31.5.06

IT'S A NOVEL. I just finished The Da Vinci Code, and strongly suggest that readers keep the title of this post in perspective. Yes, there is much in the book to make fourth-rate feminists and some so-called New Agers nostalgic for ancient nostrums comfortable with their prejudices. There is also a great deal of synbolism and commentary, of which more anon. Cracking the Da Vinci Code provides a readable guide to the basic material. I'll deal with these two works together as Book Reviews No. 15 and 16. Code is quite the page-turner. Take it on your next road trip. It can easily be finished in a transcontinental flight or on a corridor train. There are some references to some traditional symbols called the Blade and the Chalice, which Cracking tantalizingly illustrates, without commentary, using the Square and Divider. (Does that mean there's something erotic about Geometry?) But don't expect Cracking, along with proliferating more in-depth commentary, to turn Code into some latter-day Talmud, with one or two of author Dan Brown's characteristic short sentences on a page, with the rest of the page full of footnotes and references. We're talking about a novel here.

The idea that some successors of the Knights Templar are hiding information that is so threatening to the Roman Catholic Church that heirs to the Inquisition will stop at nothing to kill all the keepers of the secret fails to convince. (And, if they are, why aren't there hints in the writings of Victor Hugo and the music of Claude Debussy as well as in Leonardo's paintings?) Imagine Pinkertons in the employ of Pepsi attempting to kill the keepers of Coke's secret formula ... wait, there are probably paranoid socialists that would find such a story compelling. There is, however, a simpler explanation for the troubles of the Catholic Church in Code itself, where the chief bishop of Opus Dei is about to be defunded by a successor to Pope John Paul II. In defense of his organization, he offers this (p. 416 of the hardback edition.)
Do you really wonder why Catholics are leaving the Church? Look around you, Cardinal. People have lost respect. The rigors of faith are gone. The doctrine has become a buffet line. Abstinence, confession, communion, baptism, mass -- take your pick -- choose whatever combination pleases you and ignore the rest. What kind of spiritual guidance is the Church offering?
As if this exodus hasn't been going on for, oh, 2000 years? Within any organization, dissidents can raise their voice against the establishment, or they can transfer their loyalty to another organization, or start a new organization. Look at the map of New England. Each of those clusters of towns (e.g. Newton, Newton Center, Newton Highlands, West Newton, Newton Abbott, Newton Gingrich) memorializes irreconcilable differences at some town meeting clear back to the Mayflower Compact. Churches are particularly frangible. Consider the Wisconsin and Missouri Synods of the Lutheran Church. The Lutheran Church figures in a major schism now known as the Protestant Reformation, but the Synods are products of a 1961 schism within the Evangelical Lutheran (excuse the redundancy) Churches in America. Or consider the Southern and Northern, now American Baptist Conventions, the latter perhaps undergoing a schism of its own. (The Missouri Synod website offers a short rebuttal to Da Vinci Code, and this American Baptist rebuttal is as close to pronouncing anathema as the Valley Forge Baptists are likely to go.)

Or look around. Consider Chicago: more Poles than Krakow, more Catholics than the Vatican, more transactions than Zurich, more railroading than anywhere. Yet the Archdiocese of Chicago has been selling churches and consolidating schools. To raise money for a project to suppress the hidden history of the one holy apostolic and catholic church? (The lowercase usage is in the missals I've scanned at numerous weddings.) As disinformation?



And the Knights Templar had to unload Medinah Temple, A.A.O.N.M.S., in an analogous campaign? The Medinah Country Club has not been sold ... is there something hidden under the thirteenth green?

The most important idea in The Da Vinci Code is probably in a passage that will not attract the kind of commentary the assertions about the Gnostic Gospels and the medieval secret societies have. Please turn to page 207.

The millennium has recently passed, and with it has ended the two-thousand-year-long astrological Age of Pisces -- the fish, which is also the sign of Jesus. As any astrological symbologist will tell you, the Piscean ideal believes that man must be told what to do by higher powers because man is incapable of thinking for himself. Hence it has been a time of fervent religion. Now, however, we are entering the Age of Aquarius -- the water bearer -- whose ideals claim that man will learn the truth and be able to think for himself. The ideological shift is enormous, and it is occurring right now.

Perhaps it is, but not in the way Code author Dan Brown would have us believe. The Da Vinci Code deals with two explanations of long standing for why Bad Stuff happens.

The first, of course, is the Divine. "Hot dry summer. Gods displeased. Must toss maiden in volcano." Today, it's the S.U.V. rather than the maiden that must be tossed, and recycling it in a steel furnace is more practical, but the basic idea is unchanged.

The second is Powerful People. Mr Brown attended Phillips Exeter and Amherst College, and one of the commentaries I'm working through suggests he's been intrigued by the fraternities and secret societies of New England. Based on the travails of the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Medinah Temple, I'm skeptical. And secret societies? The backward-ballcap set at a midwestern mid-major might enjoy easier access to cheap beer and loose women, but is that how the Holy Grail finds today's Parsifal?

The Powerful People explanation, like the Divine explanation, however, makes sense of that which is difficult to explain. William Manchester's Death of a President puts it pretty well. Dallas is the place where "they" killed President Kennedy, and a Grand Conspiracy Theory (at least two movies and a large shelf of books come to mind) makes the loss somewhat more bearable than the truth, that a down-and-outer acted alone. Sure, there were people who may have wanted Harvard's John Kennedy dead, and yes, Yale's George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton and John F. Kerry have dominated national politics, but couldn't Skull and Bones (let alone the Mob or the KGB) have located a better-connected triggerman?

The truth -- the Aquarian revelation, if you will -- is both simpler and more troubling. It's in John Holland's Hidden Order at p. 96.

Complex adaptive systems do pretty much as they damn please.

The simplicity: No divine displeasure. No secretive and powerful interests. The troubling implication: Little room for Experts to Improve Things. Stuff Happens. But that ought not prevent novelists from contriving page-turners about the machinations of secretive and powerful interests. The Da Vinci Code is a novel.

QUOTE OF THE DAY. Ginny at Chicago Boyz describes the community college as "Soft America meets Hard America."
And that’s what junior colleges are for – we provide a stage. Some make it. Some on’t. We’re open admissions. But if we do what we are supposed to do, we’re Hard America.
Go. Read.
CARNIVAL CALL. Carnival of Education No. 105(8) goes on the road to Education in Texas. In lieu of a bannerline, note, at the bottom of the post, Eight Flags over Texas, apparently linking to eight online translations. Ausgezeichtnet!
YOU CAN'T PLEASE ALL THE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME. The written comments from my Government and Business class have come in, and it's what you'd expect of economics. On one hand,
Test did not really go w/lecture and hard to follow the lecture.
On the other,
I think the quizzes are good practice for the exams. Lecture goes well
w/book.
The course structure provokes the same diversity.
The readings were difficult and hard to understand. The test and assignments made me feel like I was in a philosophy class not econ.
On the other hand,
I had a great time. Love the open forum and encouraging students to participate.
Different learning styles? I sometimes get requests to make things more "cut and dry." It's "cut and dried," and neither legislation nor econometric estimates, the stuff behind the policy analysis, lend themselves to that description. Bruised and bleeding is more like it.

Some comments are more provocative.
Remember that we are only college students when grading!
The anonymous nature of these evaluations makes a response difficult. Is this a statement that the work is excessively, or insufficiently, daunting? Likewise, this one.
Mr Karlson is an okay professor. I don't entirely like his teaching method, but I can't say if he should change it. I'm switching majors also. I've realized I should have majored in Business. So, that's what I'm going to do. This course is responsible for me switching majors.
That anonymity again. Did somebody discover economics was not his cup of tea, or did one of several individuals who was enrolled as some other liberal arts field or engineering or allied health (I teach 'em all) find a vocation?

Then there's the fan club.
Professor Karlson is an incredible teacher!
(Blushing.) The senior-level antitrust class yielded similar kind words. That class posed a greater challenge for me ... I had more than the usual proportion of Thursday skippers, particularly on nice days (yes, we do get them at the 42nd parallel) but without some sort of reaction from them (the evaluation was on a Tuesday) there's little I can think about doing differently.

30.5.06

BUY YOUR MATTRESS NEXT WEEKEND. That line comes from the keynote speech at DeKalb's Memorial Day observations.


We believe in getting things started early. Some people might have been thinking about getting to the mattress sale in the afternoon.



We're close enough to Milwaukee to have a good contingent of Milwaukee Iron showing the flag.


The Harley logo is black and orange, as are the uniforms of the DeKalb High School, shown here, and Combined Middle School marching bands.


This artillery truck recalled images from the drive into Baghdad, with troopers throwing Frisbees and candy to the kids. The cannon did not fire any salutes. On some Memorial Day and Independence Day observations there have been cannon shots.


It is Memorial Day, and as of mid-May, 107 Illinois residents have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. A local pacifist organization collected these portraits. Such are the ambiguities of the war we're in. One wonders how tolerant the Caliphate would be of interfaith networking.


The speakers use the front porch of the Ellwood House, a mansion built by one of the barbed-wire barons that made DeKalb the basing point for fence wire until that practice ran afoul of the antitrust authorities.


The Remembrance Table is a regular feature of the town's ceremonies. I'm not sure when this tradition began.


Amazing Grace at the end of the table ceremony.


The youngsters are a bit frightened and baffled by the three volleys.
POSTMODERN PILLORIES. David at Liberty and Power discovers Glenn Singleton, a diversity hustler who appears to be making a good living compelling teachers and professors to contemplate their default privileges. He's been re-enacting the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in Chapel Hill.

In an exercise called "The Color Line," they answer 26 questions on a 0 to 5 scale, such as:

"When I am told about our national heritage or 'civilization,' I am shown that people of my race made it what it is."

Or "I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of race."

Teachers who feel situations are "often true" put down fives. Threes are for "sometimes true"
and zeroes are for "seldom true."

After tallying their scores, teachers write the number down, wear them around their necks and line up from highest to lowest.

What else is in this questionnaire? The two example questions suggest more than one interpretation. I'd be tempted, for example, to take the worst-case scenario out of the controversial national history standards of the early 1990s and enter a zero (few white men, no economists, no midwesterners) for that question. And that affirmative-action question says more than the diversity hustler knows about the reality of affirmative action employment, in which there is an unstated but real tradeoff between performance and diversity. (Ward Churchill is an extreme case.)

The fault, however, lies with ... nobody.

How does Singleton believe schools perpetuate white superiority without knowing it?

When white students walk into Advanced Placement classes and see few or no minorities.

When teachers avoid race by saying, "I'm colorblind." To disengage, he says, is racist.

Or when white parents jockey behind the scenes to get their children the best teachers, leaving less-connected minority parents with the luck of the draw.

This, Singleton says, is institutional racism at work.

Left unstated: what precludes any parent from learning who are the better teachers, let alone the better school districts?

Mr Beito summarizes the enterprise.
This is all extremely depressing for those who value education and academic freedom. The worst part of it, however, is the groveling readiness of so many faculty to subject themselves to public degradation under the abusive eyes of Singleton's associates. Meanwhile, the same government schools and colleges that are wasting funds and time on this nonsense continue to dumb down standards and preside over the tyranny of low expectations for all students, black and white.
Quite so.
IT WOULD MAKE MY JOB EASIER. Dan Drezner links to a Matt Yglesias challenge to academic economists to lobby the government to change the cumbersome visa requirements that act as a trade barrier protecting economists' salaries. (Mr Yglesias may have recently read Dean Baker's The Conservative Nanny State, of which more at Marginal Utility. Mr Baker's thesis is that a number of "conservative" interests, including "so-called free-market economists" benefit by Big Government policies that protect the well-off.) Brad DeLong is up to the challenge. There is a spirited bull session at his place.

Less restrictive immigration rules would simplify my job. My department recently hired two productive colleagues who have been subjected to all manner of abuse and procedural hassles verging on the extortionate to obtain permanent resident status. (I tease them about the advantages of setting up your own country ...) The rules on reimbursement of speakers who are not citizens or permanent residents are sufficiently cumbersome as to make me nostalgic for the days of class rates, commodity rates, and exception rates for lead-filled rugs in carload lots.
RELATIVE PRICES MATTER. Mr. Insull's Interurban is standing-room only during the rush hour.

The South Shore Line, which runs between South Bend and Randolph Street in Chicago, has seen a nearly 12 percent rise in passengers from January to April in 2006 compared with the same period last year.

John Parsons, of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which operates the suburban line, said ridership was 1.3 million for the first four months this year, up 13 percent.

And that means fewer empty seats. Parsons said passengers will typically be standing on inbound trains after south suburban Hegewisch.

“We’re operating many of our rush-hour trains and popular off-peak trains at or above seating capacity,” he said.

The South Shore's schedules are somewhat skimpier now than they were immediately after World War II, when the base service was half-hourly to Gary, hourly to Michigan City, and every two hours to South Bend. In those days, the South Shore was able to obtain extra seats by splicing a middle section into their coaches. The current crop of cars are full-length for the line's curves.
HE'S NO RICHARD T. ELY. Urbana English professor Dennis Baron sees ominous portents in the Ward Churchill investigation.
I don’t know enough about the situation to support or challenge the panel’s unanimous findings, or to suggest what the university should do about them, but one aspect of the committee’s 125-page report signals a chilling warning to academics: If you want to stay below the radar, keep your politics and your scholarship to yourself.
Not quite. Professor Baron identifies slip-ups on Colorado's part well before the "little Eichmanns" kerfuffle.
Prior to that, the university had ignored complaints about Churchill’s scholarship, and it had already concluded that his 9/11 essay was protected political speech. But the committee, which includes two law professors, justified proceeding with the politically-motivated investigation into allegations of research misconduct with this legal analogy: “A motorist who is stopped and ticketed for speeding because the police officer was offended by the contents of her bumper sticker ... is still guilty of speeding, even if the officer’s motive for punishing the speeder was the offense taken to the speeder’s exercise of her right to free speech.”
Let me get this straight. If Dean Curly and Provost Moe and President Larry say nothing about a dishonest faculty member when all that dishonest faculty member is doing is raising Colorado's retention rates in the Department of Cooling Out the Mark, they have forfeited all right to say anything about it when the evidence comes to the attention of individuals less willing to look the other way at the identity politics fraud being committed in prominent universities? Methinks the professor protesteth excessively.
The committee went on to suggest that Churchill might have been fine if he had just kept his head down: “Public figures who choose to speak out on controversial matters of public concern naturally attract more controversy and attention to their background and work than scholars quietly writing about more esoteric matters that are not the subject of political debate.”
The quote leaves out an obvious extension. Albert Einstein might have used his stature as a physicist to make many a silly statement about economics, and Noam Chomsky is not afraid to speak his mind, but his linguistic work is solid, and Arthur Butz leaves his theories about the Final Solution out of his engineering classes. In all three cases, university administrators have correctly noted that Citizen Einstein or Citizen Chomsky or Citizen Butz are free to hold whatever private opinions they wish.

28.5.06

COINCIDENT EQUATIONS. Here is a progress report on the Sudoko solver. First, change all the equations shown here to have 45 (sum nine, not ten) as the known value of a row, column, or submatrix. Second, recall the nasty properties of a singular matrix. A problem that frequently crops up in solving a Sudoku is that the two remaining numbers of a submatrix occupy the same row or column of the submatrix. If the rest of your work is correct, the sum of the missing values will be equal to 45 less the summed known values within the submatrix which will be the same as 45 less the summed known values within that row or column. (If they're not the same, that's a warning to check the rest of your work.)

There are also developments on the transformation and transposition properties of these puzzles. More anon.
AT THIS RATE, THERE WILL BE HOCKEY UNTIL NOVEMBER. Contrary to an earlier observation, there is yet one more round of the Calder Cup series, with the Admirals playing either Portland or Hershey in Milwaukee early in June.
IT'S A QUAGMIRE OUT THERE. 5 more shot overnight in violent weekend.
Five people shot overnight added to an already high number of gun-related incidents during a violent Memorial Day weekend in Milwaukee.
Chicago also.
HEY ALL YOU WILDCATS. The Northwestern women repeat as lacrosse champions. Does that sport admit of a "sieve" chant? A "We want more?"

21.5.06

MARKING OFF. I'm going to be away for a while. Here is something to keep you busy until my return.


This puzzle is yet another application of my Sudoko-generating algorithm. The layout of the puzzle is quirky, not respecting the symmetry about the principal diagonal characteristic of published puzzles. It's more work on this project. Have you figured out my method yet?
ON MY WORKBENCH. There has been time for a bit of work on the first class accommodations for State of Maine Northern passengers. The striping and lettering is finished on 32 seat straight parlor Thomas Prence.


The section seats, arm rests, and partitions for 12-1 Pullman Picacho are painted and ready for assembly. Assorted passengers require a bit more patient work. The brown chairs are for the cafe section of Harvard Club.


The sections are installed and the furniture for the drawing room and the men's room is being readied.


The camera is less easily fooled than the eye. The PULLMAN lettering is from Walthers and the PICACHO comes from a different source. They don't look that different to my eye, but the camera treats them differently.
COMING UNGLUED. This site has previously commented on "Declining by Degrees" on television and on related work in The Atlantic. I have finished Declining by Degrees and open Book Review No. 14 with the old observation, "the movie is nothing like the book." That's not to slight the book, or the movie. The book is a collection of essays from assorted observers of the academic scene. My paperback version has a foreword by Tom Wolfe, who, true to form, focuses on the superficialities, although his observation that undergraduates dress like nine year olds addresses a dimension of growing up in the United States that has not yet been fully explored: that nine year olds lead so programmed an existence that it's only in college that they're free to be kids, from the ball caps and sneakers to the bean bag tournaments. The primary focus of the book is the tradeoffs higher education faces. Indiana's Murray Sperber sums up the problem as higher education going from the Roaring Twenties (the Welfare State University of the early 1960s) to a permanent Depression (this despite historically high premiums for college degrees, particularly in technical and quantitative fields.) He suggests the emphasis on research prestige has led professors to slight their undergraduates and proposes new promotion tracks with a teaching emphasis. Columbia Teachers' Arthur Levine contemplates the consumer mentality of students while noting that faculty are also consumers, albeit of a different variety of services (laboratories rather than climbing walls, no Friday classes rather than no Friday classes.) Sports Illustrated's Frank Deford is quite candid about the "peculiar institution" that intercollegiate athletics has become. I have left out a number of other contributors, each of whom I can concur with in part and dissent from in part. Again, no contributor has tackled the connection between academic and parental positional arms races (which the book treats conventionally as U.S. News rankings- and research prestige- driven) and open-access at the less famous or less-highly-ranked institutions.
PENALTY KILLING. The Milwaukee Admirals opened the Calder Cup series with two wins in Grand Rapids. The next two games are in Milwaukee, where fans are reminded to Want More.
BURROWING AROUND IN CIRCLES. Years ago, the Minnesota Golden Gophers played college football on Saturday afternoons at a field called Memorial Stadium. It occurred to some marketing genius to play home games on Saturday evenings in something called the Metrodome. Until a new genius came along.
The Minnesota Legislature approved a new, $248 million Gopher football stadium today in a strong bipartisan vote. The bill passed the House of Representatives 96 to 37 and the Senate 43 to 24. Construction of the new on-campus stadium will begin this summer, university officials said.
Note: new stadium. Old Memorial had a date with the wreckers.
“Bringing Gopher football back to campus will strengthen our university community and give Minnesotans even more pride in their flagship public research university,” said university President Robert Bruininks. “Our academic mission, the quality of our student life and community involvement in the U will all benefit greatly from today’s action. We’re grateful to all the legislators who have been with us on this plan and who gave it such overwhelming bipartisan support today.”
Give. Me. A. Break. The Minnesota economics faculty are quite good at what they do, whether the Gophers are surrendering Paul Bunyan's Axe at Memorial or the Metrodome or Memorial: The Sequel (which is to be called TCF Bank Stadium, amateur athletics notwithstanding.) Such talk is an indirect slight of Minnesota's academic programs, others of which may be as well known to practitioners in their fields as economics is to me.
Athletics Director Joel Maturi added, “For years, we have been the only Big 10 school without an on-campus football stadium. This new facility will have a huge positive impact on our football program, recruiting and all of our athletic programs.”
Wasn't that the rationale for becoming the only Big Ten university (well, maybe Mr Maturi knows something I don't) playing indoor football on Saturday evenings, anticipating the new Mid-American schedule, which can be summarized in the railroad locution "Daily, except Sunday?"
The 50,000-seat open-air stadium will cost approximately $248 million. As part of the legislation, the university will exchange 2,840 acres of undeveloped land in Dakota County with the state for use as a metropolitan area nature preserve. That brings the total state share of the cost to 55 percent. The university will raise private funds and implement a student fee to pay for the rest.
Ah, the hoary dodge of taxing current students for the benefit of future students. Under the interstate compact, will some Minnesota students be tempted to avoid the fees by enrolling at Wisconsin, where there is a larger open-air stadium and the Axe?
IN DE KALB, WOULD WE REFER TO A VICTOR E. GARDEN? The grades are in and the spring plowing is done. Although the weather forecaster noted a bit of snow (it melted before it hit the ground) mixed with the rains earlier in the week, the snowballs are in my back yard.


This is about as tall as a snowball bush gets. The flowers are the size of baseballs.

The rains soaked the fertilizer into the garden. Another pass with the rototiller and it's ready for the plants to go in. The bare ground in the background has assorted seeds in it, provided the birds don't decide to go snacking.


The Better Boy tomato plants are staked and the Roma plants are caged.


Habanero peppers, anyone?


With luck, there will be salsa-blogging come fall.

19.5.06

I'M GOING TO BE PREOCCUPIED FRIDAY. Try yet another application of my algorithm.


There is method to these. This puzzle also uses my Sudoko-generating algorithm. I will eventually post designer notes.

18.5.06

APPROPRIABILITY. Inventions, particularly elementary inventions such as the simple machines, basic antibiotics, and computing machines, have the public good properties of nonrivalrousness (once the idea exists, one person's use of it does not prevent another person from also using it) and nonexclusivity (anyone who is aware of the idea is able to apply it.) Patents and copyrights exist to protect inventions by giving the patent or copyright holder ownership rights that turn unauthorized rival use of the idea into theft. Patents and copyrights have great commercial value, and holders of those rights under some conditions can manipulate rights in such a way as to lessen competition. (I'm simplifying radically here; the litigation, let alone the economic theory, of defensive patenting is very messy and I'm not current with all the recent developments.)

Institutions of higher education have been ambivalent about using patents and copyrights as revenue sources, the University of Wisconsin's rat poison and Stanford's gene splicing notwithstanding. But with the continued appeal of "industrial policy" and "public-private partnerships," the diminishing returns to many areas of pure research, and governments looking to save money comes the temptation for the academy to support its laboratories with corporate-sponsored research. Jennifer Washburn's University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education asserts in its title what comes next. I note in this Book Review No. 13 that Ms. Washburn attempts to connect a few too many dots. Higher education has problems, but to attempt to bundle all of them with the pursuit of corporate research dollars is to stretch.

That corporate sponsorship of research brings in its train corporate efforts to appropriate the benefits of that research in preference to its rapid publication and the attendant replication, refinement, and rivet-counting under the rubric of "A Comment On" I do not dispute. That U.S. antitrust policy might preclude the development of corporate joint ventures that could collaboratively fund university research and pool the patents in such a way that no one firm strategically manipulates the discovery Ms. Washburn does not address, although she considers some modifications of existing technology-transfer policies.

That university administrators are as prone as managers anywhere to get caught up in fads, in Ms. Washburn's work, the pursuit of the next Silicon Valley (what happened to those "Illinois Research and Technology Corridor" signs along the Tollway, and the talk of Silicon Prairie?) I do not dispute.

That the pursuit of industry partnerships contributes to the marginalization of the social sciences and humanities and the adjunctification of teaching I question. Trendy yet tendentious curricula and "culturally competent" graduates who could argue that E=mc2 is "gendered" yet are unable to integrate ln x or grasp thermodynamics are the more likely cause of those disciplines' troubles. And to the best of my knowledge, Corporate America's research contracts do not come bundled with stadium skyboxes, climbing walls, wireless internet access in the classrooms, or Jacuzzis in the residences (don't say dorms.)
MORE ON WARD CHURCHILL. Jim at Blogs for Industry takes a cut at specifying the trade-off between diversity and research excellence. He draws the line at research misconduct.
A university may benefit from faculty with views as extreme as Churchill's, and may sometimes want to hire outside of the normal disciplinary trade unions. But even if the expectations for the nature of scholarly activity should be customized for such a hire, the basic expectations for all faculty, traditional or not, has to include that they may not commit deliberate fraud. Fools we can tolerate, along with the self-deluded, because the remedy for poor reasoning is more reasoning, and we don't trust ourselves or our political masters to be able to separate the goofballs from the Galileos...but we must draw the line at charlatans.
PoliBlog concurs.

If a scholar is found guilty of “falsification, fabrication, plagiarism” and so forth by a panel of peers, then it seems to me that depending on the volume of the offense, that dismissal is the only appropriate punishment.

I suspect that the man will find a way to make up for the lost revenue, however.

He offers a clear statement of Colorado's responsibilities to maintain integrity while encouraging free inquiry.
I never thought that Churchill should have been disciplined for having far-out theories. I have argued that he wasn’t qualified for the post he held and argued that he had the academic freedom to write what he wrote. However, I have no tolerance for plagiarism and academic dishonesty.
Exactly.
NOTHING "FUNKY" HERE. Professor Mankiw reviews the Principle of Complements for the benefit of the Wall Street Journal. (Via Knowledge Problem.)
THANKS, AVON, HELLO, ESTEE. Meet the pig.
The University of Wisconsin System announced Wednesday the departure of three of its top communications officials, framing the shake-up as an opportunity to improve public relations.
Here's the Dilbert-speak.

Their positions, [Wisconsin System President Kevin] Reilly said, will be used to create a new, three-person communications and external relations team that "will have an opportunity to redefine and revitalize how the University represents itself to the citizens of Wisconsin."

"As we move forward with a growth agenda that includes reform and renewal of the UW System," Reilly said, "personnel changes in the Office of the President present us with what I see as an opportunity to rejuvenate and strengthen the UW System's communications and relationship-building efforts."

Via Sean at The American Mind, who notes, "Changing who spins things won't change the fact the system needs serious reform."
REMIND ME AGAIN, TUITIONS ARE TOO HIGH. I'm tending to a few things at the office today. The University Police are busy tagging bicycles near the dorms and the student center. Those not picked up by the end of the week will be secured for the abandoned property auction in the fall. There are some pretty good bikes left behind.
ALMOST RAILROAD READING. Charlie Sykes finds a novel promotion by a minor-league baseball team.
Inspired by a Los Angeles Angels fan who filed a lawsuit against the club because he did not receive a red nylon tote bag as part of the major league club's Mother’s Day promotion last May, the Altoona Curve have announced that they will be holding Salute to Frivolous Lawsuit Night as part of their Sunday, July 2nd game at Blair County Ballpark.
What a great way to start the Independence Day weekend. The Curve the team name refers to is the famous Horseshoe Curve on the Main Line of The Pennsylvania Railroad, not the pitch that separates the major leaguers from the wannabes.

17.5.06

DOES THE PRIVATE SECTOR WORK 9 TO 5? Newmark's Door recommends "Why Your Employees are Losing Motivation." Nowhere in the article does the possibility that (private sector?) employees have lost motivation because they're overstretched. Perhaps they're not. This sidebar, however, suggests a common failing in the academy.
Management inadvertently makes it difficult for employees to do their jobs. Excessive levels of required approvals, endless paperwork, insufficient training, failure to communicate, infrequent delegation of authority, and a lack of a credible vision contribute to employees' frustration.
Quite.
FOURTH TURNING ALERT. Ed Driscoll has been linking and thinking on the aftermath of the Kennedy assassinations and the implosion of the New Deal - New Frontier - Great Society consensus. The Democratic leadership seems bent on writing what former Speaker Gingrich has characterized as a "Contract with San Francisco and Vermont." Meanwhile, mainstream (read "country-club") Republicans have been scratching their heads over some primary losses to upstart candidates. Michael at Mungowit's End seeks a choice.

Now, in many ways, the news in the last year or so is very, VERY good for libertarians. Many of our worst predictions about the consequences of relying on the nanny state have come true. There is a growing sense of distrust of government, and of the people who govern us (since we are not allowed to govern ourselves). All good news for libertarians, right?

Well, not really. The prescription in the public mind, the solution to the problem of bad government, is always reform. Get better people in office. Build better government institutions.

With what?
QUOTE OF THE DAY. At Phi Beta Cons, David French weighs in on the Ward Churchill case.
While it is certainly true that Churchill's expressive activities (such as comparing the 9/11 victims to Adolf Eichmann) put him under the public microscope; it is not true that the university is necessarily limited in its ability to punish him for other forms of misconduct. When a person places himself in the public eye by making inflammatory public comments, critical scrutiny is inevitable. It was Churchill's responsibility to conduct himself in a manner that could survive that scrutiny. It is not the university's responsibility to look the other way when real misconduct is apparent. So long as the university treats him in the same way that it treats other professors who are guilty of similar misconduct, it should not face legal liability.
Put another way, Professor Churchill is no Richard T. Ely (background on Professor Ely and academic freedom.) Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed misses this point.
But the panel also faulted the university, noting that allegations about Churchill had been known for years in the scholarly world but had not been deemed worthy of inquiry at his home campus. The committee suggested that the university had hired Churchill knowing he was an outspoken activist and should not have been surprised when that’s what it got. And the panel raised concerns about its own role because it was created in the aftermath of a public uproar over essays Churchill wrote about 9/11 — essays that infuriated many but that the panel concluded were protected by academic freedom and the U.S. Constitution.
Let's break this down. Wisconsin hired Richard T. Ely and John R. Commons (and Milton Friedman, but that's for another day) despite their political views because each had promise as a scholar (new economists, there's a reason the plenary session at the annual convention is the Richard T. Ely Lecture.) Professor Churchill, on the other hand, is at best a fourth-rate Barrington Moore, jr., and if there is any fault in Colorado's hiring practices, it is in not disclosing the implicit tradeoff of scholarly excellence for diversity it used in hiring, tenuring, and promoting him. There might also be fault in Colorado's vetting to the extent that the professor engaged in research misconduct while at Colorado. Eugene Volokh gets it.
As the report points out, "public figures who choose to speak out on controversial matters of public concern naturally attract more controversy and attention to their background and work than scholars quietly writing about more esoteric matters that are not the subject of political debate" (p. 4). That seems to me to be exactly what happened here. Unfortunately for Ward Churchill, it turns out that his scholarship couldn't bear the attention that his statements prompted.
As does Scott at The Valve.
Were a panel of my peers to find that I “had committed falsification, fabrication, plagiarism, failure to comply with established standard regarding author names on publications, and a ‘serious deviation from accepted practices in reporting results from research,’” I would expect to find a pink slip in my box. Academic freedom shouldn’t protect the falsifier, the fabricator, or the plagiarist from dismissal, should it? Or is this one of those cases in which we defend the worst for fear of future actions against respectable but politically unpopular scholarship?
As does Unlocked Wordhoard.
So, here we have a judgment rendered by academics, with damning evidence that Churchill committed some of the worst academic sins possible. In my mind, the debate is over. There are cases in which apparent plagiarism or academic honesty can be excused -- editors accidentally removing citations or quotation marks, small record-keeping errors, slips of the memory, dishonest co-authors, etc.-- but Churchill's appears to be a career of dishonesty. Game over, case closed.
Had Professor Churchill demonstrated the integrity of an Ely or a Commons there would be no scandal, Colorado's sloppy promotion and tenure procedures notwithstanding.

King at SCSU Scholars links to a number of commentaries, with observations of his own, including this depressing interpretation of the committee's statement.
It is worth pointing out that the report includes some not-so-oblique criticism of the university for hiring the guy and bringing this thing on themselves, and directs attention at the media (and I suppose bloggers -- perhaps I give us too much credit) for shining light on this whole affair.
Without those disgruntled students at Hamilton College, would there have been any controversy?
CARNIVAL CALLS. Step right up to the Carnival of the Capitalists, with a very large bannerline at The Virtual Handshake, and hurry over to The Education Wonks for Carnival of Education No. 103 (8).

16.5.06

YOU'RE THE OLDEST. You have to set a good example. I heard that a lot as a kid. I wonder if Command Sergeant Major James R. Jordan, U.S. Army, retired, did.
PRODUCTIVITY FOLLIES. Michael Berube has objections to the Spellings Commission's "Frequently Asked Questions about College Costs" that complement mine. Go. Read.
CAN'T CARRY WATER FOR A PATTERNMAKER. Last night's post raised an objection to an anonymous academic fretful about college students leaving for an entry level job at "double the minimum wage." Two sources post further thinking about the value of a degree and the respectability of a trade. Don at Cafe Hayek summarizes manufacturing's image problem.
Like most folks, I understand why most people aspire to such jobs rather than to jobs in a shipyard or in an assembly plant. (From 1975 through 1981, I worked each summer in a shipyard. It's unpleasant, difficult, dirty, and dangerous work that doesn't pay particularly well by modern American standards.) Perhaps those parents (such as mine) who would prefer that their children become physicians or lawyers or accountants or even college professors (rather than become manual laborers) are crass, shallow, and ungrateful materialists. But I venture to suggest that such parents outnumber those who would prefer that their children work in an assembly plant rather than become white-collar professionals.
Sean at The American Mind finds a news story that suggests manufacturing is thinking about it, against the background of a shortage of welders. (Hey, there are plenty of MFAs that are handy with a blowtorch, but I digress.)

Building contractors are recruiting welders from factories, which does not help the overall shortage. Construction projects including power plants, refineries, oil and natural gas pipelines also rely heavily on welders and other skilled trades workers.

But the shortage of welders would not be as acute now if, three years ago, more people had been trained in the career field, said Peter Thillman, dean of workforce and economic development at Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis.

"We needed a more proactive approach, rather than a reactive one," Thillman said.

Manufacturers also should polish their image in order to recruit younger workers, participants in a conference workshop said.

Factories need shop-floor employees with hybrid skills - from handling a wrench to running computer software.

"Young people, parents and educators have an outdated image of manufacturing . . . that of a medieval shop floor that's grimy and grungy," said Jerry Eyler, dean of manufacturing at Fox Valley Technical College.

"There's nothing wrong with working in a factory. We need to take that stereotype away," said Bob Kraemer, a production supervisor at Great Northern Corp. in Appleton.

Good money, good working conditions, predictable hours, no heavy lifting ... you mean all that stuff about incentives mattering matters?

Read between the lines carefully. Note that a trade isn't something that just anybody can do. The person who bumbles through the library or has trouble understanding simple instructions on a course outline is a potential hazard to everybody near heavy machinery.
NO CHAMPAGNE CORKS TO DODGE. Danny Noonan, Esq., receives credentials, now seeks hanger for shingle.
In the University of Wisconsin tradition, the graduation ceremony was pretty informal and the speakers pretty mediocre.
I concur on the "mediocre speakers" (couldn't recall the 1975 or 1980 speakers if my life depended on it) but apparently the hazard to the law and medical graduates (who used to sit in the front rows) from flying champagne corks (from the baccalaureates further up the stadium) has abated.
BUSTED. Pirate Ballerina has been following the Ward Churchill investigation. Colorado's special commission has just released its findings. From the press release:
Professor Churchill committed several forms of academic misconduct as defined in the policy statements of the University of Colorado at Boulder and theUniversity of Colorado system.
Apparently, not the kind of "oops" that can happen late on the evening before the paper is due.
The Committee found that Professor Churchill’s misconduct was deliberate and not a matter of an occasional careless error. The Committee found that similar patterns recurred throughout the essays it examined. The Committee therefore concluded that the degree of his misconduct was serious, but differed on the sanction warranted.
I expect that the special committee's disclaimer will be controversial.

The Committee notes that the Laws of the Regents of the University of Colorado define “academic freedom” as “the freedom to inquire, discover, publish and teach truth as the faculty member sees it, subject to no control or authority save the control and authority of the rational methods by which truth is established.”

We understand and were careful to distinguish “misconduct in research,” which is addressed by the University of Colorado’s Administrative Policy Statement on Misconduct in Research and Authorship, from the issue of “truth” addressed by the Regents’ Laws’ definition of academic freedom. The Committee observes also that the allegations we were asked to investigate were initiated in the wake of the public outcry concerning some highly controversial essays by Professor Churchill dealing with, among other things, the 9/11 tragedy. While not endorsing either the tone or the contents of those essays, the Committee reaffirms,as the University has already acknowledged, that Professor Churchill’s right to publish his views was protected by both the First and Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of free speech. Although those essays played no part in our deliberations, the Committee expresses its concern regarding the timing and perhaps the motives for the University's decision to forward charges made in that context. We point out finally that when Professor Churchill was hired as an Associate Professor with tenure in 1991 and promoted to (full) Professor in 1997, the University knew that he did not have a Ph.D. or law degree, as commonlyexpected for faculty at this institution, and was aware that he was a controversial public intellectual.

That last sentence is precious; it's also a non-sequitur, unless there is a production possibility frontier somewhere along which deficient credentials and research misconduct can be traded off against representing marginalized perspectives. Perhaps such a frontier exists; if so, it would be helpful if Colorado's administration -- heck, any university's administration -- would acknowledge its existence. The resolution of this case also matters. If Professor Churchill skates on research misconduct in order to make a statement about censorship or popular intimidation, will any Colorado faculty member be able to bring to book a student who downloads a research paper?

The bull session has already begun at Pirate Ballerina's.
IF YOU CAN FIND IT, I CAN FIND IT. I admit to a guilty pleasure in reading anonymous faculty weblogs that dish on their students. This time of year, the topic is usually downloaded papers. The title of my post is the warning I give, which students generally heed. In fact, it's generally easier for the professors to find it than for the students to find it. Case in point: a search string that turned up on my sitemeter referrals today.
One symptom of the inefficiencies associated with monopolistic competition is industry wide excess capacity?
Somebody, somewhere, is reading a research paper and a phrase stands out.

15.5.06

QUOTE OF THE DAY. Inside Higher Ed's pseudonymous Shari Wilson compares and contrasts the "real world" with the ivory tower.
It is the most demanding work I have ever done. Yes, managing millions of dollars worth of semiconductors was challenging. Designing national advertising campaigns was tough. But these positions required less of me — emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Teaching college was a whole new game. And one that would require me not only to use every skill I had to succeed — but also force me to grow and change in ways I could never had anticipated.
Read on.
And professors do not “clock out” at 5 p.m. As one online colleague posted, “The work is infinite. There is always one more thing you could, should, would like to do.” The industry encourages workaholism.
I believe our political masters call it "productivity." It is productive in the same way that tying another ten cars of dead freight with sticking brakes on ahead of the caboose with an engine on the point that could use a refit is productive.
Accountability at so many levels can place further pressure on professors. Not only do professors answer to students and their parents, but to administrators, colleagues, their discipline, the state — and ultimately the nation. Education has never been the simple task of passing information on to students. Preparing students for real-world jobs has been one goal; finding ways to assess students them has been another concern. Retaining students when local blue-collar businesses are paying double the minimum wage is a battle.
So drain the retention ponds. Really. You'll have more self-respect in the morning. And teach humanities faculty what an opportunity cost is.
Most professors I know feel impotent. They may be forced into either coddling students, watering down curriculum, or passing students who have not earned a passing grade. Those who do not give in may find themselves labeled as “outdated” or, worse yet, a political outcast. In today’s consumer-driven world, holding the line is becoming more and more dangerous — not only for institutions, but for individual professors as well.
That statement may say more about Professor Wilson's experience or her institutions. It's a mistake to view a student disgruntled by the bad grade he earned the same way one might view a diner disgruntled with the pinkness of a steak. One never knows whether one's students include a future Speaker of the House, or an emerging court intellectual for the Democrats. One might be more certain that coddling will not produce such individuals.
BACK TO MY WORKBENCH. The grades are in, and the continuing late-spring weather is favorable to evening model-building. (With no more papers coming in, there's time for a different kind of daytime model-building as well.) Friday's models have been postponed to Monday. This week's projects will be more first class cars. Harvard Club has not yet been bolted together: here one side provides a pattern for the lettering on a 16-section Pullman rebuilt as 32-seat straight parlor Thomas Prence.


The seats in the background are for 12-1 Pullman Picacho.


The antimacassars are decals from Keil-Line. The partitions and seat ends are out of the paint shop.

14.5.06

I SHOULD FINISH CALCULATING GRADES. Try another one.


This puzzle also uses the Sudoko-generating algorithm I am working on as a continuation of this post. In this puzzle I am using the puzzle-composing convention of clues symmetric about the principal diagonal.
WHY WE FIGHT. Best of the Web finds humor in the fading of Moscow's Victory Parade. But a slideshow by Moscow Times photographer Vladimir Filonov includes instructive images for all time.


Yes, the traditional forms are still on display.



Bear in mind, though, that the Soviet Army first defeated the most technologically sophisticated tyranny of its time, in a war whose story is still not well known. (I have some book reviews in progress that might help reverse that.) More recently, the Russians shucked off the most intellectually sophisticated tyranny of its time, in a transformation whose outcome is still uncertain. There are now fences behind the Historical Museum on Red Square and tanks can no longer be staged on ul. Tverskaya to roll past the Politburo. That Chaika might be from the late-Evil Empire fleet of Kremlin staff cars. (What has happened to the Chaika and Zil works?) Some of the German battle flags that were flung at the Politburo's feet in 1945 have been sold to raise money. But never mind the geopolitics. This picture captures it all.


A picnic, an opportunity to reminisce, a chance to tell stories to curious youngsters. The fight is to earn the time and space for a life of one's own, including picnics.
BIG BUSINESS DEAD POOL. I sometimes tease my students about finding a bookie who will give me odds on which of today's business giants crashes first. It's easy enough to come up with a Wal-Mart scenario: once they've colonized the big cities, all the pools of budget-conscious shoppers have a smiley face over them, and attempts to reposition a product have perils. (Miller Beer might have managed a downward repositioning from "Champagne of Bottled Beer" to "Miller Time" but that wasn't easy and now there's an attempt to make retro upscale.) Now the outline of a Microsoft scenario, via Newmark's Door.) The closing sentence reminds me of a late-1950s evaluation of United States Steel.
I see a company that has settled in and has become big, profitable, and unexciting, lacking real focus or spirit.
Place your bets.
A NEW NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY CAPITAL? The Milwaukee Admirals will play for the Calder Cup. I remember when the Admirals were a low-budget operation sponsored by a local television dealer playing in the Wilson Park indoor ice rink, itself the only acknowledgement by the Park Commission that ice wasn't just for doing figure eights on. Another Calder to go along with the recent Badger titles would be good for the morale.

Admiral fans: two suggestions for home games. When the Admirals score: SIEVE! SIEVE! SIEVE! After a minute or two, count the goals, e.g. ONE. WE. WANT. MORE!
UNIVERSAL ACCESS, UNIVERSAL POSITIONAL ARMS RACES. The French have taken the open-access community college model of higher education to levels undreamed of by Gramscian deans and cost-conscious legislators.

The campus cafeterias close after lunch. Professors often do not have office hours; many have no office. Some classrooms are so overcrowded that at exam time many students have to find seats elsewhere. By late afternoon every day the campus is largely empty.

Sandwiched between a prison and an unemployment office just outside Paris, the university here is neither the best nor the worst place to study in this fairly wealthy country. Rather, it reflects the crisis of France's archaic state-owned university system: overcrowded, underfinanced, disorganized and resistant to the changes demanded by the outside world.

"In the United States, your university system is one of the drivers of American prosperity," said Claude Allègre, a former education minister who tried without success to reform French universities. "But here, we simply don't invest enough. Universities are poor. They're not a priority either for the state or the private sector. If we don't reverse this trend, we will kill the new generation."

Constrained Vision and Alex at Marginal Revolution have commentary. The article illustrates some corrosive forces at work in U.S. higher education as well. In some ways higher education in France is what higher education might look like in the States if the same forces roam free. First, the signal loses its value.
One result was that the country's university system guaranteed a free — or almost free — college education to every high school graduate who passed the baccalaurĂ©at exam. University enrollment soared. The value of a bachelor's degree plummeted.
The French went one step further, turning college into the new high school, without paying for it.

But the state failed to invest much in buildings, facilities and professors' salaries to make the system work. Today the French government allocates about $8,500 a year to each university student, about 40 percent less than what it invests in each high school student.

Most students are required to attend the universities closest to their high schools. Although certain universities excel in specific fields of study, the course offerings in, say, history or literature are generally the same throughout the country.

I can see administrators at regional public universities near population centers lusting to mimic this.

Second, those who have opportunities to cover their opportunity cost cover them.
Professors lack the standing and the salaries of the private sector. A starting instructor can earn less than $20,000 a year; the most senior professor in France earns about $75,000 a year. Research among the faculty is not a priority.
And that's in France. In the States, engineering and business faculties particularly are susceptible to free-agency offers from private sector firms that exceed the option value of lifetime tenure.

Third, speaking of French fries and double lattes ...
Officials, entrepreneurs, professors and students alike agree that too many students are stuck in majors like sociology or psychology that make it difficult to move into a different career in a stratified society like France, given the country's troubled economy.
I wonder if technical majors such as economics are insufficiently enrollment-impacted over there.

Fourth, regular readers ought not be surprised.
Students who have the money are increasingly turning to foreign universities or private specialized schools in France, especially for graduate school.
No word on whether they're working on place-kicking or practicing jump-shots.

11.5.06

A REWARD, ONCE GRADES ARE DONE. A skeptic suggests I cherry-pick my purchases of on-board roller coaster souvenir pictures. Perhaps, but it's usually pretty easy to get a good shot first time through.


Hershey Park Wildcat, July 1999.

Seven years later, I'll still take on any new coaster no-hands. Stay tuned for some habanero-blogging.
MESOPOTAMIAN WIRTSCHAFTWUNDER IN PROGRESS? The Brookings Institution periodically release an Iraq Index. All Things Conservative suggests that there is "plenty to pleased about," and Futurist attempts further interpretation, including the suggestion that the world news might be sensationalizing the Baghdad police blotter.

On the metric of violence in Iraq, it appears that about 80% of Iraq has a murder rate no higher than in the roughest neighborhoods in Chicago, Los Angeles, or Miami. This is worthy of being classified as 'violent criminal activity' rather than 'civil war'. The remaining 20% of Iraq has a higher rate of violence, but no higher than it was two years ago. Note that life expectancy in Iraq has actually risen.

Lastly, it appears that 64% of Iraqis believe that Iraq is going in the right direction, and 77% are still glad that Saddam was removed. If one excludes Sunnis from the polls, the figures above rise to 83% and 96% respectively.

The post also suggests that victory, like desktop computers or waffle irons, must meet a higher standard today than would have satisfied years ago.
Iraq just can't be as safe as Germany was by 1949, it has to become safe enough for American tourists to go for vacation in decent numbers (just as they currently go to Israel, Tanzania, or Thailand). That is a very high bar to attain, but unfortunately one we have to meet in this political climate.
That standard might take some time to meet, with setbacks along the way. Lebanon was once a fine vacation destination. Has it recovered from the civil war and occupation going on 30 years ago?
THE POTENTIAL OF AN AFFLUENT SOCIETY. Cafe Hayek's Don Boudreaux suggests the United States is in a better position today than it was in the 1870-1920 era to absorb and offer opportunities to immigrants.
FOURTH TURNING ALERT. Remember "gravitas?" That was the Chattering Classes' prerequisite for high political office circa 2000. Insta Pundit suggests it's gang aft agley.
I think we're seeing a general meltdown in support for the entire governing class as the result of a perception (which is largely true) that it lacks the seriousness and self-restraint necessary to run a major nation.
Or is it a passing from the scene of the Lewis Lapham and Ken Galbraith instructed and New Frontier inspired technocrats and their acolytes from the coming of age of the Baby Boom? Hippies showing seriousness and self-restraint? It is to laugh ...

10.5.06

A GIANT PASSES. University Diaries recalls youthful visits to Professor Galbraith's house.
His enormousness. He sat in his living room (book-lined; big piano; Persian rugs) in an oversized chair, which he dominated. For diminutive UD, sitting across from Galbraith was like looking at the Lincoln Memorial.
Economists have weighed in on the professor's contribution, with William J. Polley and Division of Labour publishing citation indexes.

The professor's thoughts on the coexistence of private opulence and public squalor have been on the mind of many an obituarist. One quote (I'm using the Washington Post's here; it also features in London's Telegraph and Guardian, the latter in paraphrase) recurs.
The family which takes its mauve and cerise, air-conditioned, power-steered, and power-braked automobile out for a tour passes through cities that are badly paved, made hideous by litter, blighted buildings, billboards, and posts for wires that should long since have been put underground. They picnic on exquisitely packaged food from a portable icebox by a polluted stream and go on to spend the night in a park which is a menace to public health and morals.
The quote, from The Affluent Society (I just checked out the library's paperback edition, 75 cents in 1964 silver quarters) captured the spirit of the times among the nation's deep thinkers, as Lewis Lapham notes in a Progressive interview.
I graduated from Yale in the 1950s, and the word “public” was still a good word. Public meant public health, public service, public school, commonwealth. And “private” suggested greed, selfishness, and so on. Those words have been turned around. That was the great triumph of the Reagan Revolution. By the time we hit the end of the Reagan Administration, “public” had become a dirty word, a synonym for slum, poor school, incompetent government, all things destructive. And “private” had become glorious: private club, private trout stream, private airplane.
What changed? What turned, for example, P.J. O'Rourke into the anti-Galbraith in such a way as to work his way onto reading lists?
Social-program spending is spending done directly on the public rather than for the public's benefit. Note the mental image evoked by the very word public: public school, public park, public health, public housing. To call something public is to define it as dirty, insufficient, and hazardous. The ultimate paradigm of social spending is the public rest room.
What makes Parliament of Whores the countervailing power to American Capitalism: The Theory of Countervailing Power?

Consider Professor DeLong's tribute, which includes an extended quotation of his review of Richard Parker's biography of Professor Galbraith. Here's the money quote.
Late-twentieth-century American economics centers on the use of mathematical models to reach one of two conclusions: that the market is already doing a good job, or that some imperfection is causing "market failure" and correcting or counterbalancing the imperfection will make everything okay.
That work is likely to make the project of "mathing up" The New Industrial State or The Affluent Society somewhat difficult, as the theory suggests a reality different from the one Professor Galbraith perceived. The broken streets, the polluted streams, the muggery in the park once inspired biologist Garrett Hardin to envision The Tragedy of the Commons. Thirty years later, Professor Hardin revisited the tragedy.
To judge from the critical literature, the weightiest mistake in my synthesizing paper was the omission of the modifying adjective "unmanaged." In correcting this omission, one can generalize the practical conclusion in this way: "A 'managed commons' describes either socialism or the privatism of free enterprise. Either one may work; either one may fail: 'The devil is in the details.' But with an unmanaged commons, you can forget about the devil: As overuse of resources reduces carrying capacity, ruin is inevitable." With this modification firmly in place, "The Tragedy of the Commons" is well tailored for further interdisciplinary synthesis.
The gated community as a managed commons, the public park a mis-managed one?

On the other hand, there is potential for a positive theory of the "bezzle," a felicitous expression that features prominently in The Great Crash 1929.
HE'LL BE BEGGING TO BE PUT ON CLEANUP DETAIL. EclectEcon notes the potential for moral hazard in a Zacarias Moussaoui death pool.
I hope there is no futures or betting market on when he dies or is killed. But if there were a market, I'd give him less time Jeffrey Dahmer had.
Wisconsin has neither capital punishment nor an extreme isolator prison that might offer stresses in its own right.
WHAT WAS IT THE ENGINES SAID, Pilots touching, head to head.



Promontory Point, Utah, May 10, 1869.

A continuous rail link from the east shore of the Atlantic to the west shore of the Pacific is another 40 years in the future, and that one still requires transloading or regauging the cars.

The Pacific Railroad might have been a case study in the teething troubles of public-private partnerships (two years ago I learned the European powers had troubles of their own) or a study of the worst implications of public choice theory or of capitalist accumulation, depending on your inclinations, or simply a pork-barrel project to keep California from reuniting with Mexico. It might offer students of competition policy opportunities to debate the wisdom of the Harriman Lines case that forestalled today's Union Pacific for nearly a century.

Never mind all that. Four years after the end of the Southern Rebellion . . . DONE. Happy 137th to the Transcon and let the stack trains roll.

9.5.06

FOR THE MILK CARTON. A request from Illini or Huskie.
I'm tagging y'all with blogs to post the picture you want them to put on the milk carton when you go missing.


Heck, if I do go missing, it will probably be to enjoy such thrills.
CARNIVAL CALL. Step right up to Harshly Mellow for this week's Carnival of the Capitalists.
I'M PREOCCUPIED. Work on this.


This puzzle uses a Sudoko generating algorithm of my own design, which is exploratory work on an expansion of this post. Any resemblance to commercially syndicated Sudoko puzzles, apart from the rules of construction and solution, is unintentional.

7.5.06

SLOW LEARNERS? Hawaii's wholesale gas price cap is gone.
Hawaii's gas price limits are going away, but oil companies will still be pressured to keep gas prices low. Prices at the pump are not expected to be affected immediately by Governor Lingle signing a bill to suspend the state's unique gas cap law. She signed the bill yesterday, ending the state's eight-month effort to try to rein in ever-increasing gas prices.
That unique law perpetuated an instructive folly which I noted, with references, six months ago. Hawaii Reporter cautions that no bad idea ever goes away.
Contrary to early media reports, suspension of the Gas Cap ends the calculation and publication of the maximum wholesale gas price by the Public Utilities Commission -- but it does not provide for complete repeal of the Gas Cap after a two year period. At the same time it changes the to-be-disused-formula in a way that lowers it by $0.08 per gallon and also adds Singapore prices to the formula by which prices would be calculated if the Gas Cap were to be reinstated.
NO ONE IS GOING TO HELP US. George Will recommends that all readers attend United 93. I concur. Tiger Hawk reports that passengers' and ground security continue to place a more negative evaluation on Type II error than on Type I error where passengers holding conversations not in English with open flight manuals are involved.
SCRATCH A CHEESEHEAD, FIND A FARMER. A farmer with some new neighbors. Some robins built a nest on the downspout, out of reach of cats?



I have had this house eighteen years, and that's the first time I've seen a nest built there.

In another week or two, there will be snowballs.


This snowball bush never fails to produce lots of flowers.

The garden is ready to receive seeds and transplants.


Till it, rake it, apply some 10-10-10 and let it work in. Expect progress reports on the harvest.

6.5.06

OTTO PERRY GOES TO IOWA. The Fox Valley O Scalers provide this week's models.


A local passenger train takes water after climbing out of Marquette, Iowa.


Later in the day, the train returns to Marquette.

Friday's models are appearing on Saturday owing to dial-up difficulties from Cold Spring Shops headquarters. The status line for the university's computers indicates all is well but the tone of the person who recorded the message suggests someone a bit harried with requests for information. No doubt there is a lot of last-minute research going on.