29.2.04

KARNIVAL OF THE KAPITALISTS visits D. F. Moore this week. If you've come over here out of curiousity, there are now several posts on the ominous parallels between crisis-era railroading and the contemporary university for your viewing pleasure.

I had to modify the spelling in the header of this post as Mr Moore took the letter "C" where a "K" was called for. Was it President Franklin Roosevelt who quipped that the press could write anything about him as long as it spelled his name correctly?

All teasing aside, this week's Carnival is worth a look, in particular for perspectives on outsourcing and on immigration.

28.2.04

PRESERVING SURPLUS GOVERNMENT PROPERTY. A case study of the costs and consequences of converting a picturesque federal asset, in this case Milwaukee's North Point lighthouse, into some kind of museum. Preservationists, NIMBYs, and business owners all have different interests in the outcome.
THE UNIVERSITIES AND THE RAILROADS, CONTINUED. Two presidents of the Great Northern Railroad made insightful comments about the presence of passenger trains on railroads intended primarily to move freights. James J. Hill, the Empire Builder, suggested (using a barnyard analogy) that the passenger train was neither useful nor ornamental. John Budd, a mid-twentieth century successor to the Empire Builder, described the passenger train as the window through which the public viewed the railroad. (Some railroad managements made too much of this observation: the Milwaukee Road management expected a windfall of freight traffic from providing the Missouri River to the Lakes portion of Union Pacific's Cities. Not, but I digress.) Mr Budd's observation was that the railroad either had to present the public with a clean window (good passenger trains) or cover it with a shade (no passenger trains.)

In light of the continued football scandals at Colorado (and elsewhere, particularly in the allegedly "revenue" sports), what is the status of the window through which much of the public views the university?

27.2.04

DECK OF CARDS UPDATE. Bates College media relations officer Doug Hubley, recently named the seven of clubs in the deck of cards naming the 32 Most Unwanted Academic Administrators, has offered a public apology that Critical Mass correctly characterizes:
As an example of ass-covering, this letter isn't bad. But make no mistake that this is what this is. Hubley's is a letter written by a guy who will say what he needs to say in order to keep his job.
Amen. He keeps his position as the seven of clubs.
FATAL CONCEITS? Edwin Feulner pens a tribute to Friedrich Hayek's Road to Serfdom. In the interest of fact-checking, I believe Milton and Rose Friedman's Free to Choose is also a best seller, and the various editions of Paul Samuelson's Economics would qualify but for the distinction between trade books and text books in the league tables.

Julian at Hit and Run makes a related tribute to Hayek, in light of a complaint against the attitude, prominent in some circles, that there is a "belief" in the power of markets more akin to a belief in a Higher Power than akin to an interpretation of actually existing evidence.
PROCESS, NUANCE, FAILURE. Real Clear Politics offers additional evidence that the New York Times confirms the prejudices of Silent Generation style New Deal enthusiasts -- and is subject to the same loss of critical faculties that accompanies the aging of that most destructive cohort of that generation.
THE BASIC BEHAVIOR OF REGULATORY COMMISSIONS. Jonah Goldberg has some historical information on the regulation of the price of bread in France, pour le interest du publique (sorry, my language training is in German and my background is Prussian, I'm simply attempting to be correct) that provides some background on the notorious "eat cake" remark attributed (incorrectly) to Queen Marie Antoinette. It transpires that the public interest required bakers to sell expensive breads to consumers at cheap bread prices if a customer came in requesting cheap bread and the cheap bread was sold out. Apparently (Mr Goldberg's essay is not clear on this point) the price of the cheap bread was also subject to control. The situation in pre-revolutionary France may, however, have been less confused than the situation in post-revolutionary Russia, where controls on the price of bread provided an incentive for herders to buy bread at the controlled price, rather than grain at the supported price, to use as feed for cattle and swine.
CONDEMNED TO REPEAT THE PAST? No sooner do I complete this post comparing the difficulties of the railroads in the late 1960s with the difficulties of the contemporary university, than does word reach the Superintendent's office about this abortive meeting.
NIU’s Board of Trustees were to be briefed Friday morning on the findings of an 18-month study aimed at examining the university’s identity. However, the meeting was canceled because of a lack of quorum.

When the meeting is rescheduled, trustees will hear results of the study that will help lay the groundwork for establishing NIU’s long-term mission.

The study will assist in long-range planning for the university, maintaining a visual identity with consistent themes and presence, said Melanie Magara, NIU vice president of Public Affairs.
Let's see, we've sold out the freshman class for 2004, we're looking for sufficient space in the dorms university housing for entering frosh, we're attempting to preserve our core system, and the School of Music is making do without an accompanist and headquarters is worried about the university's "visual identity"?

Time for a little history lesson, with some visual aids.

In the late 1960s, a number of railroads hired high-powered image consultants to change the railroad's image, sometimes by developing trade marks that were as un-railroad-like as imaginable.

The Great Northern is a particularly instructive case. Although the railroad was involved in proceedings before the Interstate Commerce Commission that would lead to the creation in 1970 of the Burlington Northern, management hired consultants to change the railroad's image. The color scheme in 1967, the year the image change was announced, looked like this.

If these colors look familiar, they should. Burlington Northern Santa Fe uses the same Omaha orange and green, when it's not using the Santa Fe warbonnet and the Holy Rood (or is it a sun sign) of the old Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe.

The most notorious case of an image makeover was Canadian Pacific's, where the shield and beaver gave way to some abstraction that looked like a foreshadowing of Pac-Man. But if you see a recently painted Canadian Pacific car passing through your town, you will once again see a shield and a beaver.

But there is a better object lesson for the trustees, running right through DeKalb. As it was in the beginning, it is now (and ever shall be?) Armour yellow and the Federal shield on the Union Pacific.

What is headquarters thinking? What good does it do to change the external visual identity (yet again??) of the University while the internal visual identity is one of deferred maintenance and missing accompanists?

26.2.04

YOUR HEGEMONIC BIASES ARE SHOWING. Just for fun, suggest that the academy is a hierarchy of self-replicating class and viewpoint biases. (In other words, see whether the people who like to dish out that kind of stuff about, oh, professional sports, or the Republican Party, or the Society of Mayflower Descendants, or the Moose Lodge, can take it.) Listen to the squeals of outrage. Will Wilkinson (via Asymmetrical Information) gets it. Unqualified Offerings gets it, and his metaphor of bronco-busting is more apt than he knows. (There is a statue of a bronco-buster in front of Federal Trade Commission headquarters, and it is difficult to think of an agency that doesn't symbolize technocratic We Know Better more effectively than that Commission.)

Tightly Wound has a funny review of one thread in the argument over viewpoint diversity. There is a more serious point that she misses. The mindset of many managerialist technocrats has a lot in common with the mindset of the Soviet KGB. Namely, the managerial state, or the dictatorship of the proletariat, is the highest and most rational form of social organization. Therefore, anyone who questions either is, well, not acting rationally.

Oh, and there are class biases in the academy.
TODAY'S OFFSHORING ROUNDUP. The Superintendent maintains that offshoring is often the efficient response to an individual who seeks a Wilmette-level income with less than Waukegan-level skills. Alan Greenspan (via Joanne Jacobs) agrees. Ken at Chicago Boyz takes a look on the bright side. Stated simply, there is room for more people to move to Wilmette and become relatively more prosperous. Econ Log follows a similar tack, challenging people to consider the possibility that Wilmette residents who fear the Waukeganization of their economy end up poorer as a consequence, a point Truck and Barter echoes. Tyler at Marginal Revolution looks at the mindset of the Wilmette residents, suggests that they're not thinking clearly.
NOT-SO-FREE TRADE. Let's see if I understand this. In order to keep domestic sugar cane and sugar beet growers in business, and to cock a snook at Fidel Castro, your tax dollars go to subsidize sugar farmers and to maintain tariff barriers against imported sugar. (Hat tip: Knowledge Problem, who has also noticed the chocolate-factory smell in the West Loop. The chocolate factory is alongside the Chicago and North Western Galena Division, which the young pups insist on calling the UP West Line.) Sugar (including, curiously, Cuban sugar) can be obtained more cheaply in Canada or Mexico where there are no beet and cane farmers to be subsidized. Candy is a manufactured good, hence subject to the North American Free Trade Agreement limitations on duties. The net effect of raising the incomes of U.S. sugar beet and sugar cane farmers is to lower the income of U.S. candy factory workers, as the manufacturing capacity takes advantage of the world sugar price in Canada and Mexico.

There is another part to this puzzle. Your tax dollars also go to subsidize the growing of corn for gasohol. There is a research project or three on the effects of that subsidization on the price of corn-based sweeteners.

25.2.04

LOSING THE RACE. Joanne Jacobs has information about the fudging of school-leaving rates in such a way as to reinforce the soft bigotry of low expectations. Closer to home, the Center for Black Studies hosts a panel discussion focusing on raising those expectations, and Milwaukee's Sheriff David Clarke raises the expectations.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "And Japan is not the only other significant economy with a privatised railway. There's another one. Readers may have heard of it. It has the biggest railway in the world." Details at Transport Blog. (Hint: there is more than one correct answer to this, if you intend "biggest privatised railroad.")
SOME ADDITIONS TO THE DECK OF CARDS. Herrn. Schneider und Schwarz expedited (they are old enough to remember the Hiawatha and understand what the Superintendent means by expedite) a nomination to the deck of cards. Bates Motel College media relations officer Doug Hubley, for characterizing the local College Republicans as thugs, has been recognized as the seven of clubs, a very weak card for a man who makes very weak arguments, and an appropriate reminder to an avowed socialist that it is not Republicans who set up gulags and beat people with clubs.

Schneider and Schwarz have also concurred with the Superintendent's recommendation that Oklahoma University Dean John Snow be named the ten of clubs. Dean Snow has not responded to the Superintendent's inquiry about the case, and Schneider and Schwarz agreed that he was probably hiding in the blind.

There may have been some other updates to the deck of cards not included in the most recent full list. I will check the archives and provide the complete list, perhaps over the weekend. (There is a theory examination Thursday evening, which means weekend procrastination.)

TONIGHT'S RAILROAD READING.

At the top of the stack on the night stand are two works by Richard Saunders, Main Lines, about the renaissance of the freight railroads, and Merging Lines, the 2002 Railroad History Book Award winner (you'll have to step out into the yard to locate it on the site.) Merging Lines devotes a chapter to the collapse of Penn Central, including a passage of some relevance to the academy today. From page 393,
{I}nspectors noted the hundreds of cars moving through [Niagara Falls and Kalamazoo] on illegal "memo" waybills that left no duplicate record in case the car and its paperwork should become separated. They attributed this to lax discipline. An extraordinary number of mistakes and omissions in yard records had been made by untrained or undisciplined personnel. They suggested that even the most rudimentary custodial services -- such as providing toilet paper in the lavatories -- would vastly improve morale.

The way labor saw it, the railroad pleaded poverty but never missed a dividend. Its officers were paid very handsome salaries -- $279,000 for [Penn Central board chairman Stuart] Saunders in 1970, for example (which was indeed very handsome in 1970). Little things -- Saunders's chauffeured limousines and his memberships in fancy Philadelphia clubs -- fueled a sense by labor that no, it was not going to make concessions so that people like that could save face. Saunders ... wanted his merger at any cost. Now he would have to live with it.

This did not excuse labor: its lobbying had resulted in laws requiring excessively large crews in three Penn Central states -- New York, Ohio, and Indiana. But on a railroad where so much work needed to be done, where there were not enough clerks or telephone operators or freight-car repairmen, where over a quarter of the late trains in 1969 were late specifically because of the availability of crews, it was hard to make a case that the railroad collapsed because shortsighted unions forced it to pay workers it did not need.
Now compare a news story from today's Northern Star, featuring the effects of an imbalance between spending and utilization (economists understand simultaneous equations, don't you see) in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Professor Alexander Gelman, director of the School of Theater and Dance, notes, "In another year, year and a half, equipment will fall apart and faculty will be exhausted." Something similar happened to the railroads in the late 1960s: there was simply insufficient money to handle the routine maintenance, and the payloads got heavier and the tracks deteriorated and the trains moved more slowly, if at all. Professor Gelman, again: "Our faculty is very committed. Anyone can weather a storm, but if this sets in long-term, I am sure there will be exodus. Quality people want to work with quality equipment." That's what happened on the railroads, too. There are limits to how long people will put up with nights away from home in shabby hotels, and being subject to duty immediately upon completion of one's rest period, and it doesn't matter how many cute kids wave to you at the crossings or how well your students do, and in the universities everyone understands that the way to get a big boost in your pay is to get an outside offer.

Professor Paul Bauer, director of the School of Music, is beginning to sound like a 1970 era railroad manager.
Bauer said budget cuts are something he has been dealing with for eight of the 10 years he has been at NIU.

"It is a real challenge in some quite serious ways," he said. "We cannot expect to turn the clock back to 1985, but we need to go part way back."
The railroads discovered that in some ways they had to turn the clock back to 1945, replacing some second and third tracks, and replacing some main lines that had been taken out of service. Are any academic administrators sufficiently forward-looking today? Or will the current crop of administrators have to retire, as was the case with the old-line railroad administrators, before there is any change?
THE UNSEEN CASUALTIES OF TRAIN WRECKS. Live from the Third Rail discovers that trains frequently offer distressed people an easy exit from this life. In Botswana, the practice is so common that the authorities are pleading with the citizenry to choose something less messy for their suicides, such as a tree. The Ministry of Transport is now offering counseling to train crews. Quite right. In any collision between a train and a pedestrian or a motor vehicle, the train crew is likely to walk away, after having to help clear the mess out from beneath the leading truck, and answering questions from investigators more accustomed to rubber-tired transport (some cops have asked train crews about evasive action, can you believe it?) and having to complete the run and then go home to have nightmares ...
DIAMOND JUBILEE. Carnival of the Vanities No. 75 calls at Da Goddess. Lots of entries, and a well-illuminated manuscript.

23.2.04

A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES? Henry at Crooked Timber has some thoughts on activists who take more interest in the fight than in the outcome.
MERCANTILIST EDUCATION? Is the purpose of a public university to shore up the tax base? Brock and Chris stage an internal point-counterpoint at Signifying Nothing.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. "I propose that all opponents of outsourcing be forced to eat American food for one month straight." That's Tyler at Marginal Revolution, with one of several useful posts on outsourcing and vanishing jobs. Dan Drezner has been on top of the topic, as is Dynamist. Lots of links and cross-references.
CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS visits Forgotten Fronts.
ONLY 34% YANKEE? So this quiz tells me. Spot on about rummage sales, bubblers, frosting, and pop.

22.2.04

SORRY, KING. Badgers 1, St. Cloud State 1 followed by a 3-0 Badger win. S-I-E-V-E! S-I-E-V-E!
MAKING ME THINK I'M WRONG. Freedom of choice is a positive good, even if it involves buying an obnoxious truck to haul your groceries with. But the latest Hummer commercial, based on the classic video game, Asteroids, is just plain, well, obnoxious.
THEY'RE STARTING TO FIGURE IT OUT. No posting the last few days account the Superintendent's presence at O Scale West in Santa Clara, California. This trip was possible owing to some accumulated mileage on a credit card. The carrier was ATA out of Chicago Midway Airport enroute Norman Mineta Airport (??!?) at San Jose, California.

Midway Airport is well worth a look if you're heading toward Chicago. It's the base for the mid-majors, and it has recently been redone with some Chicago-themed food courts (not the usual generic stuff you see at O'Hare.) You may have to walk halfway to Kankakee to board your plane. But what impressed me was ATA's handling of its gates. My westbound trip pushed back, and another plane nosed into the same gate before we had completed our main engine start in the apron area. Admittedly, Metra has been demonstrating this stunt for years, particularly on the Chicago and North Western or Burlington platforms in Chicago, but let's give the airlines credit for learning something. Eastbound, ATA loaded their stretch 737 out of two doors at San Jose. Again, this is something the railroads have understood since about 1840, but let's recognize progress. It almost makes the hour of maintenance delay owing to a dirty contact on an aileron trim control switch tolerable.

What about the train show? There might be some surprises at a future operating session in DeKalb.

19.2.04

MARKING OFF. Posting resumes Monday.
REGULATION IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST. Today's teachable moment in the regulated industries class comes when a student asks about the possibility of entry into a regulated industry, as a way of getting lower prices for the consumers and improving the chances of discovering the minimal cost frontier. There is this term of art called "certificate of public convenience and necessity" that everyone has to learn about. In order for an applicant to secure such a certificate, said applicant must convince the commission that the existing service is inadequate, which gives the existing providers every reason to argue that the existing service is adequate, that the existing providers would be capable of providing the additional service if it were required, and that the applicant is incapable of providing the additional service. Something along those lines is happening in DeKalb. The Northern Star turned up two cases today. In one, the city council is considering creating some new liquor licenses, to be used by retail stores only. (There are currently sixteen Class A liquor licenses that are for either retail stores or taverns.) Not surprisingly, the existing license holders are not happy about the creation of additional licenses. " Louis Schoenburg, owner of American Liquors, said he was against any more additions concerning liquor licenses. He said his establishment is already dealing with a loss in sales." Put another way, the existing service is adequate. Confounding the issue, some of the existing license holders continue to have trouble with underage drinking at their taverns. No doubt some intervenor will argue that the existing allocation of licenses is what is at fault, not the number of licenses.

There is also an independent regulatory commission governing fraternities and sororities. This commission is dealing with an unauthorized sorority house. Chris Juhl, the activities adviser for Greek affairs (no, there are no shipping tycoons here, go away) sounds exactly like any chairman of any Interstate Commerce Commission any time before 1980: "It hurts our own membership. It isn?t fair to groups that are here looking to increase their membership." Translation: the existing service is adequate, and the existing providers are capable of providing any additional service required. "Alpha Sigma Omega applied to become a recognized group at NIU but was denied. ASO?s history and what it planned to offer didn?t meet standards the board required." Translation: the applicant is not competent to provide the service.
STATUS ENVY? Atlantic Blog picks up a defense of the SUV that suggests some of the critics of such cars are, well, Wilmette residents in a bit of a huff that their neighbors in Waukegan are getting bigger cars.
WHO IS MINDING THE KIDS? Apartment 11-D has been covering the reaction to Caitlin Flanagan on immigration and nannies, among other things. Well worth a read. Methinks several of the posters have lost sight of the Say Aggregation Principle. More on this, but not until next week.
NO FISHING OFF THE COMPANY PIER. Academic Game reviews the proposed University of California System nonfraternization policy.
PEER REVIEW. How one graduate student viewed this seminar (more substance here.)

18.2.04

FRAMING. Dean's World does some compare-and-contrast with words used to frame situations.
TONIGHT'S RAILROAD READING. The Sociology of Model Railroading, from In the Shadow of Mt. Hollywood.
DISPLAY SIGNALS AND RUN AS FIRST SEVENTEEN AND FIRST EIGHTEEN. There are some updates to the posts from overnight.
EFFICIENT EXPECTATION OF A NEGATIVE RESULT? Tyler at Marginal Revolution points to some recent research (a revision is currently available in Journal of Political Economy) on the consequences of expecting the Peter Principle to manifest itself in recently promoted managers.

SECOND SECTION: In the Shadow of Mt. Hollywood offers an example to the contrary. Here is a complaint that crosses the line into research-bashing:
Articles like the one cited suggest the scholars involved haven't had sufficient exposure to the real world, or are perhaps slanting their research toward preconceived notions of acceptability. The problem continues to be, as I see it, that we ought to be smarter as a society than we are in dealing with these situations, and the current crop of Ph.D. social scientists doesn't seem to be helping us.
That's unclear. Cross-section studies do have outliers. One thing researchers teach apprentice researchers is to not generalize by your own experience. Academic research does not exist to solve the problems of business. (If it did, the academic love affair with socialism would have a lot more credibility.) Market tests serve to winnow out less effective managers.
FINDING THE RIGHT MARGIN. Harry at Crooked Timber:
This story about the inflation of high school diplomas simply states what anyone working in a US high school knows -- graduation simply requires attendance plus a modicum of obedience. Failing that, it helps to have parents who are willing to make life sufficiently difficult for administrators and teachers that they will give you a passing grade anyway. There are multiple culprits. One is the ludicrous system of having classroom teachers be the sole assigners of grades.
Maybe. The quickest way for me to bring up short a student who is attempting to wheedle a higher mark out of me to avoid being separated from the university is to ask what he or she did to earn all those other substandard grades in all those other classes.
AND YET MORE ON OFFSHORING. Maria at Crooked Timber:
I think we’re also forgetting what is so good about outsourcing in developing countries. It is creating and supporting a middle class in countries with young or fragile democracies, or no democracy at all. Outsourcing is the market-friendly face of ‘soft power’, of making friends around the world by giving people just as big a stake in peace as the most lucky and affluent. If political arguments in the US are to trump economic reasoning that increased trade is not a zero sum game, then we need to look further afield at the political consequences of this phenomenon.
Grandmaster Kenneth Rogoff (via Newmark's Door)
Rich countries need not be ambivalent or stingy. Certainly, if sudden and rapid economic development were possible and actually materialized, many citizens in wealthy nations would feel jarred, even threatened. And some day, world income distribution will be radically different than it is today, but not anytime soon. Nightmare scenarios and fear of success need never stand in the way of sensible—and generous—development policies.
Jonathan at Catallarchy:
The free market, i.e., people voluntarily making exchanges, was bringing these people out of poverty. It was raising their standard of living. Hindering these exchanges by raising tariffs and creating a “world-wide minimum wage” would throw them back into the garbage dumps. First world companies would have little reason to hire them instead of first world workers.
Read and understand all three posts. If you're living in Wilmette, are you really any worse off that people in Waukegan are building bigger houses? On the other hand, if you are expecting to earn a Wilmette standard of living with less ability (or a greater propensity to cut corners) than an ambitious Waukegan resident, expect a reality check.

SECOND SECTION: And then there's this, from Photon Courier:
It's interesting...some of the jobs lost to offshore manufacturing are coming back to the U.S., in the form of railroad jobs to move the products which are now being made overseas.
Kindly be advised that these are not desk jobs. Classifying stack cars at Rochelle on a blustery January day can be a real character builder.
SNOW GOT YOU DOWN? Pitchers and catchers are reporting.
TODAY'S RAILROAD READING. Mental Multivitamin, evidently posting from the right coast of Greater DeKalb, describes the thrill-ride properties of the Northwestern Elevated, known to most modern-day commuters as the CTA Brown Line.
INSUFFICIENT RAILROAD WEBLOGGING. Sorry for the lack of new model railroad content. Perhaps next week.
WHAT PART OF "SPEECH CODE" DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND? Critical Mass and Timothy Burke spar over whether or not Swarthmore College has a speech code.

SECOND SECTION: The conversation continues, with others chiming in.
LET'S "JUST" BE FRIENDS. Who hasn't heard this, offered as a sort of consolation prize? Andrew Sullivan and Milt Rosenberg link to this Economist science report on recent research that suggests friendship is harder work than what people describe as love, let alone as lust. Key observation:
Wonderful though it is, romantic love is unstable—not a good basis for child-rearing. But the final stage of love, long-term attachment, allows parents to co-operate in raising children. This state, says Dr Fisher, is characterised by feelings of calm, security, social comfort and emotional union.
This research might provide rigorous validation of an intuition my parents had years ago. They had a straightforward understanding of the outcome when people married individuals they didn't know as friends. Tammy Wynette spells out that outcome for you.
SEPTEMBER 12 AMERICANS WEIGH IN. The Wisconsin primary allows crossover voting. The Superintendent has intelligence from North of the Cheddar Curtain that numerous September 12 Americans -- many are likely Bush voters in the fall -- opted to vote for Senator Edwards in the Democratic primary election. (Neither Wisconsin Senate seat is open this year, if I remember correctly.) Insta Pundit and Betsy's Page (also here -- this may not have been late breaking voters, there was some organizing going on) have coverage. Here is one news report and a lighter look at the crossover phenomenon.

SECOND SECTION: Kaus Files (via Insta Pundit, scroll to the "Bad Spin Alert") attempts to read the tea leaves in the crossover voting.
TOO MANY TOYS? Fried Man links to a recent research paper by Daniel S. Hamermesh and Jungmin Lee on the alleged time crunch confronting rich people. Money quote from the Fried Man post:
The first thing you need to understand about overwork is that we aren't. For most of industrial history people worked six days a week. Workers often put in 12 hour days. Today in China factory workers are happy to take overtime and work sixty or seventy hour weeks for additional pay. They don't feel overworked the way so many people who work far fewer hours do.
Indeed not. We are all underemployed compared to our great-grandparents, many of whom didn't have to buy memberships in gyms to work out after work, because work itself, whether in or out of doors, was workout enough. New visitors to Cold Spring Shops might wish to read more on this alleged time crunch here. The links at the end of Fried Man's post are worth a look as well.

17.2.04

SPARK UP THE BARBIE, MON. Carnival of the Capitalists drops anchor at Tasty Manatees (tastes like blue whale??)
MORE ON VIEWPOINT DIVERSITY. Welcome, readers from Econ Log and SCSU Scholars and thanks for the recognition. Simply read any post with "viewpoint diversity" in the heading. And come on back, we will be all over this story for as long as it goes on, and recognizing particularly foolish academic administrators with a playing card of their own.

There are a few more posts to link to, without much additional commentary today. Invisible Adjunct links to a Timothy Burke essay that suggests people lower their voices; that perhaps people of a conservative temperament would prefer to be gainfully employed, and that voter registrations for primaries, which are, after all, a party election, might not be meaningful. (See a related Wisconsin primary post above.) Arnold Kling's Tech Central Station column also explores the concept of self-selection, exploring the connections between temperaments and terms of employment.

SECOND SECTION: Andrew Sullivan notes, "It just strikes me as a terrible shame that at universities of all places, people are censoring themselves from expressing their actual opinions. It's not healthy for anyone," and links to yet another Duke professor lamenting the lack of viewpoint diversity (there isn't a dime's worth of difference ...)

The card deck is reserved for academic administrators, and there are still a few cards to fill. On the other hand, should we fill the sheepshead deck then there is a pinochle deck to build.

Glen at Agoraphilia has some additional thoughts on viewpoint diversity and self-selection. (Hat tip: Newmark's Door.)
JUST SUCK IT UP. All have won, and all must be given prizes, right? No. Joanne Jacobs links to two excellent articles, one reviewing the excess of positive reinforcement particularly in well-to-do precincts, another arguing on the basis of some supporting evidence that tougher teachers produce more learning.

Sometimes, including today, one simply has to give The Talk. Today's sermon: you don't pay large sums of money for an economics textbook to treat it like a coffee-table book. The warning: demonstrate the abilities of an average person. You're likely to discover your job has been offshored. And how easy is it to discover an average person? Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt (details or compare prices) puts it very simply. Average people cut corners.

15.2.04

SEEKING THAT VIEWPOINT DIVERSITY. Andrew Sullivan invites readers to submit illustrations of intimidating or exclusionary professorial bias in today's academy. (Does that include an art historian suggesting that it would be desirable to see President Bush in some contemporary art gallery looking at something modern and pulling his chin?) InstaPundit continues to follow the story, with some of the Instalanche that went to Discriminations spilling over into Cold Spring Shops. Welcome, look around, don't move anything that has a blue tag on it. Cogno Centric has already given the recently recognized seven-spot, Professor Brandon, the Fisking his statement richly deserved, and Critical Mass continues to report from the belly of the beast, with specifics on the many factors that lead to the winnowing out of dissenting points of view long before a Ph.D. goes on the job market.

Sometimes, the viewpoint bias can seep in unconsciously. Consider, for example, the treatment of the Welfare Economics Paradigm in economics. It is easy enough to introduce market "failures" that "warrant" government corrective action. It is easy enough to design the optimal corrective action on a whiteboard. A student might easily leave a basic economics course with an understanding of economic policy that looks exactly like the Democratic Party talking points. The bias arises in the introduction of the "failure" and in the incomplete specification of "warrant." But to treat these topics properly takes time, more time than many basic courses permit, which often means these topics go only to upper-division economics students. A substantial proportion of the student body gets a vulgar and incomplete presentation of the Welfare Economics Paradigm.
A REPORT FROM HERRN. SCHNEIDER UND SCHWARZ. The headhunting firm of Schneider and Schwarz have reviewed the dossiers submitted on behalf of two middle managers at Duke University, and noted that as Pitzer's Laura Skandera Trombley is already the eight of hearts, Duke lobbyist John Burness be named the eight of spades. (A lobbyist really ought to understand that when you find yourself in a hole, quit digging!)

Schneider and Schwarz concurred with the Superintendent's recommendation that Duke philosophy chairman Robert Brandon be the seven of hearts.

The Superintendent has invited Oklahoma University Dean John Snow to respond to the allegations raised by King at SCSU Scholars. Dean Snow has not yet responded. The Superintendent is passing along a recommendation to Herrn. Schneider und Schwarz that John Snow be named the 10 of Clubs, for conspicuous use of a blunt instrument to deal with independent faculty, whilst evading opportunities to respond to his critics. (Remember, this is a sheepshead deck. The 10 of Clubs is a useful card to have for its point value, but it's not of much use in winning tricks. As such, it, like the 10 of Spades, is a good card for the Picker to hide in the blind.)

To summarize the deck, the following cards are now named.

TRUMPS
Donna Shalala, Miami, Florida, Queen of Clubs
Roberta Matthews, Brooklyn, Queen of Hearts
Katherine Lyall, Wisconsin, Queen of Diamonds
Stanley Fish, Illinois-Chicago, Jack of Clubs
Peter Mackinnon, Saskatchewan, Ace of Diamonds
Chester Finn, Thomas Fordham Foundation, Nine of Diamonds

FAIL
William Walker, Auburn, Ace of Spades
William M. Bulger, Massachusetts, 10 of Spades
Timothy Sullivan, Bill and Mary, 9 of Clubs
Laura Skandera Trombley, Pitzer, 8 of Hearts
John Burness, Duke, 8 of Spades
Robert Brandon, Duke, 7 of Hearts
James Holderman, South Carolina, 7 of Spades.

12.2.04

SELLING CUTS IN THE LINE. Welcome, Knowledge Problem readers. There is a problem from the "Puzzles" section of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, long ago, about two economists who want to get to the head of the line at the butcher shop, and one offers to buy the ticket with the next number to be called from the holder of that ticket. Others in the shop objected. The problem: why would those whose position (and presumably waiting time) would not be affected by the swap object? One solution: the proposed deal is contrary to the established rule of trading, which is first-come, first-served.

Today's academic connections problem: what do HOT lanes, Great America, airport landing slots, and the Kennywood Thunderbolt (you do know Kennywood, Dr. Kiesling?) have in common?
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN A CARTOON. Tightly Wound rediscovers those great Warner Brothers cartoons of long ago. (I remember one, but not which one, in which something crazy happens and a character -- not the Coyote -- holds up a sign that says -- you guessed it -- anything can happen in a cartoon!) Beep beep!
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Football head coach Joe Novak said players are encouraged to get to know new recruits when they first come to NIU, confirming he’s heard of previous get-togethers, but none at an establishment like Amnesia.

Last season, football fans were criticized constantly for “embarrassing” conduct toward fans and members of opposing teams. But, the embarrassing actions of several football players speak louder than those of a stadium filled with more than 20,000 fans.

Tainting the situation even more is the administration’s disregard for punishing anyone who was involved in the party, showing that lack of common sense is something that won’t get football players into trouble.
That's more serious thinking from the editorial board of the Northern Star, who continue to get it right.

("Amnesia" refers to a local watering hole. The editorial describes it as a "night club" which is a bit pretentious for a place that caters to university students.)
BAKE SALES, GOOD AND BAD. Kindly be advised that Rosa Luxemburg nostalgia Women's History Month is soon to arrive on campuses nationwide, and it is likely that the bake sales with cookies sold to men for $1 and to women for 70 cents are likely to accompany it. These bake sales are unlikely to attract the kind of attention the affirmative action bake sales tend to attract from the administration, despite their cavalier abuse of everything we've learned in fifty years of empirical investigation into sex and gender differences in earnings.

The latest anti-affirmative action bake sale, at the University of Colorado (motto: we treat our football recruits like studs), has attracted the usual caterwauling, from the usual suspects, with extended commentary at discriminations, including a suggestion from The Yin Blog, who offers,
We realize that you disagree with affirmative action. However, this bake sale, with the differential pricing based on race and gender, while clever, makes a fundamentally specious analogy. The buyers of your baked goods do not interact with other buyers, so even if you attract a greater number of minority buyers, there is no increased cross-racial interaction; at least, not within the context of a simple sale. In the educational context, on the other hand, our experience with teaching has led us to realize that increased racial diversity improves the education process for everyone involved. Thus, affirmative action in the educational process has a pedagogical purpose that is absent in your bake sale.
Let's take this suggestion seriously. Substitute the Rosa Luxemburg Women's History bake sale.
We realize that you disagree with wage differentials. However, this bake sale, with the differential pricing based on sex, while clever, makes a fundamentally specious analogy. The buyers of your baked goods do not contract with other sellers, so even if you attract a greater number of female buyers, there is no increased workplace interaction, at least, not within the context of a simple sale. In the workplace context, on the other hand, our experience with hiring and promotion has led us to realize that increased attachment to the labor force improves the pay packets for everyone involved. Thus, differing pay packets in the workplace have an efficiency purpose that is absent in your bake sale.
On the other hand, King at SCSU Scholars may have the right idea: some people lack a life. University officials appear to be behaving like adults with respect both to the bake sale and the football recruiting inquiries, hence there are no new nominees for the deck of cards to be found in Boulder.
NOTICE OF EMBARGO. Just Another Soldier has been given orders to cease posting.
AND YET MORE ON VIEWPOINT DIVERSITY AND SELF SELECTION. Callboy, call out a helper crew for this run.

Duke philosophy department chairman Robert Brandon's case for the seven of hearts receives some strong letters of recommendation. Insta Pundit concludes a not-so-insta post (a footnote in a decision, Professor Reynolds?) with "It's no doubt embarrassing for a professor of philosophy to be so corrected by two law professors." Herrn. Schneider and Schwarz, ist Herr Professor Brandon nicht selbstverstaendlich a miserable failure? Expedite a concurrence with the Superintendent's recommendation of the seven of hearts (one of the weakest cards in the sheepshead deck, for readers new to this theme), bitte?

Invisible Adjunct finds yet more commentary on Professor Brandon's statement, as does The Little Professor, The Cranky Professor, and The Naive Humanist. (This last site is a new discovery to Cold Spring Shops, and it's worth a closer look. I have long maintained that the failures of the University are often the failures of failed scholars from failed disciplines, and internal resistance to the corrosive commonplaces of those disciplines is something that merits recognition and reinforcement.)

11.2.04

MORE ON VIEWPOINT DIVERSITY AND SELF-SELECTION. Enough new cargo has accumulated to call a new train of thought rather than run a third section of this post.

Start first with the fallout from the ill-advised comments some senior people at Duke University made. Critical Mass notes,
In fairness, the denial approach documented above is not a response that is unique to the good people at Duke. It's become a standard form of dismissal on just about every campus where party affiliations are cited as indices of the faculty's political homogeneity. In its unapologetic refusal to admit that there is an ideological elephant in the living room, it's a willfully obtuse response--brilliantly, brazenly so. Its power is such that it can withstand even the most reasonable argumentation.
Professor O'Connor's post provides connections to related commentary. (Signifying Nothing sees the sparks flying and decides to stay away. More connections here.) Ralph at Cliopatria worries whether or not the lack of a core curriculum is beginning to affect the professoriate's sanity:
Do philosophy departments teach logic anymore? Or is it, as a philosopher at Antioch explained to me, "We don't teach it because students don't want to take it." That is one place where my libertarian friends are exactly wrong. Whatever happened to requiring students to take courses because we know they need to? Those who haven't benefitted from required courses apparently now chair departments at reputable institutions.
Apparently none of these considerations bother Stanley Fish, the Jack of Clubs. (How soon do I get to "X" him off?) Tightly Wound finds a new Al-Jaz Chronicle of Higher Education commentary by Clubjack, and fisks part of it. There's more. Here's Clubjack, seeing the end of the old core courses as a Good Thing, particularly if viewed in light of the campus culture wars.
If victory for the right meant turning back or retarding the growth of programs like women's studies, African-American studies, Chicano studies, Latino studies, cultural studies, gay and lesbian (and now transgender) studies, postmodern studies, and poststructuralist theory, then the left won big time, for these programs flourish (especially among the young) and are the source of much of the intellectual energy in the liberal arts.
Flourish? If not for the "diversity" requirements that have been heaved onto the curriculum to the exclusion of calculus, logic, and languages, who would take these things? Even in the presence of these work-making requirements, aren't scholars in these victim studies and so-called theory programs the ones most likely to be freeway fliers, adjuncts, or serving coffee at Starbucks (who posted that Bart Simpson story???) I suppose if your standard of "flourish" is the standard by which the Berlin Wall made sense -- it did keep the fascists out of East Germany -- these disciplines are flourishing, but I doubt they would pass any market test.

Dean Fish goes on:
While questions of truth may be generally open, the truth of academic matters is not general but local; questions are posed and often they do have answers that can be established with certainty; and even if that certainty can theoretically be upset -- one cannot rule out the future emergence of new evidence -- that theoretical possibility carries with it no methodological obligation. That is, it does not mandate intellectual diversity, a condition that may attend some moments in the pursuit of truth when there is as yet no clear path, but not a condition one must actively seek or protect
Put another way: there is no elephant in the room, and if there is an elephant in the room, there is no reason to remove the elephant, or to open the room.

Elsewhere on the frontier of non-existent elephants, Best of the Web offers some observations on the remarks offered by the presumptive seven and eight of hearts, and uncovers yet more progressive intolerance, this time by the usual suspects (no fascists in Berlin, certainly none at Amherst College) from the usual disciplines. King at SCSU Scholars is instigating a research project to discover the political orientation of his colleagues along the Main Street of the Northwest. (Doesn't Minnesota allow crossover voting? If so, the party identifications adopted by voters for the primaries might be an imprecise measure of the political preferences of the professoriate.)

Elsewhere in the Establishment echo chamber, Milwaukee's Charlie Sykes posts an ABC memorandum that makes clear precisely what prejudices the highly-paid news reporters (making a lot of money does not exempt you from believing in Roosevelt Claus, apparently) are most comfortable with.
JOB OPENING. Dynamist reports the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is commencing a search for a President.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE. I may still have, somewhere in my files, an interview U.S. News did with Boston University's John Silber, wherein he asserted that "Today's high school diploma is fraudulent." That was over 20 years ago. Some things have not improved with time, as Joanne Jacobs and Number 2 Pencil report.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The Arab Street has learned -- finally -- to respect American power. But when it comes to garlic-scented europocrisy, Arabs are rightly upset." That's Vodka Pundit. Where, exactly, is all that European nuance and multiculturalism when it comes to headscarves? Are babushkas and the hippie version that's tied in back also not French? Or are those different because not specifically religious?
YOUR GENERATION GAP IS SHOWING: Wokka Wokka Wokka Wokka to link to a description of a week of And Then we Ate, well?
FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME. Welcome, Academic Game readers, and thanks to Academy Girl for recognizing Cold Spring Shops as source of the quotation on top.

An op-ed piece I wrote summarizing some research on immigration amnesties has been picked up by the Aurora (Ill.) Beacon-News and the DeKalb Chronicle. Tomorrow: a seminar developing a theory of paying for the right to cut the line. That's for the Northern Illinois University community only at the moment.

SECOND SECTION: I always enjoy presenting my amusement park pricing research at seminars because you can depend on people asking the right questions. No exception today. I had no sooner gotten into my first anomaly than someone piped up with "Did you know what Great America is now doing?" Yup, which is the second anomaly. And the local Midweek has picked up the amnesty essay, complete with a working link to Cold Spring Shops.
SIMULATE YOUR SUBGAME PERFECTION. Truck and Barter discovers a game theory program called Gambit. It's potentially a complement to Maple for doing real theory. (Sorry, fashionable literary folks, many of you couldn't carry my pencil.)
MACROECONOMICS. Get thee to Econo Pundit and inform thyself.
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
Saddam Hussein Rules Over Cell With Iron Fist, reports Madison's own The Onion. (Hat tip: Common Sense and Wonder.)
73s TO YOU. On the Third Hand hosts Carnival of the Vanities No. 73.

10.2.04

IST'S NICHT EIN HAUFEN MIST? Academy Girl has a new post up, and I want the name of this person. There are some jacks not yet assigned. Get this, this person said, "Tenured people teaching at the graduate level and doing graduate level work and courses work much "harder" than the sessionals at the "lower" level." This person is so clueless I don't even know where to begin fisking him. Tenured people teaching at the graduate level are talking about their own research, or at least they OUGHT to be, albeit not exclusively. They are working with self-selected acolytes who ought to have some sense about why they're in the field and what the important questions are. (Perhaps I'm assuming too much. That is true to an extent in economics.) Let's see, doing what you want and hanging out with people who want to know something about it? That's harder work?

Compare and contrast that with the people enrolled in the lower level class. Here the professor or the adjuncts (is "sessional" a Canadian term, like "chesterfield" or "hoser?") are working with other-selected congregants who may or may not have any sense about why they are in the class and they may have no idea what the important questions in that discipline are. (I hear this lament from people who have taken economics in college and hated it all the time.) A good teacher in such a course HAS to have time to take questions, because the students will have questions. It is a crime to treat these classes as cash cows to be set up as large lectures with quiz sections, where there are few to no opportunities to take questions. Furthermore, a good teacher in such a course HAS to be able to distinguish a truly clueless question (which calls for some convex combination of firmness and patience, which differs from student to student) from a subtle but not well posed question (and these DO come up.) That is less hard work? Give. Me. A. Break.

For the record, I will teach economics at all levels in an academic year, from an introductory level price theory (principles of microeconomics, for those of you in Dane County) which is often a real joy to teach, through the limited industrial economics offerings we have (an antitrust class and a rejuvenated public utilities class) and the first graduate level price theory class (where I had to crack down today on students submitting answers consisting of derivations with no expository sentences.) And I have long maintained (learned it from my father years ago) that it is a mistake to put inexperienced professors -- let alone graduate students, or hires picked up on the fly -- in front of introductory level students. Consider an Army in which the recruit's first encounter with basic training is with a recently trained PFC. Well, maybe you don't want to consider that, ponyemayite?
VIEWPOINT DIVERSITY AND SELF-SELECTION. Pandagon reacts to a story about an advertisement in the Duke University student newspaper detailing a preponderance of registered Democrats on the Duke faculty.
Well, the conservative philosophy tends to be very materialistic. That's not a criticism, it's a simple observation. Conservative economic systems attempt to make it easier to acquire and retain wealth. Liberal systems, by contrast, treat money as an engine for social progress. It's nice if people get rich, but it's even nicer if everyone has health care. That ideological split is instructive. Those who can get into academia are, in most cases, highly educated and intelligent. Usually, they could be making significantly more in the private sector. So those who enter in the public sector tend to rank material acquisition as a lower priority, a value hierarchy consistent with liberal ideals. The flip side of this would be conservatives entering the private sector, as material wealth is more highly regarded within their value system and the public sector is a terrible route through which to acquire it.

If this analysis is correct, the fault lies not with the highly charged, politically active liberals. It lies with the conservatives who are unwilling to go into academia and teach the next generation. If true, then it is not up to the Left to fix the problem by shutting up, it is up to the Right to fix the problem by encouraging their best and brightest to train the young and ensure their values are given a fair hearing.
That's my understanding of the purpose of the Institute for Humane Studies and the Mercatus Center, and there are other such organizations. It would help, however, if academicians whose area of expertise is in writing or in a physical science would understand that there are rules of construction and laws of conservation in the use of money: you can't achieve social progress simply by throwing money in preferred directions.

Kieran at Crooked Timber extends the remarks on self-selection among academics in useful ways.

Returning to the Duke Chronicle article, political science chairman Michael Munger suggests "In at least one case, a department chair [c.q.] has said they thought the function of Duke was to rid conservative students of their hypocrisies." Professor Healy suggests that philosophy chairman Robert Brandon is being tongue-in-cheek when he says, "We try to hire the best, smartest people available. If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire." Tongue in cheek it might be, but I think there's a seven of hearts with his name on it. And Duke lobbyist John Burness, by asserting, "If you look at the humanities in general, there's a great deal of creativity that goes on. In a sense it's innovation, and a perfectly logical criticism of the current society, in one form or another, that plays itself out in some of these disciplines. It doesn't surprise me that you might find people in humanities are more liberal than conservative." This is the kind of sophistry that gives b.s. a bad name. Herrn. Schneider und Schwarz, the eight of hearts, nicht wahr? Tightly Wound has a concurring opinion.

SECOND SECTION: Jesse at Pandagon has more on the parallel network of policy shops for conservative intellectuals, which may or may not be the beginnings of a good industry study.
JUST SUCK IT UP. Rachel Brem is having problems keeping her patience with students who just can't get their acts together. The Superintendent is particularly impatient with the class of student that is in college to get a degree in order to earn a promotion, yet uses that job as a reason to not do the class work. You think there might be a broader behavior pattern at work here?
HURRY, HURRY, STEP RIGHT UP. Carnival of the Capitalists, with proper theming, calls at Trommeter.
BATTLE OF THE SEXES. Apartment 11-D compiles a number of anecdotes that couples contemplating matrimony might contemplate negotiating before they visit the city clerk's office.
A POSITIVE THEORY OF PAYING TO CUT IN LINE? No, Lynne at Knowledge Problem has not scooped my research, but she does have some thoughts, and some links, on the folly of allocating landing slots at airports by methods that do not include priority pricing. There have to be some commonalities between priority pricing at amusement parks and high-occupancy toll roads. Expect lighter posting the next couple of days, I have to think about that.
TEACHABLE MOMENTS. Topic for the regulated industries class: does the public have an interest in regulating the content of entertainment, specifically the halftime show? Apartment 11-D makes the argumentam ad popularum, and Daniel Henninger attempts to find common cause in the aesthetics. Assignment to the students: are there any arguments from principle being advanced in either essay?

On the lighter side, Scrapple Face has now started another site, Boycott MTV. Insta Pundit, who has already Instalanched the site, observes,
I'm not shocked by MTV, or repulsed. Just bored and annoyed. Frankly, I'd like MTV better if it showed actual people enjoying actual sex, rather than the winking, leering pseudo-sex that is its stock in trade.
I'm not going to Indeed that. Rather, I suggest that MTV offers bad winking, leering pseudo-sex. If you want to see some really good flirtation, seduction, rejection, and romance, with some serious athleticism thrown in, watch any community Ukrainian or Russian dance troupe in action.

9.2.04

DISPLAY SIGNALS AND RUN AS SECOND NO. 8. Some of yesterday's posts have been updated. Note to the FRA inspector: all the second sections are legitimate on Sunday's schedules.
TODAY'S IMMIGRATION ROUNDUP: Econ Log looks at two dimensions of the underground economy. One dimension is the provision of domestic services to rich working moms, the effect Mother Jones may or may not have complained about. The other is the induced innovation problem, wherein part of the underground economy is technologically backwards account the ready availability of labor that is cheap relative to capital. Mr Kling takes a page out of Gary Becker's book, asking about the effect of illegal immigration on the labor force participation of women.

Max at Common Sense and Wonder has some related cultural observations.
MID-MAJOR DEGREE, NO FRILLS? Joanne Jacobs has some troubling information about the performance of the state-supported universities. It doesn't do any good to offer low prices and access if students can't complete their schedules, and it doesn't do any good to threaten the faculty with new measurements of productivity while giving them ever more therapeutic responsibilities. To make matters worse, Number 2 Pencil reports that admission decisions at many public colleges might be more a matter of formula than of careful matching of students with programs.

That's not the worst news for the day. I took a break from writing to get a can of pop. The pop machine is in the English department's building. I heard a colleague from one of the departments housed there advising a senior, "you'll have a better chance of getting into a Ph.D. program with a publication in hand." Getting into a Ph.D. program??!? What is the purpose of a Ph.D. program, if not learning to write research? Now you have to do research to get into a program to learn to do research? No wonder there's an academic pyramid scheme in some disciplines, and an inexhaustible supply of postulants and novitiates to make up the new academic labor system.
OUR NEIGHBORS AT WAR
(Via Power Line, who has The Rest of the Story.)
NO MORE VERTICAL ZOO?
The 39-year-old towers, known as Ogg Hall, house about 1,000 students on the southeast side of campus. A new residence facility called the Dayton Street Development will rise in their place.
A new University of Wisconsin plan would tear down the vertical zoo. What is it about me and high-rises? Wayne State University demolished Mackenzie Hall, an old hotel, after I left, and now goes Ogg Hall. Ask me about getting gassed there, and about building a swimming pool in the shower room.
COLD SPRING SHOPS GETS RESULTS. I haven't finished assigning names to cards and already I have to put an X-mark on one of the active cards, University of Wisconsin president Katherine Lyall, the queen of diamonds, who has announced her retirement. University regents expect her successor to be expensive. Clearly, they've not heard of the principle of comparative advantage. "UW System regents have already declared the search to be a national, even international one. The one thing they've stressed is that the next president have stellar academic qualifications." Right. For the most part, the best researchers don't get involved in administration, and I can think of a couple of excellent academic economists who have been stellar failures as university presidents.
TONIGHT'S WICKED THOUGHT: Vagina-Friendly Week at Ball State. Think about it. (Via Critical Mass, who is offering to collect your V-Day stories, and whose main page has lots of information about the descent into madness of the so-called humanities.

8.2.04

WHOOSH! One of the presentations at the Inland Lake Yachting Association's Winter Inland is a new Melges Boat Works scow handling disc set. (I pity those of you who don't live near the lakes of the Upper Midwest. There's nothing quite like a big racing scow in full cry.)

I had heard about this stunt before, but on the disc is the evidence: Buddy Melges and crew towed a water skier behind an E Scow. (It was too windy that July day in 2003 to use the larger A Scow as the towboat.) The sailboat, with the water skier in tow, reaches across Wisconsin's Lake Geneva from the Lake Geneva Yacht Club on the south shore toward Williams Bay. At mid-lake, the scow and the video boat pass close by a powerboat, parked mid-lake to do some fishing. The body language on the powerboat skipper when the skier goes by is priceless.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "As part of learning Norwegian culture, immigrants could learn that they can't bring their hatreds to their new country." That's Joanne Jacobs. The SCSU Scholars have recommended a Mark Steyn essay, currently available only on paper, that provokes further related thoughts. More during the week.
GETTING THE RULES RIGHT. A First Amendment protection for yobbery at college sporting events? So suggests this USA Today article. Fortunately, some people have some sense left.
Kermit Hall, president of Utah State University, is an expert on First Amendment issues. He says free speech at public universities is ''at once the most obvious and the most paradoxical of constitutional principles'' -- obvious because the role of open expression is essential to academic freedom and paradoxical because it must be balanced against imperatives for civility and respect.

But Hall says the Maryland case is not a close call. He believes public universities have not only a right to eject students who chant obscenities but a responsibility to do so in consideration of others' rights to watch a game in a safe setting. Hall says students should be warned first, then have their tickets pulled.
Quite right. Cold Spring Shops is pleased to call attention to academic administrators who get things right. Utah State's student code is reasonable as such things go, confining student responsibilities to prepare for classes and mind their manners. No "inappropriately directed laughter" here. There is freedom to assemble not limited to free speech zones no larger than the mainsail on a Laser.

I will let the experts in political theory fire away at me, but my sense is that the First Amendment protects criticism of the Government, not yobbery directed at basketball players. Quoting from Federalist LI,
In a free government, the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other, in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on the number of interests and sects; and this may be presumed to depend on the extent of country and number of people comprehended under the same government.
The quote suggests to me the bundling of freedoms later enumerated under the First Amendment. The context is the protection of the rights of minorities against the interests of majorities. Spectators at sporting events do not qualify as factions influencing government policies. Kick the yobs out, I say.

SECOND SECTION: U.S.S. Clueless, in a defense of propagandist Michael Moore against accusations of treason, makes a similar point about the role of the First Amendment.
That's why the First Amendment was proposed; except for its clauses relating to religion, it is intended to protect the right of citizens to speak and write criticism of the government without legal peril. More broadly, and including the clauses relating to religion, the real point of the First Amendment is to protect what could be referred to as freedom of conscience, the freedom of each person to form opinions and to make moral decisions.
The interpretation of its purpose is slightly different: Federalist LI clearly suggests that multiplicity of interest and multiplicity of sect are parallel freedoms. The construction of the First Amendment to apply to political speech is evident in Mr DenBeste's argument. Holding harsh views of the opposing team's basketball players does not qualify for such protection.
IL DESTINO DI GRANT APPLICATION. Tonight's Lighter Academic Reading comes from a Cold Spring Shops reader. This has been around the Internet a few times, but enjoy it anyway.

This opera came to me several years ago from William W. Reeves, then the director of the Office of Sponsored Programs. Some other director of a similar office at some unnamed university originally wrote the following:

Il Destino di Grant Application
A Tragic Opera in Three Acts
by Lloyd Fricker

Cast (in order of vocal appearance)

Alfredo, a professor ........................................ Baritone
Wu Li, a postdoc ............................................ Tenor
Kathy, another postdoc ................................... Alto
Nicolette, Alfredo's secretary ............................ Soprano
Adriana, Alfredo's wife ..................................... Soprano
Bubba, Alfredo's son .......................................Tenor
Julieta, Alfredo's daughter ............................... Soprano
Stephano, Scientific Review Administrator ...........Bass
Doug, Grants Technical Assistant ......................Tenor
Erminio, another professor................................. Bass

Act I, Alfredo's Office

The curtain rises on Alfredo in his office; nearby, his postdocs, Wu Li and Kathy, are hard at work on a manuscript that has been rejected by Nature.

In a dramatic opening aria, the researchers lament the fact that the journal reviewers found their manuscript unexciting ("Il reviewers sono molto stupidi"). Nicolette, Alfredo's secretary, arrives with a box of grant applications that Alfredo, as an NIH reviewer, must evaluate. Alfredo opens it, and finding only 12 applications, rejoices. He is joined by the two postdocs and the secretary in a quartet extolling the virtues of having but 12 applications to read ("Il lighto loado"). Their happiness soon turns to sorrow, however, as Alfredo discovers a note indicating that he is to be the primary reviewer on an additional 18 applications that will arrive at a later date ("Il grande boxo di granti"). The four lament the twist of fate, Murphy's law, and the Peter Principle. Alfredo, grieved that he will have no time to spend with his lab group or family for the next six weeks, departs sadly homeward bearing the box of applications.

Act II - Scene 1, Alfredo's office (one month later)

Alfredo is still hard at work on the applications, having completed only four. He sings a sad aria. Stefano, the Scientific Review Administrator for his study section, wants the triage list of applications that didn't make the cut by the next day ("Il listo di crappo"). At that moment Nicolette enters bearing an envelope from NIH. Believing it contains yet another
supplement, Alfredo tosses it onto a pile and searches for his place in the application he was reading. Just then, Wu Li enters with some important data that must be published immediately, before competitors beat them to it. They sing a dramatic duet ("La publicazione o il scoopo") in which Alfredo regrets that he cannot help write the article as he must read 26 more applications before the study section meeting next week. As Wu Li leaves, Alfredo returns yet again to the grant application, only to be interrupted by Kathy. She is distraught that she hasn't gotten a raise in the two years she has been with Alfredo. He promises her a large raise if his own application is funded, explaining that he is waiting for the summary statement ("Il sheeto pinko"). After their duet, Kathy leaves and Alfredo returns once again to the application. A minute later, he jumps from his seat and snatches the envelope he had tossed hastily onto his desk, as he realizes suddenly that it is actually the long-awaited summary statement ("La posta junko il sheeto pinko"). Trembling, Alfredo tears open the envelope, then lets out a cry upon seeing the score, which is clearly not in the fundable range. He sings a moving aria lamenting the lack of sufficient funding for basic science and his own unfortunate lack of success ("Mio granto es finito"). Unable to concentrate any longer, Alfredo goes home.

Scene 2, Alfredo's home (later that night)

Alfredo arrives home and finds Adriana, Bubba, and Julieta overjoyed that he has returned before they have gone to sleep. Their happiness is short-lived, however, as he confesses the cause of his surprise homecoming. They are not sympathetic to the fact that only a small number of people actually get their grant applications funded, and dismayed that Alfredo's application was considered only "excellent" ("Papa es un nincompoopo"). Disheartened, Alfredo sits at his desk and begins to read another application. Just as at work, however, he cannot read for more than a minute before being interrupted - now by his wife and children. After a couple of hours, Alfredo has nearly finished reading an entire page. Unfortunately, he falls asleep before reaching the next one.

Act III, A Holiday Inn in Valhalla, home of the Gods and Goddesses of NIH

The scene opens to reveal a large table surrounded by serious-looking men and women. Alfredo is among the mortals, who have been invited to Valhalla to decide the fate of 137 grant applications. At the side of the room are the Gods and Goddesses of NIHthe program officers of the various agencies, dressed in white tunics. They are feeding from a large tray of grapes, and drinking decaf coffee. Stephano, the Scientific Review Administrator, begins the meeting with an hour-long aria about the grant review process and the need for confidentiality ("Non asko, non tello"). The first grant application to be reviewed is one for which Alfredo was the primary reviewer. Alfredo likes this application, which describes an imaginative series of experiments concerning an important but little-studied biological question ("Se succeede, il Nobel Prizo"). Furthermore, all its key points are presented in a single page the limit of Alfredo's attention span, given all the interruptions he must tolerate. His enthusiasm is countered by the other reviewer in what has come to be the most famous aria of the opera ("Non hypothesiso, non preliminary dato"). Other reviewers join in with comments on the applicant's lack of independence and the absence of feasibility studies, and the general observation that the problem must not be very important or others would already be working on it. Finally, the Grants Technical Assistant rises and joins in the singing ("Givmi il floppi disco"). Everybody in the room then joins in, except for the Gods and Goddesses - who have moved from the grapes to a large table filled with melon balls, which they eat with toothpicks - and a man in a Holiday Inn uniform restocking the toothpicks. When it becomes clear that no new comments have been made for at least 45 minutes, a vote is finally called for, and in a dramatic moment, Alfredo sings out "1.0," while the other reviewers vote for a worse score ("Il granto non-competitivo"). They arrive at a consensus score of 2.0. During the aria, the man in the Holiday Inn uniform becomes noticeably distressed. He consumes vast quantities of coffee and finally collapses as the application's score is announced. In a surprise twist, one of the NIH Goddesses reveals that the man is in fact Erminio, the applicant of the failed grant. Although fatally poisoned by the bad coffee, Erminio sings a moving aria reflecting on the weaknesses of the current grant review system ("Il reviewers screwed-uppo"). The opera ends with the reviewers placing Erminio's lifeless body in the boxes that held the discarded grant applications, and covering him with glossy photos of his data. As the curtain is lowered, one reviewer comments that it's a good thing the application wasn't given a really bad score, or who knows what the applicant would have done ("Il Unabombo").

6.2.04

FUTURE O SCALER? The "Finer Print" section of the Northern Star interviews students each day. Today's victim (the column is not available on line) is a model railroader.

Whoa, whoa. What is model railroading?
It's the adult version of playing with toy trains.
Do people give you crap for this?
The only place I really get crap is the model train club that I am part of. They yell when something isn't prototypical.
So are these a bunch of nerds then?
I wouldn't call them nerds.
Dorks?
Some of them are dorks, but some of them are pretty cool guys. A few of them need a little class.
Does it ever get competitive?
Well, what's competitive?
Has anyone ever taken a swing at someone?
Not yet, but we do have a lot of interclub politics.
Are there different political parties?
Well, there are the guys who spend the big bucks and then some who spend very little.

I'd surmise that this student is a member of a club of HO modelers, but that last sentence reeks of O gauge.
ULTIMATE TRAINS? Compare and contrast.

The latest in Japanese Shin Kansen bullet trains, 2004, via Transport Blog

The restored North Shore Line Electroliner, built 1940, at the Illinois Railway Museum. (The picture of the streetcar comes bundled with the picture of the Electroliner at this Electroliner page
NO HOURS OF SERVICE LAW FOR RAPID TRANSIT? Live from the Third Rail is baffled by this. Tired train crews make careless mistakes.
MOSCOW SUBWAY BOMBING. The Superintendent notes with great sorrow the attack on the commuters and transit workers of the Moscow Metro. Buzz Machine has discovered a Russian source, Russ Pundit, who posts the statement of a passenger on the train.

SECOND SECTION: This news report provides a link to a Moscow Metro map. The bad guys may have had more mayhem in mind. The explosion occurred before the train reached Paveletskaya, an important junction of Route 2 (dark green) with the Route 5 loop (orange) line. Consider Washington's Metro Center, or Boston's Park Street.

5.2.04

SYMBOLISM OVER SUBSTANCE. Writing a statement of teaching philosophy for a job application, or in search of tenure or promotion? Newmark's Door has some examples, as well as the correct characterization of the genre.
REDEFINING HOBBIES. Apt. 11-D has further thoughts on finding time for hobbies, and whether or not computer simulations are hobbies. Been there, done that, got the backache to prove it. There's a reason I suggested turning off the computer. If war simulations do not suit your fancy, perhaps sitting in a dispatcher's office or being station master at a busy British way-station or terminus will. But they can easily keep you off your work bench.
ONE-DROP RULE? "So apparently under common usage an American who was born and raised in Africa is less of an African-American than one whose family has been here for centuries." So notes Best of the Web, observing the stripping of protected class status from Mrs John Kerry.

4.2.04

MORE WORK FOR MESSRS. SCHNEIDER AND SCHWARTZ. King at SCSU Scholars nominates Oklahoma University Dean John Snow, who appears to be making an un-person of a colleague. The nomination has been passed along, with the Superintendent's note that the dean in question is a dean at, well, Oklahoma, where the purpose of the college of liberal arts is to keep football players eligible. Dean Snow's dossier will have to be reviewed in light of recent developments at conference rival Colorado, where the football team is more open about its recruiting, and where the most recent affirmative action bake sale offered a proper send-up of "coming out" events.

Messrs. Schneider and Schwarz are also seeking a suitable representative from the University of Michigan. The story has been Instalanched, but John at Discriminations passes along the disturbing news that officials at the University of Michigan have been taking a page out of the Arab League playbook (would that Bo Schembechler had that for the Rose Bowl) by organizing a secondary boycott of firms that support a Michigan referendum that would change affirmative action as practiced at the universities. This Brian Dickerson column has details.