30.12.03

FOURTH TURNING ALERT: Reason's Julian Sanchez notes a generational fault line that will have to be corrected.
FALSIFIABILITY. Dissecting Leftism provides a breakdown of potentially testable positions of moral philosophy, contrasted with positions ultimately dependent on faith or some other appeal to external authority.
ONLY THE RICH WILL USE THE TOLLWAYS. The Governor of Minnesota (motto: Four Losses and Seven Misses) proposes toll roads, and the local socialists promptly raise the above complaint. Shot in the Dark offers some clearer thinking.

SECOND SECTION: Insults Unpunished (via Outside the Beltway) sees greater acceptance of the concept of priority pricing in the District of Columbia.
HAVE YOU BEEN GOOD, THE WAY YOU SHOULD? Heh.
PIGOUVIAN COMPLEMENTS. Professor Varian (via Newmark's Door) seeks to end the positional arms race by which people overinvest in their own safety by purchasing dangerous passenger trucks. His proposal involves insurance premiums linked to gasoline purchases, which is an interesting variation on the corrective tax. Wouldn't it be simpler to modify the fuel intensity standards, to reduce the incentive not to build station wagons and larger sedans?
HOW MANY PACKERS WOULD A PICKER PICK, IF A PICKER WOULD PICK PACKERS? King at SCSU Scholars makes the Packers a sleeper pick. They have to beat the former coach and a number of former players first.
DYING FOR YOUR PREJUDICES. Dennis Prager (via Betsy's Page) suggests it's more important that experienced rescuers not be Israeli rather than some Iranians be pulled from the rubble. In a related post, Editor: Myself (via Buzz Machine) looks at the political economy of donating to the people, bypassing the government, when that government is neither electorally accountable nor collects much in taxes from the general population. These are two distinct phenomena: for many years the United States had electoral accountability (at least for local office and for House seats) while relying primarily on tariffs to pay the national government's bills.
CLUELESS TOURISTS show up on the Tube for New Years, reports London Underground, where the mannerly thing to do on the escalator is indeed stand right, walk left.

29.12.03

THE IVIES IGNORE IT AT THEIR PERIL. Apartment 11-D discovers a survey of French penny-dreadfuls that might have contributed to the Revolution by casting the aristocrats in a bad light. Laura asks, "What signs of change are being ignored by major media and other elites?" I nominate talk radio, perhaps followed by web logging. My sense is that the academic establishment still wants to go on with business as usual, despite the easy access people enjoy to dissenting perspectives, and one of these days an administrator's sniff of "Neanderthal" will not suffice to deflect criticism.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Intellectually, multiculturalism is indefensible." Read the rest. (Via Common Sense and Wonder.)

SECOND SECTION: See also Power Line, who takes the opportunity in linking to the article to ask why Aztec slaveholders are somehow worthy of special regard, while Founder slaveholders must be taken off their pedestals (using the latest academic fad.)
SEEKING AGING HIPPIES? Power Line nails it:
Many of our readers are too young to remember the 60's. Well, we were there, and suffice it to say, this country will go back to 1969 over our cold, dead bodies (to paraphrase the Rifleman and, before him, Phil Gramm). If the election comes down to a contest between those who are stuck in the late 60's and those who have moved on, Dean is in deep, deep trouble.
Quite so. Here's Governor Dean: "We felt the possibilities were unlimited then. We were making such enormous progress. It resonates with a lot of people my age. People my age really felt that way." Let's review the history, which The Fourth Turning captures in microcosm in July of that year: the moon landing offered one view of progress and possibilities, Woodstock another, and Senator Kennedy's car crash a third. (The Beatles may have been preparing to go their separate ways then, also a metaphor for the times.) It is difficult to view much of what followed after July of 1969, particularly in culture, education, and politics, as an improvement on what came before.
EDUCATION FOLLIES: Young Americans for Freedom find them throughout the P-20 enterprise. (Via Porphyrogenitus.)
CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS calls at The American Mind, where Sean scored some playoff tickets and then compiled the entries.
BACKING IN, NONETHELESS. Packers will host a playoff game after Arizona steals one from Minnesota (it's a strange world we live in, with the St. Louis Cardinals in Greater Phoenix, and a northern team playing badly on real grass.) A Milwaukee radio station put together a montage of the last play of the Arizona game, which was being relayed off television by the Green Bay broadcast team. You hear the Minnesota announcer yelling NOOOO!! and the Green Bay announcer yelling YESSSS!!!

Now to the playoffs, and perhaps a puzzle for the theologians: is Irving Favre better connected in Heaven than Harry Caray?

27.12.03

NO BACKING IN. As halftime approaches, the Seahawks gave up two quick touchdowns to the Niners, then rallied to tie the game. The announcers are currently speculating about "strength of victory" considerations that might be even more convoluted than Florida vote-counting algorithms, should the Seahawks and the two North Division teams finish with identical records.
WORKING ON THE RAILROAD
The Restore 3713 project is a joint effort of the Lackawanna and Wyoming Valley Railway Historical Society and the Steamtown National Park to restore to running order The Constitution, a heavy express passenger locomotive of the Boston and Maine Railroad. There's a model of it in progress in my basement, which is supposed to look something like this when it's finished:

(engineer's side)

(fireman's side)
Although there's a lot to be done on it yet, the model does not require the kind of heavy labor the prototype does to get it into running order.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
It is equally possible not to educate oneself at any of those places. I should know: when Harvard turned me down I beat my breast and rent my garments. I then proceeded not to educate myself at my safety school, Carleton College, which served the purpose admirably, just as Harvard would have.
That's God of the Machine on the positional arms race dimension of college attendance, not limited to the big name schools. (Hat tip: Newmark's Door.)
DZENCUJA. Ralph Peters suggests Poland is again being neglected by the U.S. government, despite being an older ally than France.
NO GRINCH STEALS THIS CHRISTMAS. Dan Drezner comments on the latest footloose industry -- this time, candy cane manufacturing. The news coverage is particularly interesting, as the last word goes to Jack Roney, director of economics at the American Sugar Alliance, who asserts, "We would welcome the opportunity to compete globally if there were a level playing field. Sugar is dumped on the world market." Leave for the moment the fundamental concept that trading is inherently a quest for a playing field tilted in your favor (why else call it comparative advantage?), is the use of marginal agricultural land on the high plains of eastern Colorado to produce beet sugar that qualifies for export subsidies not dumping?
TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS and Carnival of the Vanities was all through Winds of Change's house.
BEND OVER, HERE IT COMES AGAIN: "I'm a practical guy, I am not an egghead," [current Illinois Board of Higher Education chairman James] Kaplan said. "I can't sit and do these ephemeral things." That's his perception of research. Here comes another push for "productivity," which probably means a sacrifice of "quality" as fewer professors attempt to teach more students in larger classes. Dan Drezner has correctly summarized the conceptual errors, either in reporting or in the chairman's thinking, and Bill Sjostrom correctly predicts the likely outcome of the study.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
But America's long-term problem isn't too few jobs. It's the widening income gap between personal-service workers and symbolic analysts. The long-term solution is to help spur upward mobility by getting more Americans a good education, including access to college. Unfortunately, just the opposite is occurring. There will be plenty of good jobs to go around. But too few of our citizens are being prepared for them. Rather than fret about "losing jobs" to others, we ought to be fretting about the growing number of our young people who are losing their footing in the emerging economy.
That's former Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich, in a paid Wall Street Journal column that Insults Unpunished helpfully quoted at length while providing useful commentary. The Reich essay provides some information that eludes Paul Krugman, in a lament about more rigid social stratification that neglects the failure of the schools to develop human capital as a contributing factor. Dan Drezner has been following commentary on the Krugman article and provides numerous links, as well as an active comments section.
PIE SLICERS OR PIE ARRANGERS. Joanne Jacobs finds a Neal Boortz column critical of an elementary school activity dealing with the "distribution" of wealth and power. King at SCSU Scholars offers some properly caustic comments about the lesson, and links to a somewhat more challenging lesson dealing with specialization and trade. This second lesson has directions that resemble those in some model train construction kits I have seen, which probably reduces its usefulness to teachers, but perhaps there is something similar in the Economics America materials.

I have to wonder, after looking at the "economic justice" lesson, whether a student would get into trouble for singing the closing lines of Good King Wenceslas or for asking from whence came the shovels or whether the people wearing mittens were supposed to represent primates who had not yet evolved their opposable thumbs.

SECOND SECTION: Community Research and Action Plan. Priceless.
PRUDHOE BAY, IRAQ? Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith proposes a Mesopotamian Permanent Fund for Iraqi oil revenues. Well worth a look.

21.12.03

MARKING OFF. Thanks for stopping by. More posts after Christmas.
A CORRECTION: No case for Mohammed Atta in Baghdad.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Today's Ebenezer Scrooge would be barking orders 24/7 to Bob Cratchit on his BlackBerry. I once worked for a billionaire who insisted, even if I was vacationing in the Caribbean, on having the phone number of every place I'd be. More often than not, he interrupted my plans by calling and demanding some "mission critical" task.
That's Catherine Dickens, the third great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens, on the relevance of A Christmas Carol. Regular readers will recall that these pages have for some time asserted the economic losses and unnecessary social tensions inherent in the treadmill model of business behavior. Ms. Dickens cites examples of some people who have opted off. That's one possibility. We will know that the end of the treadmill is coming when Nextel's manic commercials become grist for comedy routines.

20.12.03

WHAT DOES THE CHEMLAWN MAN DO OVER WINTER? Strings the Christmas lights, according to Virginia Postrel. Does that create more winners? We're back to Wilmette and Waukegan again, this time in the outsourcing of the Christmas lights.

Ms Postrel notes a cohort effect in the use of light-stringing services: older people view them as frivolous. Heck, older people might view the house-lighting tradition as frivolous. I recall a Mad parody of religion, in which one house with a simple lighted cross (or perhaps the word PEACE) was between two gaudy-by-1960s standards with the Santas, reindeer, Magi, illuminated trees and whatnot, and one spectator remarked to another, "I guess they're not very religious." A couple of five-bulb Advent candles served my parents well enough in those days.
TURNINGS, OVERBLOWN? John Quiggin at Crooked Timber is not pleased with the effort to define generations, particularly with the choice of cohort boundaries. Eric Felten (via Milt's File) argues that misplaced confidence in generational habits can be a losing proposition.
SKIPPING GRADES? No long-term harm, but these comments suggest it isn't easy for the skippee at the time of the skipping. Highered Intelligence and King at SCSU Scholars trade fours.
PUTTING SOME NAMES ON THOSE FACE CARDS. The National Association of Scholars Forum has supplied two administrators who deserve a place in the card deck of notorious administrators.

Brooklyn College's Provost Roberta Matthews, who has made "plays well with others" tenurable, and who has politicized the senior thesis (now renamed "capstone," I suppose if we can accept "light rail vehicle" in place of interurban, anything goes) has made a case for Queen of Hearts. (Any allusions you wish to infer to Lewis Carroll are probably correct.)

President Timothy Sullivan of the College of William and Mary, who could not believe that a serious person would favor an affirmative-action bake sale, has made a case for nine of clubs.

(Why nine of clubs?) Because I'm the Superintendent.
SAUERBRATEN LITE? Some things are better left alone, notes Dennis Getto, in a survey of the changing format of Milwaukee German cuisine.
PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES?
The cartoon ran in Friday's morning paper, to the displeasure of radio host Jeff Wagner. That afternoon, Prime Minister Blair and President Bush announced the agreement by Libya to cooperate with the international organizations in ending some weapons programs.

An offer Colonel Qadafi couldn't refuse? Daniel Drezner, Insta Pundit, The American Mind, and Oliver Willis weigh in.
HORIZONTAL EQUITY. Highered Intelligence discovers the lengths school districts will go to to ensure that students receiving taxpayer-paid lunches will not be embarrassed by the experience.
THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN AND THEIR FLYING MACHINES. The students at MIT came up with a proper tribute to the centennial of powered flight, and didn't the physical plant people show the proper aplomb? (Via Kieran at Crooked Timber.) Pitts Pilot at Blaster's Blog (who has trouble writing about the experience flying a Pitts Special -- not surprising as that is a serious performance aircraft, archaic appearance notwithstanding) discovers that a private-enterprise test plane has exceeded Mach I, an honor previously limited to the Concorde and to various military aircraft. Perhaps the next fifty years of rocket flight will be as productive as the first fifty years of aviation?

SECOND SECTION: Transport Blog covers the supersonic test flight.

THIRD SECTION: Via Hit and Run, the New Scientist coverage of the test flight. Don't you just love that Vari-Eze-inspired (first-stage?) carrier plane?
SCALE-IT-DOWN REGARDLESS? Where Worlds Collide has further information about Iain Rice's new book on mainline modelling, expanding on my earlier comments. Modellers of all scales might want to bear in mind that, even in the smallest scales, what passes as a "broad" curve would likely have a 30 mph (50 km/h) speed restriction on it in the prototype. (Thus, even the biggest of North American basements is really too small for very fine modelling of a mainline, unless it's the Chicago Rapid Transit you're doing, where a 24" minimum radius is correct in O Scale ... but then you'd have trouble fitting Marshall Field's into your basement, to say nothing of the Board of Trade.) Still sounds like the book is worth a look.

Time permitting, I might be able to work on a project that will feature big O Scale steam power in a space no larger than a ping-pong table. Why? To demonstrate my big power at shows. How? Model an engine terminal. (I know, it's an old dodge, but how often will you see a Pennsy 6-4-4-6 coming on shed and a GWR King going off shed, followed by a B&M 2-8-4?)
EFFICIENCY NOT THE ONLY GOAL. Econ Log asks whether markets ought be defended on grounds of open-ness, rather than of efficiency, or of prosperity. Good question, and any answer suggests old-style professors working from different disciplines might not yet be obsolete.

While you're visiting Marginal Revolution, here is some background for the Econ Log discussion.
STAND RIGHT, WALK LEFT. Perhaps it's reversed in the Tube. No matter the location, however, there will be clueless newbies impeding the flow of commuters out of the station. That's a regular gripe in the letters to the Chicago commuter newsletter (a waste of effort, in my view, as it is the occasional riders who haven't figured out that the regular riders take the last possible train, and those occasional riders probably don't read the newsletter, which is out of stock shortly after publication). I wonder, though, is the phenomenon more common at tourist destinations. In Washington, DC, disembarking passengers at L'Enfant Plaza or Pentagon have the drill down, but at Archives or Union Station, the rogue escalator user is common, and probably a visitor.
PROM FOR GEEKS. Yup, it's time for the Modern Language Association convention, and Invisible Adjunct rounds up the "Self-Consciously Provocative" paper titles. Funnily, the Allied Social Science Association convention will be in San Diego, the week following the literary types, and it will probably peg the geek meter. Look for lots of tan trenchcoats.

17.12.03

DISPLAY SIGNALS AND RUN AS SECOND NO. 16. Updates to some of yesterday's posts, and a belated Happy Beethoven's Birthday to all.
FRANCHISE OR OWN? Newmark's Door notes a virtual substitute for sitting down to lunch at the Chicago common room. Yesterday's topic: vertical relationships among restaurant chains.
FIFTEEN MEN ON A DEAD MAN'S CHEST. Marginal Revolution notes that piracy is real, and on the rise.
ROFL! ROFL!
COME, JOSEPHINE, IN MY FLYING MACHINE. It's the centennial of powered flight. The all-stars of test-piloting were on hand for a re-enactment that has been postponed account inclement weather. The story of the first flight includes a passing down of tradition and recollections by descendants of the witnesses, and the Nova story included the origin of a tradition. There had to be a first little boy to stick out his arms and run around making motor noises, and the show included a reminiscence by a man who might have observed that event.
LINE OBSTRUCTION. On the Washington Metro, "taking points" does not always refer to moving a train.
FULL FAITH AND CREDIT? What Vermont has put together, let Iowa not put asunder.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "As a nation, we must stand united against a culture that mocks academic success in certain communities." That's Education Secretary Paige, reacting to the latest release of the national report card.
SPEND, SPEND, SPEND SOME MORE. Common Sense and Wonder summarizes the spending habits of the Reagan and current Bush administrations.

SECOND SECTION. Amid these Andrew Sullivan posts is some additional context.
ATTITUDE IS A NINE LETTER WORD. BOATSPEED. Certainly true of Laser sailors, and, according to Live from the Third Rail, the expectation of the upcoming Rochester to Toronto carferry. Another such speedboat is on the ways for a Milwaukee-Muskegon route, once plied by the Grand Trunk Western and the Milwaukee Clipper, both with Pennsylvania Railroad roots.
TRUTH VERSUS PRECISION? Econ Log has an omnibus post, with ample links and commentary, revisiting the role of mathematics in economics. Key point to keep in mind, which hasn't really come up over there: much of the standard introductory sequence is an attempt to use calculus without admitting it (anything involving equating margins such as marginal product per dollar, for instance), while many of the important ideas in economics, such as opportunity cost, specialization, arbitrage, and mutual gain, do not require calculus, which some of the commentors have noted.

16.12.03

KUDOS. Congratulations to the Flying Yankee Restoration Project on winning the Trains Preservation Award, which will be used to fund restoration of the Tin Fish's historic Winton 201A diesel engine.
CHANGING TRAINS. "The next train on track four will be ..." Through ticketing from the Lackawanna to the Pennsy? Hat tip: Live from the Third Rail.
PICKING UP THE BLIND? Academic Game has joined the effort to come up with names for the administrators' deck of cards.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
And thus a pattern emerges: If anti-affirmative action bake sales are conservative students' newest form of activist street theater, quashing such sales are misguided administrators' newest mode of revealing their contempt for intellectual diversity, their ignorance of their legal and ethical obligations to defend and protect free speech on campus, and their affinity for censorship.
That's Critical Mass, with much more coverage of the campaign to make protest bake sales protected speech, never mind the point the sale is making.

SECOND SECTION: Dynamist has more, and notes that The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (disclaimer: the Superintendent is a member) merits a Christmas present from readers.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY, EQUAL OUTCOME, MISSING INVENTION? John at Crooked Timber looks at the tension between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome in the presence of intergenerational transmission of endowments and less social mobility. Well worth a look, although the idea of inventiveness producing new wealth requires further development.
THE MAN IN THE GLASS BOOTH. Lexington Green at Chicago Boyz sees some merit in a trial that might be speedier than the Framers intended ...
THE METHODOLOGY OF POSITIVE ECONOMICS. Daniel at Crooked Timber takes Brad DeLong to task for his presentation of one dirty little secret of theoretical economics: spelling out the premises in such a way that the results come out, without being too obvious about it. Daniel's editorial comments, however, are a bit much:
So, if it is perfectly possible to summarise the conclusions of the Shleifer implementation-cycles model of the business cycle in a few digestible bullet-points, surely it is counterproductive and unforgivable to shroud the simple underlying points in all this [algebra].
Perhaps not. The bullet-point conclusions might be consistent with common sense. The underlying algebra might be forcing the results. There is, however, some benefit in checking some of the premises, weakening some, tightening others, to see if the underlying results are robust to those changes. In particular, conclusions 3 and 5 (counting the bullet points) suggest incentives for agents to behave differently, and that might call for changes in the underlying algebra.
ON KEEPING CURRENT. Kieran at Crooked Timber deals with the academician's traditional problem of too much stuff to read by compiling a list of "Books I Did Not Read This Year," some of which are likely to earn lasting status on his list, although perhaps not on mine.

15.12.03

A WHIFF OF GRAPESHOT. The charge is now tungsten, reports Vodka Pundit, but the effect would not surprise Longstreet or Wellington.
CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS No. 11 visits Sama Blog. Extensive linkage to the effect of international trade on jobs.
WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE. Econ Log asks, "Should water companies also offer different quality water at different prices?" They do. Ever hear of Coors Lite? It's cheaper than Perrier. All heckling aside, Knowledge Problem and Marginal Revolution have been evaluating efficiency pricing of water.
ALL CREEPING AND CRAWLING THINGS. Speaking of spider holes, Carnival of the Vanities No. 64 has been running at Singnal + Noise. Sorry for the late announcement.
PULL OUT THOSE OLD MONOPSONY NOTES. A large buyer uses its buying power to negotiate down the prices it pays for a useful good. Should it come as a surprise that suppliers drop out?
MAKE IT FIT. Where Worlds Collide reviews a new book about mainline modelling in small spaces. Sounds like it's worth a look, despite the a priori ruling out of O Scale. Depends on what you define as main line, I suppose. Eight coach formations and 50 car coal trains do not a mainline make.
BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. Andrew Sullivan has compiled a pretty good collection. Just keep scrolling.
INVESTMENT. Newmark's Door (which is a must-read, particularly if you're here and see nothing new; he appears to identify three or four items daily) links to a David Gelernter essay on the investment value of permanently shutting down the Ba'athists, or the Taliban (or the Communists, or the Nazis, or the Greater East Asia ...) despite the deficit financing involved.
COLLEGE SURE IS TOUGH. Schoolteacher Patrick Welsh sees the downside of "access" (in this case, it's particularly insidious as the beneficiaries are probably paying full fare.)
I agree that a sense of entitlement, a feeling that their parents will take care of them, is part of the problem. Every year I see kids who do next to nothing in class getting into college, including Virginia state schools. "It's a joke to see some of these jaded people going to college where they will just party harder and faster, away from home so they won't get caught," says Sarah Ball.
Where, presumably enough of them will manage to do just enough work to avoid probation, despite the reality check that awaits even better students, as Number 2 Pencil and Newmark's Door have noted and commented upon. Betsy's Page identifies anecdotal evidence that tough love might improve student performance. (Didn't we know some of those things, say in the late 1950s, before the experts started questioning everything?)
IT WILL BE A GREAT DAY WHEN the bake sale as social protest is protected speech, no matter what the protest is. That day might be coming, report the SCSU Scholars.

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL.

Apartment 11-D and Joanne Jacobs point to the discovery of wild kindergarteners who have little structure in their daily lives before they enroll in school. Milt's File points to a Terrence O. Moore article attempting to make sense of Murphy Brown's bastard son's life (he would now be 11 or 12) in a world of barbarians and wimps. Key paragraphs:
Today's barbarians are not hard to find. Like the barbarians of old, the new ones wander about in great packs. You can recognize them by their dress, their speech, their amusements, their manners, and their treatment of women. You will know them right away by their distinctive headgear. They wear baseball caps everywhere they go and in every situation: in class, at the table, indoors, outdoors, while taking a test, while watching a movie, while on a date. They wear these caps frontward, backward, and sideways. They will wear them in church and with suits, if ever a barbarian puts on a suit. Part security blanket, part good-luck charm, these distinctive head coverings unite each barbarian with the rest of the vast barbaric horde.

Recognizing other barbarians by their ball caps, one barbarian can enter into a verbal exchange with another anywhere: in a men's room, at an airport, in a movie theater. This exchange, which never quite reaches the level of conversation, might begin with, "Hey, what up?" A traditional response: "Dude!" The enlightening colloquy can go on for hours at increasingly high volumes. "You know, you know!" "What I'm sayin'!" "No way, man!" "What the f---!" "You da man!" "Cool!" "Phat!" "Awesome!" And so on. Barbarians do not use words to express thoughts, convey information, paint pictures in the imagination, or come to a rational understanding. Such speech as they employ serves mainly to elicit in others audible reactions to a few sensual events: football, sex, hard rock, the latest barbarian movie, sex, football. In the barbarian universe, Buckleyesque vocabularies are not required.
Mr Moore mentions the sometimes positive role of athletic coaches, albeit in the context of a long tradition of the barbarians providing the gladiators. Careful readers might want to note the ritual of the hiring announcement, in which the latest miracle-worker coach, or the latest high draft choice, appears at the press conference in something resembling a suit, but tops the ensemble with the team cap. Too tacky for words, but apparently part of the ritual.

The other male model Moore identifies is a type that Camille Paglia has had much fun with in her essays on the culture of the academy. Moore is somewhat more restrained:
If barbarians suffer from a misdirected manliness, wimps suffer from a want of manly spirit altogether. They lack what the ancient Greeks called thumos, the part of the soul that contains the assertive passions: pugnacity, enterprise, ambition, anger. Thumos compels a man to defend proximate goods: himself, his honor, his lady, his country; as well as universal goods: truth, beauty, goodness, justice. Without thumotic men to combat the cruel, the malevolent, and the unjust, goodness and honor hardly have a chance in our precarious world. But two conditions must be present for thumos to fulfill its mission. First, the soul must be properly ordered. Besides thumos, symbolized by the chest, the soul is composed of reason and appetites, symbolized by the head on the one hand and the stomach and loins on the other. Reason has the capacity to discern right from wrong, but it lacks the strength to act. Appetites, while necessary to keep the body healthy, pull the individual toward pleasures of a lower order. In the well-ordered soul, as C.S. Lewis put it, "the head rules the belly through the chest." In the souls of today's barbarians, clearly thumos has allied itself with the unbridled appetites, and reason has been thrown out the window.
A recent Patrick Welsh article (recommended by Betsy's Page) provides some material for evaluating other arguments in the Moore piece. Moore first:
Young males, of course, have always been rough around the edges. But in the past, their edges were smoothed, in part, by being introduced into female company. Boys learned to behave properly first from their mothers and later around other women and girls. They held open doors, pulled out chairs, stood up when a woman entered a room, stood up in public places to offer their seats, took off their hats in the presence of women, and carefully guarded their language so as not to offend the fair sex. All that is gone. In no other aspect of their conduct is barbarism more apparent among a large number of young men these days than in their treatment of women.

Not only do they not show women any special regard. They go out of their way to bother them. A woman does not like to be yelled at by men in passing cars or from dormitory rooms. She does not like to walk by a group of imposing, leering young men only to hear them cutting up after she passes. She does not like to be the subject of jests and sexual innuendo. But this sort of thing goes on all the time. Young women who appear in public, whether in a dance club, at a pub, or in a shopping mall, are constantly accosted by packs of young males on the prowl who consider it their inalienable right to make crude, suggestive advances. These days young males curse with abandon in front of women, often in reference to sex. Nighttime finds barbarians reveling in the pick-up, hook-up culture of the bar scene. In short, the company of women no longer brings out the best in young men. Around the opposite sex, the adolescent and post-adolescent males of today are at their worst.
Um, maybe not. People respond to incentives. Here's Welsh:
Laura Newton-Catto, head of the school guidance department, agrees. "To be cool you have to have a bad boy, hard image," she says. Boys think they have to "drink and experiment with drugs. Girls make it worse because many of them don't want to date straight guys. They find them boring."
To what end? Back to Apartment 11-D, who perhaps reads too much into pop-culture rediscovery of the glamourous wedding. I'll leave it to the experts in some of the more difficult social sciences to disentangle the effects of a coming of age of friendship with benefits, hook-ups, shack-ups, "issues" and "baggage" on lifetime commitment. Let me instead offer an economist-style proposition: the endurance of a marriage is inversely proportional to the showiness of the wedding.
MAKING TRACKS? I checked one of the banner ads that comes up with Cold Spring Shops, and found this, which might be worth a product review.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Like flies to garbage, Iraq has sucked resources and people from terror organizations around the world. And while I would willingly go to serve my country if needed, I would rather be in harm's way on the streets of a foreign country than on LaSalle and Jackson." That's Andy at Chicago Boyz. (For geographical reference, LaSalle and Jackson is the location of the Federal Reserve and the Board of Trade, and just east of the Sears Tower.)
STILL PLAYING FOR LEASTER? The Bears beat the Vikings, then the Packers give away an early lead and have to rally from behind to beat the 3-10 Chargers. Vikings hold the tiebreak over the Packers, who hold the tiebreak over the refugees in Seattle.
SEEKING A NEW MEME? Clement C. Moore's Night Before Christmas becomes the foundation for commentaries on the academic scene at St. Cloud State and Academic Game, naming numerous names.

It is time for stronger fare. The executive suites at numerous universities are occupied by individuals who, if the word got out, would have to hide in spider holes rather than sip sherry in panelled common rooms. Clearly, what we lack is a proper card deck. Here is a start. Nominations for your candidates are welcome by email to skarlson-at-niu-dot-edu. Please note the following rules.

First, my Wisconsin roots are showing. Thus, I am structuring this deck as a 32-card sheepshead deck. (There is something particularly fitting about using a very complicated game that you don't play with a full deck, nicht wahr?)

Second, in a sheepshead deck, there is a permanent trump suit, the queens, jacks, and diamonds, and all other suits are referred to collectively as "fail" suits. Thus, the seven of hearts could be used to identify an administrator who has been a particularly miserable failure.

The most powerful card in the sheepshead deck is the queen of clubs. Cold Spring Shops nominates Donna Shalala as queen of clubs, for finding no diversity fad too foolish, for conspicuous loyalty to corrupt athletic departments, and for distinguished service as a Democratic Party court intellectual.

University of Wisconsin Chancellor Katherine Lyall has made a good case for queen of diamonds, for willingness to accept a pay raise provided it's a secret.

The ranking jack is the jack of clubs, and outgoing University of Illinois at Chicago dean Stanley Fish has earned that status as a lifetime achievement award, for his innovative use of nepotism as a recruiting device in the Duke English Department, and his charming insistence on taxpayer indulgence of expense-preference behavior in spite of the failure of the education establishment (yes, the whole P-20 quagmire) to do its job.

In this morning's shopping around, I have found a logical candidate for the ace of spades. (Remember, this is a sheepshead deck. The ace of spades is worth 11 points to the winner of a trick, but it is a dangerous card to lead as an opponent void in spades can trump it with the seven of diamonds.) Eastern Michigan's Steven D. Krause has turned up a good candidate. Auburn President William Walker, who has lost the confidence of his faculty but has not yet hidden in a spider hole.

Additional nominations are welcome, there are still 28 cards to fill in.

14.12.03

WITH MALICE TOWARD NONE, WITH CHARITY TOWARD ALL, provided the formerly malicious are sufficiently repentant:
The heroes of our valiant Pesh Mergas, and the heroes of the U.S. Fourth division have done it. Now is the time to unleash the Iraqi Counter Terror; now is the time to go for the kill. Let us go after them. Don’t lose this moment. They want to recant and live in equality with the people? they have a chance - otherwise they will have to go.
That's The Mesopotamian, who offers today's blessing:
God Bless Iraq; God Bless America; God bless the Allies.

And above all Praise be to Allah the Almighty the Avenger.

Salaam.
Amen.
SADDAM HUSSEIN, ABU NIDAL, MOHAMMED ATTA? Tim Blair and Citizen Smash provide some sources.
NEW AGE SUN WORSHIPERS. Is environmentalism the latest incarnation of ancient superstition, without the sacrificial virgins? Via Newmark's Door, some Michael Crichton thoughts along those lines, with a bit more restraint than I am showing.

12.12.03

SUFFERING FROM MY DISSONANCES. Charles Ives might have invented the three-day weekend. Marginal Revolution generalizes, with some tough love for frustrated humanities majors.
SHIPPING THE BAD JOBS OUT. Professor Drezner recommends a research paper on the effects of open trade on employment in the information technology industries. Key points. One worth looking at is toward the end.
Not all job categories are projected to expand. Jobs for bank tellers, switchboard operators (including answering services), and telephone operators are all projected to shrink by 20,000 to 60,000 jobs each. But this contraction is as much due to automated teller machines and voice-answering technologies as due to jobs going offshore. Jobs for insurance claims clerks, word processors, and secretaries also are projected to drop; these could be candidates for offshore job creation, replacing jobs at home. What is notable about all these jobs is that they are at the low-wage, low-skill end of the job spectrum that currently demands IT skills.
Any questions about why the use of the university to certify entry-level file clerks is such a crime?

Among the points in the executive summary of the paper we read,
Globalization of software and services, enhanced IT use and transformation of activities in new sectors, and job creation are mutually dependent. Breaking the links, by limiting globalization of software and services or by restricting IT investment and transformation of activities or by having insufficient skilled workers at home, puts robust and sustainable US economic performance at risk.
The paper suggests that the transformation of information technology industries will lead to productivity growth.

What, then, about those Pakistani living standards? Not relevant. Return to the parable of Wilmette and Waukegan. Suppose that Wilmette outsources some of the manufacturing activity it used to undertake on its own. Now that activity is being done in Waukegan, which implies an increase in the living standards in Waukegan. Consider next the Wilmette artisan, who used to do manufacturing in Wilmette. Perhaps he becomes a gardener instead. Compared to the income he used to get as a Wilmette manufacturer, he is poorer, but compared to a Waukegan manufacturer he is richer (otherwise he would accept the new price for his work.) And a new service, gardening, is available to Wilmette residents, where it was previously unavailable. If outsourcing to Waukegan is not permitted, or the Wilmette manufacturer is incapable of learning gardening, Wilmette does not outsource and does not see an improvement in its living standards. Neither does Waukegan.
A GAME OF MORNINGTON CRESCENT. Comedy act in a British nightclub. "I've just discovered a new game. Some blokes are sitting around naming Tube stations and the first person to name Mornington Crescent wins. If you name Mornington Crescent and the next player was planning to name Mornington Crescent, it's a particularly good win." The game is a regular feature on the BBC's I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue, and there is a game in progress at Transport Blog. I'm not sufficiently familiar with the game to suggest that there might be a forced win for the player that names Elephant and Castle, which, these days, is the name of a strip mall, not the pub I was expecting when I stopped off there one evening.

8.12.03

PROCRASTINATION OPPORTUNITY. Stack of bluebooks at home, bad weather rolling in, grades due toward week's end. Expect intermittent posts the next couple of days, perhaps some things more carefully researched than others.
TODAY'S QUIZ: Identify the author: "[W]ith the [United States} a new power factor has emerged on a scale that threatens to nullify all the previous state power relationships and hierarchies."

Via Milt's File, the answer.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF CELEBRATING DIVERSITY. Cox and Forkum have it about right.
IMAGINE THESE COURSE EVALUATIONS: Protected status, Ba'ath Party style.
JONES FEELS THAT 2+2=4. James Harrigan (via Insults Unpunished) attempts to trace the origin of the use of the verb "to feel" where a writer would at one time have used "to think." I, too, dislike the locution, and scribble caustic comments in bluebooks when I see it. I also suspect the disease has been with us somewhat longer than since the Whiney Nineties. The post heading is the title of a curmudgeonly essay from Trains magazine about weak management and little accountability that I read in the late 1960s, in the depths of the crisis of railroading.
AND YET MORE ON STEEL TRADE, this time at Insults Unpunished.
CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS NO. 10 visits A Penny For, who did a fine job classifying posts. For those of you who came over here to read about factor price equalization, it appears as though explaining the argument will be a never-ending task. Carnival contributor The Calico Cat is the latest poster to fret about the changing patterns of specialization resulting from open trade.
The problem for the United States, not addressed by Mr. Prather, is that free trade will cause the economy of the planet as a whole to increase. But how will the United States fare?

As I've written before, the ease in which jobs can be exported today, because of technology, is unprecedented in the history of economics. This will cause all wages throughout the planet to equalize. This will be of great benefit to a country like India, but it will painful to the United States.

Most jobs involving what I consider to be "real work" will be moved overseas, and the only jobs left here will be marketing and sales, services that cannot be performed overseas (such as cooking food), and ownership of capital (making money from already having money).

The United States' only source of continued wealth is our huge stockpile of capital. As Gordon Gekko said in the movie Wall Street, we will no longer create, we will only own (he said something similar to that, anyway).
Let's walk this cat backwards. First, an Oliver Stone movie, particularly one that starts with somebody shorting NASA after the shuttle crash -- when the opening of the movie is set in May 1985, before the crash -- is a not particularly good argument from authority. Second, the money has always been mobile, it can be used to own productive capacity anywhere, presumably including places where workers can be cheaply hired. To the extent that it is not being used to provide machinery to work with that cheap labor, there must be incentives to use the money to own other machinery and work with other workers. (How many times do we have to beat down the "giant sucking sound" arguments?)

Now let's walk backwards to the "real work." Conjures up images of 10,000 comrades carrying lunch buckets into Magnitogorsk to fulfill the Five Year Plan, doesn't it? But improvements in information handling and in change-on-the-fly tooling make such images of mass production and mass marketing something for dystopian movies. Those developments do not have to mean all manufacturing has to move to low-wage locations, a lot of it can take place in residential neighborhoods with relatively few people and a lot of clever tooling doing the work. It also does not have to mean immiserisation of people in a rich neighborhood. If it's a bit hard to see why internationally, consider a parable of two towns, Wilmette and Waukegan. Suppose Wilmette is originally self-sufficient in food, manufacturing and trade, and Waukegan subsists on the food its inhabitants grow. Now let Waukegan trade with Wilmette. Waukegan gets the advantage of Wilmette's trading expertise, and obtains manufactured goods from Wilmette. As time passes, the manufacturing activity moves from Wilmette to Waukegan, and Waukegan begins to trade its manufactured goods for foodstuffs from Wauzeka. In no case does any community become worse off as a consequence of the trading, although Wilmette is still richer on a per-capita basis than Waukegan, as is Waukegan compared to Wauzeka. There is no reason not to think of the developed countries as continuing to be more prosperous as a consequence of international trade in exactly the same way that each of the midwestern cities become more prosperous as a consequence of inter-regional trade. (Note this Econo Pundit post that shows increasing export trade in services from the U.S. That's the international analogue of Wilmette doing the financing and the market making first for Waukegan and later for Wauzeka.) We then have to work backwards to Calicao Cat's assertion about wages equalizing. The real returns to equally productive resources will be equal in all countries, provided the solution is determined. That is not the same thing as asserting that all wages will be driven down to the level of the least-paid worker, which is the bastard child version of the factor price equalization theorem that seems popular in some circles.

Dean at Dean's World has nailed the more important effect of globalization, which is one that is a consequence of adjustment costs, in this case known as immobile factors.
Here's what I honestly think: it's older workers who get hurt by loss of manufacturing jobs. The older you are, the greater trouble you have transitioning to a new skilled labor position. Younger workers tend to be more adaptible and in a better position to make choices to keep their flexibility in a dynamic environment. It's the folks who have not educated themselves, have not educated themselves, who find themselves in their 40s and 50s wondering what the heck to do with themselves.
There is the real equity problem: those older people might have correctly chosen semi-skilled but at the time good paying jobs in heavy industry based on the information they had at the age of 15 or 16. In addition, in unionized industries, those are the people who have survived the layoffs and downsizings thanks to seniority, and it is their perspectives that are heavily weighted in any contract voting, sometimes to the detriment of employment prospects for younger workers.

7.12.03

DRAINING LAKE MICHIGAN? The equivalent has happened in the Great Plains. And while we're on the subject of subsidies to the rich, get this:
Southern Nevada uses 308 gallons a day per person, according to the [Southern Nevada Water] authority. By comparison, residents of Phoenix use 235 gallons a day, and those in Albuquerque use 197 gallons.

For comparison, Milwaukee uses 128 gallons per day.
(Research project: locate a survey of typical water bills among metropolitan areas.)
ANOTHER FANTASY MAP, this time featuring Iraq. (Hat tip: Healing Iraq.)
SALUTARY DEVELOPMENT. Marginal Revolution discovers student fees allocated to match outside offers to star professors, predicts further private funding of state-located universities. As the public funding is often a subsidy to better-off people, the distributional effects do not have to imply losses to poorer people.
LOGIC GAMES. Some good ones. Caution: many of the questions appear to blur distinctions among "wrong" as in "purposeless" as opposed to "gross" as opposed to "illegal" as opposed to "harmful to others," particularly if you play this.
SOME REALLY SMART BOMB? No sign of explosion, no damage in adjacent rooms, burned desktop cases and ring binders. As far as I know, no U.S. ordnance is that clever.
BUG OR FEATURE, DEPENDING ON YOUR PERSPECTIVE. New York Senator Hillary Clinton appeared on Meet The Press to recite her argument about the most radical administration of recent times attempting to undo the New Deal. Poli Blog finds the allegation a bit much, given the recent passage of an expensive Medicare reform (and one could mention the assorted projects that used to come under the rubric of Public Works Administration or Works Progress Administration that now appear as riders on various bills.) Given the accumulating evidence of the ineffectiveness of much of the New Deal legislation (reminder: Motor Carrier Act, Air Carrier Act, deposit insurance, financial cartels) the undoing of the rest is a topic for serious debate. Not only that, the cohort of voters who Senator Clinton would expect to reach for the stakes and the garlic if someone says "undo the New Deal" is likely to be smaller in number and higher in median age as time passes.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. "For the third time since they hijacked college football's postseason in 1998, the Bowl Championship Series and the computer geeks they employ made hash out of it." (Details.) Not only that, the Northern Illinois Huskies were not invited to the party.
CHAMPIONS OF FREEDOM? Outside the Beltway has some observations, and links to other observations, about Reason's 35 Heroes of Freedom.
For all of its many problems, the world we live in is dizzying in its variety, breathtaking in its riches, and wide-ranging in its options. Malcontents on the right and left who diagnose modernity as suffering from "affluenza" or "options anxiety" will admit this much: These days we’ve even got a greater choice of ways to be unhappy. Which may be as close to a definition of utopia as we’re likely to come.
I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a feature or a bug.

5.12.03

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If you are here just to get a job, then you are here for the wrong reasons and probably will never realize your full potential." That's Northern Star columnist Jack Daniel, who is soon to graduate. Our administration demonstrates its unworthiness of such students by symbolic gestures such as this.
IN PRAISE OF TECHNOCRATS. Sounds like something from Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary.

Public Health (n.) Providing too little of the wrong kind of flu vaccine.
WHO KNOWS YOU? Virginia Postrel's most recent New York Times column, although about the potential efficiencies of more impersonal methods of financing business and closing deals, is not without relevance to the academy, where most disciplines are obsessed to varying degrees with prestige and reputation bolstered by hiring faculty from the right programs and publishing in the right journals.
BECAUSE OUR POLITICAL MASTERS COMMEND IT. Academic Game wonders, "Why do tenured professors permit increases in class size when this degrades student education, encourages exploitation of contingent faculty, and reduces tenured professors' time as well as the value of their wage?" Because if you mis-measure the output, it looks like productivity. Northern Illinois University's lobbyist, who now has the title of associate vice president to go with the title that has alwas translated as lobbyist, informed the faculty senate, "They are educating several thousand more students on $20 or $30 million less — that’s productivity." Provided there's some work being done. But when the fire marshal is the constraint on the size of the class, and the assignments are fewer or the examinations more likely to be fill-in-the-bubble forms, is the value added really larger?
WHEN MORNINGTON CRESCENT LOSES ITS APPEAL. Apartment 11-D reveals a game one can play with the rapid transit map while waiting for the next train. It ought to be possible to play this game in Chicago as well. But I'm not sure whether Isabella Dempster is a North Shore society lady active in charity or a Northwest Side mom living in a bungalow with two kids in the parish school, or to say Howard Madison is a Cubs fan or a Sox fan. Wilson Armitage has to be an investment banker with a condo in Lake Pointe Towers.
ALTERNATE REALITIES. Raise taxes, balance the budget, prolong the recession, the terrorists win? Econo Pundit does some simulation, and some political speculation, including an offer to provide sources should readers wish to replicate or perform further sensitivity analyses. We've come a long way from students playing with C + I + G + (X-M) on hand calculators.
THE VALUE OF MODELING. Is there a simple algorithm to pick a national college football champion? Perhaps, and it involves simulated monkeys flipping simulated loaded coins -- now if you could include a subroutine to pose sympathetic leading questions, you'd have a sports correspondent. There is a technical paper and some background. I disagree, however, with the assertion of one of the researchers that a collegiate football tournament is desirable, for reasons similar to those I saw in a Sports Illustrated column that got the basketball tournament about right: the winner has to win six straight games often in far-away sites against opponents of dubious quality that might have a good night. The proliferation of bowl opportunities for the major conferences as we currently see it is close enough to that situation already.
DON'T MESS WITH MY METRA. Live from the Third Rail reports on a jihadi bombing of a commuter train in the Stavropol, Russia, area. Nick at Hit and Run points to one vision of the future that such attacks portend; Victor Davis Hanson likely would disagree.
KEEP BATTLING, KEEP SMILING. Healing Iraq reports on homegrown success, Saddam sightings, and some Photoshop cleverness.
NO FISHING OFF THE COMPANY PIER. Academic Game has some useful thoughts on the possible downside of universities making special efforts to hire dual-academic-career couples, something particularly dodgy with your graduate school classmates providing much of the mating pool and with Bloomsbury rules and no-fault divorce enjoying protected status in the faculty.
CONGRATULATIONS, DR. LAWRENCE, who survives the academic cage-match and joins the ranks of webloggers to have successfully posted whilst dissertating. An aside: the use of the term "log" to mean make an entry is common in transportation (consider the ship's log, the flight log, and the train sheet) and thus the infinitive, "to blog," although sounding like a bad head cold, is not without foundation.
RECREATIONAL THERAPY
All blog and no trains makes the Superintendent grumpier.
As of earlier this evening, wiring is in place on the upper level and trains can run the length of the railroad.
A TRIBUTE TO THE NORTHEAST CORRIDOR. Brian at Transport Blog discovers the route of the Acela Express and notes, "Seriously, is there, anywhere else on earth, a line of potential rail destinations as impressive as that? The world contains many clusters of such places, but lines?" Thanks for the kind words about our Northeast. Read the comments to the post and discover the cultural and commercial goodies people have observed.

May I recommend another candidate? Some years ago, the BBC produced a series called "Great Railway Journeys of the World." One of the programs, called Changing Trains, begins in Zurich (it's easy enough to begin in Geneva) proceeding over several mountain ranges and calling at Munich, Vienna, and Budapest. Not exactly the Route of the Hiawathas, but some great stopping places along the way. And as I look at my European timetable, I see another possibility, probably requiring a change of trains: Copenhagen-Berlin-Dresden-Prague-Vienna-Budapest. There are enough composers, or mathematicians, or grandmasters alone to make that an all-star listing.
WYOMING PRESUMABLY ALREADY LOCKED UP. Dan Drezner summarizes the political fallout of the end of the emergency steel tariff. Per corollary to the Iowa Car Crop, steel miners who think they are mining coal in the Powder River Basin, and the railwaymen who haul what they perceive as coal to West Coast ports, where the ships return with steel, also stand to benefit by the end of the tariffs. Perhaps a roundup of industry comment over the weekend.

SECOND SECTION: Professor Drezner finds a report from Pittsburgh that notes the weaker U.S. dollar (and perhaps the short-term steel shortage?) mean little short-term effect, but the end of the tariffs might remove some stability and impede the ongoing consolidation in the industry. Huh? The Big Two integrated producers have recently pulled off consolidations that would have made Andrew Carnegie or Henry Clay Frick blush, and the national government's insurance program for heavy-industry pension liabilities is an added inducement for weak companies to close and hive off those legacy costs to the taxpayers.
CONVEX COMBINATIONS. Knowledge Problem is properly disgusted with advocates of one-size-fits-all command-and-control regulations who don't recognize a benefit.
Put another way, these folks don't want the utilities to be able to get a two-fer -- they do not want them to be able to reduce mercury in the process of pursuing other emission reductions. They want a separate mercury redution technology.
Don't serve such people a casserole. They want their meat separate from their potatoes. Alas, the notion of substitutability is not well understood by a lot of people, and it may not always be well taught by economists, including me.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE. The American Mind reports the rediscovery of some ancient verities about avoiding poverty. It is probably unfair for an Ancient Mariner to take Mr Hackbarth to task in that way, as Robert Lampman's Ends and Means of Reducing Income Poverty is long out of print, but some of us who hung out at the University of Wisconsin a long time ago were aware that a child who had a younger father, rather than an older father, who had completed high school, and both natural parents in the house was almost sure not to grow up poor. The one dimension that has almost surely changed in the past 30 years is that if the child had African origins his or her chances of growing up poor were somewhat greater, although disentangling the effects of race and marital status is not easy even with the best of computers.
TRAIN THEM UP IN THE RIGHT WAY WHEN THEY ARE YOUNG. Rockwell Automation has named Keith Nosbusch, an electrical engineering graduate from the University of Wisconsin who was co-captain of the football team and whose daughter is currently a defender on the soccer team. If memory serves, Mr. Nosbusch's first supervisor at Allen-Bradley was John Karlson. Good going, Dad.
NO DEPLETING THIS FISHERY. Academic Game has discovered Stanley Fish's special pleading (more harpooning sighted here and here) and finds ample opportunities to toss a few harpoons. Tightly Wound discovers the commentary and expands on it. Of particular interest:
This amuses me because the more academics and universities get up in arms to defend their economic and classroom practices the more they expose the prejudices which contribute quite a bit to the problems they're having--and the biggest problem appears to be their unfounded belief in their own unquestionable position as the great unwashed's intellectual superiors.
Quite.

4.12.03

RUNNING WITH THE HUSKIES. Siberian Huskies are high-maintenance dogs and there is an active cottage industry in taking in and finding new owners for dogs that are not compatible with owners who buy them for their conversation value. (A local chapter provides the live mascots for Northern Illinois University, and it sometimes hard to tell who is controlling whom when the dogs go around the field with some of the smaller cheerleaders running along behind.) But take the story about the dog that got off the leash and ran from Michigan into Indiana with a bit of skepticism. If it had gotten away from a handler in Houghton (home of the Michigan Tech Huskies) it might be an animal worthy of the Iditarod, or Sgt. Preston of the Yukon. On the other hand, if it had run away from Sturgis, Michigan City, Indiana is just down the road a piece.
THE THINGS YOU LEARN. I am pleased to see a number of my sources taking note of Milt Rosenberg's weblog. Those of you who live far from Chicago might not get to hear the show, which is a delightful mix of intellectual topics, some heavier than others. Tonight, three scholars with the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute Museum speaking of many things, including commonalities between Hittite and English (!) and their work cataloging and assessing the losses from the Baghdad Historical Museum. Many of the missing objects are cylindrical seals. How do you say "I have this day set my hand and seal ..." in Hittite?
THE SECRET IS OUT. Regular readers of these pages will have noted that in University-speak, "access" is a euphemism for "enrolling unprepared students." Interested Participant has discovered that "Ohio colleges and universities are teaching basic high school courses to the students with the taxpayer picking up the cost," and that University of Cincinnati administrators take pride in doing so. Number 2 Pencil has picked up the story, and asks, correctly,
Why? Why are they being admitted to college if they're not ready? The last I checked, a college degree was not a right. Why should taxpayers, who are apparently already supporting a failing K-12 system, be forced to support a college system that doesn't value college-level work?
Why, indeed? The policy was a mistake in the 1990s, when some members of a curriculum committee I served on saw a virtue in something called "retention" as a way of keeping enrollments up and the bond interest money rolling in, and it makes no sense at all in light of jammed middle schools and rising freshman applications. And the policy, by simply taking the failures of the common schools as given, provides no incentive for the common schools to clean up their act. Perhaps if the principals of some of the common schools -- including "good" schools in prosperous neighborhoods -- discovered that their students were not being admitted to good universities -- heck, to safety valve universities -- account deficiencies in their education, the effects would be salutary. It's not as if I'm advocating executing a couple of admirals here, pour encourager les autres!

A footnote: make sure you read the comments at the Number 2 Pencil post -- you'll learn something about the graduation rate of the most prominent program at Cincinnati, and about the value system of beneficiaries of that program!
NO FREE RIDING. Daily Ablution is disappointed to find that the British TV Police (revenooers who check that people have paid their TV tax ... that commercial-free Beeb isn't free, after all) are proper and polite.
A FISH ROTS FROM THE HEAD DOWN. So does a university. Invisible Adjunct reacts to Stanley Fish's special pleading (links to additional commentary here.) Key observation:
Fish utters not one word about the large-scale and systemic restructuring of the terms of academic employment -- a transformation that has to be seen as the single most significant factor in the weakening of the bargaining power of academic faculty. To repeat the point: when (as in the year 2001), only "about one-quarter of new faculty appointments were to full-time tenure track positions (i.e., half were part-time, and more than half of the remaining full-time positions were 'off' the tenure track)," we are looking at an extremely vulnerable profession: a profession that is vulnerable not only to direct attacks by Republican legislators but also to the more indirect effects of much broader and amorphous social and economic changes.
But setting up Experimental Prefigurative Communities of Transfiguration, and hosting expensive wine-and-cheese receptions for Cutting Edge Bulls... Postmodernists is so much more important, and at least within the academic echo chamber, griping about Those Mean Republicans is so much easier than acknowledging the university's breaches of the social contract and putting those breaches right.
GUTTING THE CURRICULUM. Daniel Drezner recommends an inflight magazine article! that comments on cultural literacy, using awareness of Joyce Kilmer's twee poem Trees as a marker for a generation gap in knowledge. Key paragraph:
It turns out that the year you were born may be a more important factor in what you know than the schools you attended or which side of the tracks you were born on. The generation gap is less about attitude and more about cultural points of reference, less about how long you like your hair or how short your skirts and more about whether you identify the Kennedy tragedy as something to do with the president or with his son.
Perhaps. But awareness of popular culture is, by definition, transitory, and popular culture is popular in some cases precisely because it is empty. On the other hand, awareness of a canon of received knowledge is useful for understanding many things. Take, for example, landmark opinions in the regulation of public utilities. On first reading of these, I was struck by the frequency of classical allusions in them. I know not whether such things are as common in landmark court decisions elsewhere in policy, but suspect that, as the same justices are involved in writing those opinions, similar allusions will occur there. And it is a crime to deprive youngsters of the background by which they can grasp such things. Supreme Court rulings are cumbersome enough to read even if you do know the classics.
CONFUSION TO THE FRENCH. Yet more yacht-racing tactics, this time by Captain Hornblower, who, while pursued by a heavier French ship on his weather hip, prepares to come about, then reverses tacks, using his crew to backwind the jibs. The French captain, matching the first tack to prevent his escape, buys the fake and is unable to respond properly, winding up in stays and vulnerable to having his rigging shot away.
NOTICE OF DISCONTINUANCE OF SERVICE. Blogshares has closed down. (Hat tips: Wiz Bang by way of Outside the Beltway.)
NEW MERSENNE PRIME. There's something appealing about searching for prime numbers by taking powers of 2 and subtracting 1, 2**n - 1. There's also something appealing about searching by taking prime powers of 2, although you quickly see that prime-ness does not follow, e.g. 2**2 - 1 = 3, a prime; 2**3 - 1 = 7, a prime, 2**5 - 1 = 31, a prime, 2**7 - 1 = 127, a prime, 2**11 - 1 = 2047 = 23*89, a product of two primes, and then they start to thin out. Marginal Revolution reports the discovery of the 40th such Mersenne prime, with power 20,996,011, and links to a spare computing power sharing opportunity, for people with computer time to spare and an interest in chasing primes. (There are still as many to find today as there were yesterday.)

2.12.03

ON THE DOMESTIC FRONT. (Warning: omnibus post.)

First, some unusual incidences of spouse abuse, and some commentary on the changing nature of the conversation about such things.

Second, some anticipation of wacky statements to come.

Third, some ongoing wackiness. Laura at Apartment 11-D wants everyone else to be comfortable with her prejudices:
Just as we shouldn't discriminate against homosexuals and feel that it is right to accommodate people with disabilities, society has to accommodate parents. That means changes in the workplace. And it means sacrifices from the childless.
Catch the howling non-sequitur in there? The Americans with Disabilities Act and the continuing attempts to determine positive or negative rights for homosexuals are two fronts in the Culture Wars. And there is more than one change in the workplace by which "society" can accommodate parents. I was under the impression that the old accommodation, with Dad working and Mom minding the kids, had to be changed precisely because it meant Dad was away from the kids too much and Mom was with the kids too much. Perhaps that was just another Silent Generation experiment against reality, to go with no-fault divorce and tax-supported day care. And Dr. Laura loses any sympathy for her demand that "the childless" sacrifice on behalf of her leaving work early with this:
Couples who work full time without the expense of childcare or diapers are much better off than we are. They have houses, while we live in a dumpy apartment. They take vacations and only pay for two plane seats. They have two full time salaries with benefits. Children are the leading indicator of poverty.
Um, this is somebody who lives in New York City, making a classic argumentum ad misericordiam. Further, it is somebody who still has failed to read and understand the Say Aggregation Principle. Furthermore, it is a bit disingenuous to demand further changes in working life, when it is precisely the end of the old sex roles that made it possible for two-income power couples to outbid one income, or income-and-a-half couples for the good houses and the good cars. (Although, as there is a large premium for good houses in good school districts, there must be some bidding by power couples WITH CHILDREN going on in such neighborhoods.)

Harry at Crooked Timber has chimed in with some observations of his own, which are worth a look, but ought to be read in light of two realities that are difficult to change. First, high achievers might be childless by choice (and quite willing to pick up some of the slack the early-leaving moms and dads create, for an eminently sensible price: the promotions and the prestige.) In that light there might not have to be any additional sacrifices. Second, women have babies, which makes de-sexing the division of labor in child rearing a bit more cumbersome in practice than in principle.
MEDIA CONCENTRATION? If that new Democratic National Committee liberal radio network gets going, will its commentators have to keep still about the fact that a rich financier made possible the purchase of the first five stations, all in large cities? Byron York sees an option value in buying the radio stations, independent of the opportunity to run programs of the owners' choices, and Charlie Sykes sees a little market saturation problem facing the owners.
FOOTBALL IS NOW A RADICAL CAUSE. King at SCSU Scholars sees no causal link between affirmative action bake sales and poor performance on the gridiron. Today's Best of the Web does some additional research not at all supportive of the claim.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
I put together a small box of school supplies, stuffed animals, small toy cars and special items I thought each would like, with a couple of new toothbrushes and toothpaste to top it off.
That's a report from Chief Wiggles, grateful for what readers have sent, asking for more. As Dean at Dean's World notes, "Get involved, people. Especially if you ever said you support our troops, or said you want the best for the Iraqi people."
PELTZMAN EFFECTS. Stephen Moore is unimpressed with claims that higher speed limits lead to more traffic deaths. Key observation: "The study found that deaths on rural highways had risen by 35 percent because of the new law." Rural highways are not equivalent to interstate highways, where the higher speed limits are more common. (Illinois only allows 65 on rural Interstates -- a law honored more in the breach than in the observance -- and Wisconsin permits 65 on some divided limited-access highways, which I refer to as the Cheddarbahns.) Rural highways are less likely to be safe for a number of reasons: two lanes, people taking risks in the passing zones, stop signs at blind intersections thanks to the tall corn, which makes defensive driving techniques in anticipation of inattentive cross-traffic more difficult, farm equipment headed to or from the field, and development bringing greater traffic volumes.

Curiously, some of the plains states have taken measures in the interest of safety that might raise the accident rates. A few years ago, I noticed railway-style gates that can be used to block access to interstate highways in Minnesota, a practice that Wisconsin has adapted through Kenosha and Racine counties. These gates have the effects of diverting traffic from the interstates to the rural roads, putting the people with get-home-itis on the more dangerous roads.
INCOMPLETE SPECIALIZATION. Dean at Dean's World expresses surprise that the ongoing economic recovery includes an expansion in manufacturing, with spot shortages (or upward price pressure) in some manufactured goods. No big surprise, really. Mr Esmay is conflating two effects, a shifting production possibility frontier (with the higher opportunity cost of manufactured goods in the United States being reflected in a reallocation of resources out of manufacturing and into knowledge-intensive goods not ordinarily classified as manufacturing; the comments to his post about the adjustment cost effects on older workers are worth a closer look) and a general economic expansion that might involve producing more of both manufactured goods and knowledge-intensive goods as the economy moves closer to its production possibility frontier.
BUCKLE AND SWASH. Two new Hornblower movies coming up, and Blogger Rabbit points to an Atlantic Monthly retrospective on pirates and privateers. (I'm not sure under admiralty law what a commerce raider for rebellious states not recognized by any government is, perhaps privateer gives the Secessionists too much status.) In the stack of pleasure reading are some pirate books. Perhaps a review will be in order in the new year.