.

17.11.03

IRAQ IN CYBERSPACE. Healing Iraq provides a list of weblogs maintained by Iraqis. Well worth a look around, these people have to qualify as early adopters.
IT TAKES A HILLARY TO MAKE A HOOK UP. Great Scrapple Face item!
TONIGHT'S WICKED THOUGHT. I heard a public service announcement on radio this morning about the symptoms of bipolar disorder, something I learned years ago as "manic-depressive" behavior. Not so funnily, the symptoms of the manic pole sound a lot like the business behavior being pushed by cell-phone companies, most notoriously this one (do-do-done.)

Perhaps in that recognition will come the corrective.
STEALTH AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, AKA TRANSGRESSING THE LAW? That's how Stanley Kurtz sees it.
GETTING THE RULES RIGHT? Felix Rohatyn has a few thoughts on the subject. But read carefully. For example, doesn't a strong-dollar policy with high interest rates make foreign investors more likely to lend money here, and won't that strong dollar simply encourage more imports of steel by U.S. consumers? There are some other provocative proposals, in fact enough to make up a macroeconomics comprehensive exam just in attempting to comprehend it all.
MODUS MORONIS: "A generation ago, cigarette makers flooded our airwaves with ads that made smoking -- which is a direct threat to human health -- seem cool to all of us, including our vulnerable children," said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, one of dozens of groups protesting the Hummers under the banner of Citizens for Vehicle Responsibility. "Appropriately, as a society, we have now protected ourselves and our children from destructive cigarette marketing. But unless we do the same for Hummers, we are hurting our kids' health as much as putting cigarette machines in all of our schools." Um, don't larger cars provide more protection for the passengers, including children, riding them? And don't a lot of parents let their children board even larger, even more gas-guzzling school buses each morning? Oh well, why let facts interfere with a good protest?
TU QUOQUE? Never defy the United Nations, but defy the World Trade Organization? George Will is not impressed. (Hat tip: Power Line.)
SELF ORGANIZATION. Random Nuclear Strikes report on a citizen rally for troops being shipped out that started as a counter-protest. In the absence of any official coaxing, there is plenty of self-organization. No "Kid in Upper 4" advert to explain the efforts the carrier (in this case a railroad, read more here and here) is making to move the troops, but some civilian travelers are getting it nonetheless.
CALL FOR PAPERS? Jay Solo does not like the idea of grocery store check cashing cards becoming preferred buyer cards, or of grocery stores issuing preferred buyer cards that do not double as check cashing cars. But are the preferred buyer discounts more annoying or less annoying than the in-store special that's only available for a short time, to those buyers who are in the store at that time? It's possible to guess at the mix of buyers in the store at a particular time and place the special coupon machine at the right items at that time, and take it away later. Has to be an essay in there somewhere.
ACCUMULATION OF SMALL ADVANTAGES. Grandmaster Kasparov beats the computer. The analysis indicates chess computers still don't understand how to play in quiet positions. Look at the commentary after Kasparov's 18 Rb2, which dissuades the program from even thinking about combinations against the pawn on f2. (I have a fun paperback called "Getting the Most from Your Chess Computer" that illustrates a rather lurid mate most cheap computers can be lured into, by the strategic offer of a pawn and some pieces, all while leaving the mate just beyond the chip's horizon until it's too late.) Hat tip: Marginal Revolution, with some thoughts of his own on the strength of chess playing algorithms.
SOME ADVICE TO GRADS. With college enrollment season in full swing, Joanne Jacobs has some advice to college hopefuls of all ability levels. "I do wish teachers would explain to self-esteemers that they're not preparing to pass college classes, as opposed to enrolling and then flunking out. Many students who've been on the AP college track probably would benefit from taking a year off after high school to work and grow up. They have the motivation to pursue higher education without having to do it in lockstep fashion." The comments are a reaction to Multivitamin, a new discovery to me, and worthy of repeat visits if this sort of independence is on offer more frequently.

16.11.03

ONLY THE PSHRINKS BENEFIT. Oregon State University columnist Erin Simovic describes the campus social scene: "No one has a crush, no one drives, no one is instilled with fear by protective parents. Rather, we get all hussied-up to go out "to the bars" or the like, make sure we consume enough alcohol to have a good time, put on those good 'ole beer goggles and pray we get lucky." Lovely. (The column has a comment feature, some of which are also lovely.) Hat tip: Newmark's Door.
PLAYING FOR LEASTER? For the first time since their Super Bowl run, the Packers get a win at Tampa Bay (the Buccaneers used to be so bad that fans on the season ticket waiting list in Wisconsin would be able to buy sufficiently many tickets in Tampa to outnumber the home fans, but that's a long time ago.) Meanwhile, the Viking collapse continues.
THE MIDWESTERN AXIS OF EVIL. That has to be U.S. Highway 23, from Ann Arbor through Toledo and Bowling Green to Columbus. Earlier this year, the Northern Illinois football team had a reality check at Bowling Green, and a series of early errors led to another loss, this time in Toledo. The next opponent will be Eastern Michigan (Ypsilanti is pretty close to the Axis of Evil, but the game will be played just west of Illinois Highway 23.)

Wisconsin's Badgers are unbeaten against Axis of Evil teams this year, and the demolition of Michigan State gives them a stake in the Axis of Evil showdown this weekend at Columbus.
PAY FOR PERFORMANCE? Chicago area school superintendents often earn salaries well into six figures, sometimes as a way of boosting their final five years' salary and their pensions, sometimes not. But to defend these salaries on the grounds that these are CEOs of large corporations, and that large salaries are a precondition for obtaining quality administrators, is a bit of a stretch in light of the stellar academic performance turned in by graduates of the Cicero school system, where the superintendent got a particularly generous raise, and by graduates of some of the other area schools.
REPLACING THE SIMPLE WITH THE CUMBERSOME? Critical Mass has more information about the continuing uproar at Emory University (don't some of these people have papers to grade or research to conduct?) where a faculty member used some barnyard language to describe how colleagues in related disciplines characterized her sub-field. Another faculty member took offense, and the entire Outrage Machine appears to be in motion. Professor O'Connor's key point is this: "As long as individuals like [Emory president James] Wagner and [vice president Robert] Ethridge continue to think that it is possible to strike a "balance" between 'freedom of speech and possible insensitive expression of opinion,' and as long as they think they are the people to do it, Emory will have a big problem." That balance has always been there. Once upon a time, there was something called good manners, perhaps too bourgeois a concept, and too redolent of the Old South, for the Emory administration, and perhaps as well for the professor, who might have been able to characterize her sub-field's marginal status without stirring up the Outrage Machine.
CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS is at Professor Bainbridge.

13.11.03

MARKING OFF. Thanks for visiting. Check back Monday.
ANTITRUST, REGULATION, NATURAL MONOPOLIES, AND RENT-SEEKING. Angry Economist questions the usefulness of breaking up monopolies: "Perhaps, you might wish to argue, antitrust laws could be used in those market segments which are difficult to enter. No. Even then a public policy is served by allowing some monopoly prices to be charged. Consider that if a market segment is hard to enter, there must be a reason for it. Perhaps much concrete needs to be poured, or many people employed all at once. If the market is hard to enter, it must be that a large investment is needed. If you were planning a society in detail, and had full control over everything, you would reasonably be reluctant to create too many firms in this type of market segment. By allowing some monopoly prices, you give potential competitors an incentive to enter the market ... but not too much of one." (Via Knowledge Problem, who offers some comments on the use of lobbying and other rent-seeking activities to deter entry.) But the monopoly the Angry Economist has suggested looks a lot like a natural monopoly (c(Y) < c(y1) + c(y2) for any output division satisfying y1+y2=Y) for which franchise bidding or direct regulation might make more sense than breaking up the monopoly. That's different from the kind of monopoly that attracts the attention of antitrusters. "A monopoly isn't necessarily a bad thing. A monopoly might be the result of one efficient firm putting all other firms out of business, because they were all inefficient and wasteful. That's a good thing, without question. The chief problem of a monopoly is when it can charge monopoly prices. A monopoly price is when the monopoly deliberately restricts its production because it sees that it can make more profit by selling less and charging even more." Hmm, it was a good thing for the developer of a cigarette-rolling machine to buy the brand names of hand-rolled cigarettes and close the factories down, and it was a good thing for the consolidator of some northeastern refining capacity to charter some oil trains at discounted prices? By Angry Economist's lights, which shine through the lens of price theory, yes, but I have just described a few of the basic facts of the Tobacco Trust and Standard Oil Trust cases. For an illustration of a dominant firm behaving like a textbook monopoly (let's let that "is when" slide for the moment), see here.)
UNDERSTANDING THE JOBLESS RECOVERY? Truck and Barter sees the usual reallocation of resources from less-productive to more-productive uses. David Leonhardt of the New York Times notes, "The longest hiring slump in more than 60 years finally appears to be ending." (The article continues to see the decline in manufacturing jobs as a consequence of foreign competition, not of economic development, but we can't expect everybody to learn everything at once.) Apparently, being a high level official at a railroad is no guarantee that you can express yourself well, as Cal Pundit discovers, which leads into the possibility that a recovery does not have to mean an immediate increase in employment, particularly with the benefits packages that are part of full-time employment. I was talking with a colleague this morning about second-sourcing, overtime, and other fun topics, and it occurred to me that one explanation of the "jobless recovery" is here.
STUCK IN THE ACADEMIC QUAGMIRE. As if to reproach me for omitting items from my market test for university presidents, my comrades at SCSU Scholars notes a university president who first rather maladroitly characterizes research and thinking time, then neglects to spell out the benefits derived from that thinking.

12.11.03

THE SHAMEFUL ACT OF VANDALISM REMEMBERED. Via Milt's File, Alistair Cooke's agony at the destruction of New York's Pennsylvania Station. The Superintendent will forgive Mr Cooke the artistic license in the description of the first days of demolition.
THE SHAPE OF THE CULTURE TO COME. Have the libertarians won the culture wars? (see more in a similar vein.) Or is it the libertines? Or is it too soon to tell. Read these essays, then read this review. Perhaps it is not a lack of charismatic national leaders (what is it about this vanguardism?) that contributes to unease coexisting with unprecedented prosperity. Perhaps it is unease about the coarseness that accompanies the prosperity. Reason's focus used to be on free minds and free markets. Their most recent issue finds a way to honor Margaret Thatcher, Madonna, and Dennis Rodman among 35 champions of freedom.
QUEEN'S GAMBIT DECLINED (BY TRANSPOSITION.) Garry Kasparov forces a draw with the computer (If Grandmaster Kasparov likes 1 e4, will we see the Fritz Variation of the Two Knights?). Via Tyler at Marginal Revolution, who indulges in the skittles room equivalent of Monday morning quarterbacking. Via Milt's File, an appreciation of the mind of a Grandmaster. (24 opponents? No sweat.)
MORE ON THE STEEL TARIFF. A few weeks ago, I attended a steel industry technical session at which the presenter, an industry executive, noted that relatively few steel products qualified for the emergency tariff protection, which the industry maintained was provided for under the World Trade Organization code. That's the background to this Forbes article referring to the tariffs as "ineffective." (The industry trade association sees the tariff as effective and useful. Note that steel products are getting cheaper.) This Robert Samuelson column looks at the pros and cons of going against the international institutions for the sake of a steel business that has been undergoing restructuring for many years and for a number of reasons (one, the United States Steel Corporation was able to beat a monopolization case by noting that its market share had fallen over time, a phenomenon analyzed in a classic George Stigler article called "The Dominant Firm and the Inverted Umbrella," two, the major steel producers might have erroneously modernized some of their smaller works with small basic oxygen furnaces, and three some of the majors spent more resources figuring out that thin-slab casting would not work, rather than investigating ways to make it work, which it does.) An Institute for International Economics working paper (in .pdf) attempts to quantify the effect of retaliatory tariffs should the European Union take that action. Although we're not yet to Hawley-Smoot, the research ought to give pause.

Professor Drezner has been following this issue, where I found some of the material linked above, and he's got some supplemental reading on the policy wonk side.
SENDING THE WRONG SIGNALS. Invisible Adjunct notes without approval the use of adjunct faculty to teach core courses the tenure-track research faculty would prefer not to teach. She's onto something that sheds light on how far away the great day when our schools educate our children as well as the Pentagon trains our soldiers. (That was an InstaPundit store item years ago; I don't see an InstaPundit store on the site at the moment.) Specifically, think about the recruit's first contact with the armed services: a lifer non-commissioned officer who isn't going to put up with a lot of nonsense, and who has savvy enough to recognize which recruits are in trouble and which recruits ought to be in trouble, most of the time. A novice, or somebody working several jobs, or somebody thinking about how to land one of those research jobs, just isn't the same, and distinguishing the confused question from the sophisticated, if not well posed question is something that comes with practice -- and it helps to have opportunity for questions, something the cattle-call lecture hall the temporary employee often gets as means of production may not have.
SEPARATING EQUILIBRIUM? Academic Game is not pleased with the pecking order among universities, in which some Ph.D.s are eligible, by virtue of the program they attended, for employment at all departments, while others are not similarly eligible. Although there might be some elements of signalling and costly information (the M.I.T. degree might carry information content that a Northern Illinois or Buffalo does not) there is also this reality: doctoral programs will produce more Ph.D.s than there are professors teaching in departments with doctoral programs. The money to provide apprenticeships isn't there, and the money to help out with credentialing is. Consequently, some graduates of Ph.D. programs (whether stratified by pecking order or not) will be employed in departments without Ph.D. programs.
THE FAILURES OF CORPORATE WELFARE. Doug's Business of Baseball has a roundup of news, with commentary, on the debacle at the Milwaukee Brewers. (Hat tip: Hit and Run.)
McMISTAKE. To control the discourse, control the words, as I have noted in complaining about the substitution of the grammatical term gender to mean the biological term sex. (It's a substitution that many who have made it don't even recognize.) The use of the term "McJob" to refer to a dead-end job for low-skilled workers may be inaccurate, although Jonah Goldberg notes its usefulness to those who would resist the commercial culture, and Marginal Revolution offers some thoughts on the pay packets in fast food.
GALES OF NOVEMBER. Radio station advises boaters on Lake Michigan, "Get off the lake." 25 foot waves possible, with Indiana and southwest Michigan providing the lee shore.
CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES visits Georgetown University, courtesy of Dead Ends. A carbarn on campus? That's my idea of an urban campus.

11.11.03

FOURTH TURNING ALERT. Michael Barone: "Boomer liberals are liberation-minded on cultural issues and conciliation-minded on foreign policy. Just as they favored propitiating campus rioters by granting many of their demands in the 1960s, so they favor mollifying terrorists by conceding some of theirs, as Bill Clinton tried to do in Northern Ireland and Israel. Boomer conservatives are tradition-minded on cultural issues and confrontation-minded on foreign policy. They smoldered when campus rioters extracted demands from college presidents, and today they favor confronting terrorists militarily, asserting the fight is between good and evil."

Not quite. The older Baby Boomers were the protesters. The college administrators who caved into their demands were members of the Silent Generation, often young enough not to have been called to service in Korea or able to be exempt from the smaller peace-time call-ups, and fortunate enough to have been born during a time of low population and economic growth and come of age in a time of higher population and economic growth. In the academy in those days, one did not have to deny an unpleasant or unproductive colleague tenure to be rid of him; a small or non-existent pay raise sufficed. (I got this from an older head GI Generation colleague some years ago.) The Silent Generation carried out the procedural maneuverings that enabled the older Boomers to question everything. The younger Boomers -- people my age and younger -- got to see the pathologies that came with that questioning, up close. (Read some of the comments at this Roger Simon post -- come, let us reason together? -- and see the age split play itself out. This Andrew Sullivan article (via Insta Pundit, who has been following the conversation without much commentary) doesn't quite get it. Note that Mr Sullivan is casting the disagreement entirely in terms of the sectional and symbolic differences of the 1960s. That will play well with Silents and with older Boomers, but it might as well be the Beat poets for anybody younger. (I'm older than Mr Sullivan and suggesting he's a fogey? Strange times we live in.)
SEEKING THOSE MARKET TESTS: "Are college presidents paid too much or too little? With some salaries now approaching $1-million, what is the justification for the increases in presidential compensation?" That's a Chronicle of Higher Education moderated colloquy to open at noon, God's time, on Thursday, 13 November. (Hat tip: Invisible Adjunct, who also points to a New York Times report that only demonstrates how out of touch some academicians are.) Tie pay packets to faculty packets, indeed.

If memory serves, Babe Ruth defended his salary exceeding President Herbert Hoover's with the line, "I had a better year than he did." That's about as good a summary of the market test as any left-handed pitcher has come up with.

So let's look at the market tests. How much would you be willing to pay a leader who argues that his business ought to be able to determine independently how to spend other peoples' money, who hires writers that write badly, that packages its failures as character traits, that shifts resources to money-losing divisions, that seeks sneaky pay raises (more here), that engages in bait and switch marketing practices, and screens its raw material so carelessly that about a third of it has to be upgraded before it can go into production?

And don't argue that there's a huge risk premium in case you're out the door in three years. By that logic, adjunct faculty and recently hired assistant professors would command much higher salaries.


Midwest Conservative Journal has the details, as well as some Fiskings of recent statements by some vicars who well and truly deserve to be called vicars of vacillation.

You, too, can make your own church sign (or mosque sign.)
LOWERING EXPECTATIONS. Let's see, this engineer doesn't keep time on the wayfreight and you're surprised that he can't bring the Flying Yankee in on time either. D'oh! Joanne Jacobs, Outside the Beltway, and Discriminations expand on the phenomenon in diverse ways.
72 VIRGINS DATING SERVICE. Shameless plug. Christmas is coming, shop for your favorite transgressives now!
WHO IS GRUMPING ABOUT DUMPING? Cotton? Grown in the Arizona desert using subsidized water? (Hint: there is a reason the Land of Cotton has fever swamps and alligators.) Jacob Sullum provides a useful summary of the corporate welfare, environmental degradation, and impoverishment of the Third World that converting portions of Arizona into Dixie Land brings with it. In other trade follies, Asymmetrical Information anticipates, gloomily, the likely fallout of the World Trade Organization objecting to the protective tariff for a few U. S. steel manufacturers.
HERE I STAND, I CAN DO NO OTHER. "By intervening in Iraq, against the majority of world opinion but with the courage of its own convictions and the support of a few allies, America showed that it was indeed a different nation from others: one prepared to shoulder responsibilities and to do what it thinks is right. Such behaviour is alarming precisely because it is bold and, by today's standards, different. It is never likely to bring forth a cascade of praise or gifts. It was done, however, in a way likely to reinforce the concern, as administration officials poured abuse on their foreign critics and, through their violations of human rights, damaged America's own moral authority. Now, though, the argument has to be won by creating facts on the ground." That's the conclusion of an Economist editorial generally praising the United States well worth a read.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: "And what the heck is "pre-K-20" education? Does Seattle assume that its public school system is so ineffective that kids will need to stay in it until they're almost old enough to legally drink?" That's Number 2 Pencil, looking at some expense-preference behavior by the Seattle school board that will only leave the children in their charge further behind. The answer to her question, depressingly, is yes. Here is the goal: "An integrated educational continuum ensures strength at all levels: universal access to quality pre-schools, mastery of reading skills by third grade and algebra by eighth, assurance that all educators are competent and current in their fields." That's taken from the Illinois P-20 initiative. (The "P" is equivalent to "pre-K," it means day care with structured lessons.) To repeat, "Forgive me the impertinence, but apart from the pre-school component, the effectiveness of which is not yet settled, isn't this what the common schools used to do?"

But the Seattle school board apparently isn't interested in finding out how well the experiments are working. Ms Swygert has it about right: "Ahh hah hah hah! What sort of Magical Thinking Class does a school board member have to take in order to believe that removing a test which shows how schools are failing will actually affect whether the schools are failing? Hey, this means if I throw my scale out the window, I can remove the 'public perception' that I've gained 20 pounds in the last two years. Yeah, that's the ticket!" Unfortunately, there is a market test. Cold Spring Shop has noted, and will continue to note, that there is a market test for academic achievement. Although school boards might be able to hide their failures by abolishing troubling assessment tests, ultimately the graduates of schools of all levels have to make their way in the world as producers and traders, and that world has a way of finding out who can do the work and who can not. And some school districts -- and some universities -- will find out the hard way that their graduates can not.
DISPLAY SIGNALS AND RUN AS SECOND NO. 10. Some of last night's posts have been updated.
OUR NEIGHBORS AT WAR. Trust a Veterans' Day observance at a University to take on an academic flavor, with references to Kipling, Orwell, and Popper in the speeches. I'm hoping that the police truck keeping traffic away was simply to provide some quiet around the flagpole and not a sign of the times we live in.

Around the Internet, visit Cox and Forkum, A Small Victory offers thanks and provides links to other posts, and Backcountry Conservative has his connection of links.

SECOND SECTION: Porphyrogenitus has thought through the importance that civilians who support the liberation of Iraq understand the sacrifices the troops are making on behalf of that idea. And don't miss this story of Kentucky and Tennessee police, emergency response, and fire personnel honoring a fallen soldier.
IMMIGRATION ROUNDUP. Dissecting Leftism links to news and editorial comment here and here.
PLAYING THE BADGERS BEFORE NEW YEAR'S DAY? Professor Bainbridge got the word about an extended Christmas closure at UCLA (motto: On! Wisconsin!) where apparently conditions are not quite as tight as they are at NIU (motto: BCS bites!) where there will be a 16 day closure, with December 22 and 23 becoming the forced vacation days or mandatory docking of two days' pay for non-instructional, non-exempt, and exempt employees. His characterization of the closure decision as "lousy" for lower-paid employees is spot on.
IF YOU COULD BUILD A RAILWAY WITH FREE STEEL, WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE? Knowledge Problem and Truck and Barter observe some imperfections with the theory of "perfect" competition. In defense of economic model building, I submit that it is worth understanding something about how people would allocate resources if they could quickly figure out what the most productive uses are, although I agree that absent some way of quantifying the opportunity costs of ignorance, I agree with their point that identifying inefficiencies by quantitative methods is not easy.
READ THE CLASSIC ARTICLES. Alex at Marginal Revolution asks, "In IO theory we teach our students that price discrimination requires monopoly power and monopoly power allows the firm to make above-normal profits. So why don't the industries that practice a lot of price discrimination seem especially profitable? Airlines, movie theatres, universities - all classic examples of users of price discrimination yet none seem especially profitable." Arnold at Econ Log addresses part of the puzzle: "My first reaction is that it is difficult for me to come up with an in industry where there is not price discrimination, which means the attempt to charge higher prices to customers willing to pay them. For example, software pricing is all about price discrimination. Microsoft tries to charge less to educational institutions and to home users than it charges business users. Drug companies try to charge less to groups that can afford to pay less." Quite so. Any coupon, or volume discount, or reward for loyalty such as a frequent flyer club, is an attempt to segment markets by providing an incentive for the low-marginal-valuation buyers to self-identify.

Turning to the question of profitability, let me offer two explanations. The first draws on a lot of ancient work on public utility pricing. In the presence of large sunk costs, marginal cost pricing does not provide sufficient revenue to cover the opportunity costs, including the sunk costs, of the firm. A two-part tariff, which is isomorphic to a coupon or a volume discount (too bad Alchian and Allen's University Economics is long out of print, if you have a copy, go and look it up) is one way of obtaining sufficient revenue. Under competitive conditions with differentiated products, there is no theorem that rules out a free-entry equilibrium with marginal cost pricing to marginal buyers and higher prices to buyers who don't qualify for the discount. (Monopolistic competition and spatial competition models with one price are characterization results.) Thus, movie theaters.

Second, and again drawing on principles of public utility pricing, often the two part tariff is supervised by a regulatory commission. Used to be true of airlines (where there might be network scale economies or irreversibilities leading to equilibrium existence problems that I'm not qualified to discuss at length) and is true of universities. Under regulation, another phenomenon, which transport historian George Hilton called "The Basic Behavior of Regulatory Commissions," kicks in. (American Economic Review Proceedings, May 1972.) What is that basic behavior? It is to generate cartel profits somewhere in the industry and then dissipate them elsewhere. Under the regulation of air fares, the high air fares on busy corridors went to support non-stop flights from numerous smaller cities to coastal destinations (I will admit to taking some pride in learning about such things as a boy in Milwaukee) or to provide better food in first class. The universities are nests of expense-preference behavior, but that's a subsequent rant.