31.8.06

LOOKING FOR A MARKET TEST.

Richard Nokes's Unlocked Wordhoard has surveyed a number of posts on viewpoint diversity, or lack thereof, in higher education, in such a way as to provoke a spirited bull session with extensive rebuttals by one of the posters so surveyed. But it is to the root of all evil that he digs.
In my field, for example, we could offer lots of reasons that the study of English literature is a romper room from leftist politics, and many of those reasons are probably simultaneously true. At the end of the day, though, it all comes down to money. The path to financial success is easier for leftist literary scholars, and so many more pursue that path.
But why? His post offers no explanation on that score.

Let me suggest one: the market test for scholarship is incomplete, and it corrects errors in resource allocation slowly. Had leftist literary scholars continued to teach close reading and tight writing at the same time that their research considered different ways of interpreting literature, their disciplines might not have faced the problems they currently face. That, however, is not what has happened. I find myself frequently suggesting that the Economics Department time-slip the English Department for all the basic writing instruction we are doing, which has apparently been neglected in freshman composition and in the common schools. And I'm not alone. Here's a gripe by John Jay of Chicago Boyz. (Spend some time at the site for more on the same theme.)
This is not true in the Academic Humanities, by and large. One of the greatest crimes against scholarship perpetrated by the Boomers is their popularization of Post-Modernism, which tends to take ideas that range from the sophomoric to the idiotic and wrap them in impenetrable prose. Recently, I ran across an excellent article skewering that tendency:
For those ideas, in the main, are quite simple, and often anything but revolutionary in essence. What is genuinely remarkable about them is not their novelty, or their complexity, nor even the fact that a professor should harbor them; it is the astoundingly grandiose and rococo manner of their statement, the almost unbelievable tediousness and flatulence of the gifted headmaster's prose, his unprecedented talent for saying nothing in an august and heroic manner.
So the humanities types can't write well, but by virtue of their current positions, they are gatekeepers for their university presses and their journals. Thus elephantine and content-free writing accumulates in the library stacks and the curriculum vitae of the select get longer and the prestige and prizes accumulate.

Professor Nokes recognizes the self-referentialness of academic publishing.
Imagine, for example, a conservative literary scholar has managed to navigate the shoals of graduate school, freshly-minted with Ph.D. Now comes the time to publish that dissertation. Now Jane Scholar finds herself trying to find a publisher, and discovers that not many academic publishers are friendly toward conservative scholarship. Eventually, though, Jane Scholar manages to find a publisher, a few tiers down from the top.
On the basis of her book, what kind of job does she find? If her politics are conservative, she probably can hope for little more than to have her book ignored; if it gets reviewed, the reviews will be hostile. She'll find herself scrambling for work in a tough market, near the bottom of the academic heap.
That's apparently irrespective of the quality of the argument the dissertation makes. (I'm skeptical about that dimension: there is no better evidence of the weakness of the market test for humanities research than the prestige that has attached to Theory devoid of theorems or of testable implications. But I digress.)

Professor Nokes's suggestion: create viewpoint diversity in research by creating new publishing houses.
One thing, and one thing only, will change Academe -- money. See your mouth? Put your money in it's current geographical location. Fund some well-paying named chairs. Create some conservative academic publishing houses (Regnery is not enough) and publish some first-tier scholarship. Fund some swank academic conferences in desirable locations. Create grants for research. In other words, put up some cash!
You would think that conservatives would understand the motivating power of money. If scholars could sudden publish openly conservative work, could get their travel funded and their research supported, and found themselves getting tenure and promotion because they were able to publish prolifically, you would have a lot more openly conservative scholars in Academe (and probably some fake conservative scholars as well). Until then, all things being equal, liberal ideas will win out in the academy, because liberal ideas can get people published, tenured, and promoted. Conservatives outside of Academe need either to put up some cash or stop the griping.
Oh, come. Regnery will never be enough with its editorial staff of polemicists who consistently use excessively provocative language when plain English will work. But will additional publishing houses really facilitate a renaissance in conservative scholarship in the humanities? Or will the self-referential gatekeepers view the upstart presses as ideologically correct vanity presses for individuals whose work is insufficiently rigorous (yeah, right) or of insufficiently general interest (ditto) to merit consideration by the prestige presses? There's also the little problem that the prestige presses are resource sinks at the universities where they live, which is stimulating some interest in puncturing the research myth that these presses perpetuate.
IF YOU WANT TO BE A BADGER just come along with me to Carnival of the Badger by the bytes of Sequence, Inc. The management will link to Wisconsin-relevant submissions by expatriates.

30.8.06

CARNIVAL CALL. Carnival of the Capitalists presents an extensive bannerline at Business and Technology Reinvention. If you're following the Wal-Mart wars, this Scatterbox post might be a useful companion to my entry at the Carnival.

The concluding paragraph suggests there might be two systems of belief about the role of business.

But for all the rhetoric bombs and finger-pointing, Wal-Mart still handles some 140 million customers every week representing more than 80 percent of the American population. It’s reasonable to think that many Americans are oblivious to the whole commotion. And it's almost certain that many more are just plain ambivalent about it.

Why? Because in the real workaday world, these millions of people are consumers, not constituents. And consumers go Wal-Mart to get good prices on things they need – not to support a particular political party or public policy agenda.

First belief system: Civilization progresses by expanding the number of tasks people can do without thinking about them. I think that's Mises, feel free to correct me. Under this belief system, Wal-Mart evolved to make a wider variety of cheap stuff available.

Second belief system: The personal is political. Human interaction is inherently a negotiation over the allocation of resources and power. Although Wal-Mart well might have evolved precisely to make a wider variety of cheap stuff available, left unstated are the reasons why "variety" and "cheap" matter, and that's prior to any discussion about how Wal-Mart goes about achieving those things.

Does it follow that people can shop at Wal-Mart without contemplating politics or policy? Yes. Can Wal-Mart exist independent of politics or policy? No.
PLAYER WITH RAILROADS. The August Roundhouse Roundup is on the Call Board at The Thomas Institute. If you've ever thought it might be fun to have a piece of railroad equipment as a guest room or cottage, be sure to read this, particularly if your fantasy includes having it on a stretch of track.

27.8.06

WHAT'S OUR PURPOSE? The Washington Monthly has issued its own college rankings, which they offer as the anti-U.S. News.
Of the top 10 national universities in the 2006 rankings of U.S. News, only two, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, make it onto our top 10. Harvard, first with Princeton on the U.S. News list, occupies only 28th place on our list, mainly because it's weak on national service. MIT takes first place, while four state schools take spots two through five: the University of California, Berkeley; Pennsylvania State, University Park; University of California, Los Angeles; and Texas A&M University.
Their ranking algorithm, which they are a bit coy about, values a number of attributes that U.S. News does not.
Emory, 20th on the list of U.S. News, comes in at 96th on our list. It ranks lowest on our list of any of the U.S. News top 25, and it's a full 42 spots behind runner-up Carnegie Mellon. Its social mobility score puts it at 104th place. (Its number of Pell recipients is low, its SAT scores are relatively high, yet its graduation is relatively low.) By spending its money on recruiting applicants with high SAT scores (a way of boosting one's U.S. News ranking) Emory has apparently decided reaching out to poorer students is a low priority. Nor does it do especially well in public service or research. That's not great for a school with an endowment of $4.5 billion, the eighth-highest in the nation. Boo, Emory.
The rankings view the California publics and the Big 10 favorably.

But what do the national university rankings tell us about the Illinois publics and the Mid-American? Illinois-Chicago comes in at 92nd, just above Emory (on an aggregate score basis; how different are the individual index entries?) Kent State leads the Mid-American at 56th, just ahead of Iowa. Same question. Illinois State is at 141, Southern Illinois 160, Northern Illinois 180. How different are the aggregate scores and the individual index entries? No doubt we will hear from our office of institutional research.

It's also tough to act on an urban mission. Wayne State is 204 and Wisconsin-Milwaukee 243. Does it console anybody that onetime public elite college aspirant Oakland is 244th and Alaska-Fairbanks is Feedlebaum? What do those rankings say either about the Monthly's weighting of outreach to poorer students or Milwaukee's efforts to become more of a research university in the Madison mold?
TOO CLEVER BY HALF? I'm a little late reacting to the latest Beloit College mindset list, which Inside Higher Ed posted last Wednesday as "What Your Freshmen Don't Know." Let me offer a few quibbles. Take
Madden has always been a game, not a Super Bowl-winning coach.
Please. Madden has been the guy with the Thanksgiving turducken. Or
Television stations have never concluded the broadcast day with the national anthem.
That's evidence the Beloit College folks aren't staying up all night thinking about these. To be sure, a lot of cable stations never sign off, but there is at least one State Line area station that still plays the National Anthem before going to a tower-cam, rather than a test pattern. Yeah, I can hear it, what's a test pattern? (I had to do a bit of Google mining, so should you!)
FIVE YEARS AGO. Sentimental Journey, which flew out of DeKalb last Tuesday morning for Madison (I heard but did not observe its departure) last paid a visit to Madison in 2001.
The plane will be available for the public to view through Monday (Sepetmber 10) at Madison's Truax Field.
If the plane was making short hops only by day, did it get caught in the ground stop on the 11th?

26.8.06

PROJECTS. On a recent visit to the Illinois Railway Museum, I had reason to think about the upcoming model-building season. (Classes are back in session, it's getting dark before 8 pm, and we're supposed to be free of the heat and humidity eventually.)

In the back of a bus barn is a Pullman-built trackless trolley, Milwaukee & Suburban's 350, in somewhat rough shape.


A Wisconsin transit enthusiast commissioned a series of models from the St. Petersburg Tram Collection, including the 350 in 7 mm = 1 foot.


There may be a way of engineering a drive system for this, although it was not built with a removable floor. Perhaps a magnet underneath it and a moving magnet underneath a diorama?

Under roof and receiving some attention is the experimental aluminum Chicago streetcar 4001.


Chicagoland Hobby had a series of these built by St. Petersburg in O Scale. The model has a removable floor, and powering it is a possibility. As with the museum, the issue will be budgeting time and money to work on it.


In another barn, Milwaukee Electric parlor car Menominee, which has received a cosmetic restoration.


Walthers made sides for this car, which I used as a steam railroad coach for a while. I have the components to build the parlor car, again, time permitting.


I had a clear view of Milwaukee Electric dump car D13, which has been used in work service at the museum. It came from East Troy, Wisconsin, where it was the spare motive power for the electric freight railroad.


A little fettling, a little gluing? I have the components for the cab interiors. It would be a shame not to put the control and brake stands and a stool in such plain view.


The first Electroliner has been out of revenue service for some time, to receive further mechanical work as well as repairs on the interior. (The museum removed the extra doors Philadelphia Suburban cut into the train, and now has to return the seats to those locations.)


Here's a Locomotive Workshop kit of the Electroliner as built for the North Shore Line.


While I was taking these pictures, it occurred to me that the museum has a number of Layout Design Elements that one could apply to a British-style layout. The movement of cars on the demonstration railroad is end-to-end, making it completely honest to have cars or trains go to the end of a track and reverse direction. Better, most of the operating collection is under roof. One could conceal the fiddle yard in a car barn, and simply shuttle cars back and forth on whatever schedule seems suitable. That most model railroaders have an excess of equipment, some of which is anachronistic to whatever one's principal interests are, makes the creation of a museum-themed layout even more attractive.

25.8.06

NOSTALGIC FOR THE OLD INDUSTRIAL STATE? I recently took delivery of and quickly read through Wal-Mart: The Face of Twenty-First-Century Capitalism and hope to put together a coherent Book Review No. 26. I say "hope to" as I am struggling to integrate several recent columns on Wal-Mart, which has become a political football for the Democratic Party, as well as thirty years of studying industrial organization and the political economy and policy implications therein. And thus my first struggle. Wal-Mart is an unrefereed conference volume, in which several social science professors, several dissertators, and some union organizers had their papers edited by Santa Barbara's Nelson Lichtenstein into the book. It would probably not be difficult to obtain sufficient sympathetic faculty members to serve as anonymous referees, but I don't want to go after this book as a symptom of a left monopoly on campus. Rather, I want to consider both the evolution of populist political economy and the possibility that some people would just as soon pen "critiques of capitalist production" for their own sake rather than to argue a consistent theoretical position. But that might just be my training as an economist coming through.

Consider one theme of the book. At one time, conference participants maintain, there was a middle-class-friendly economy in which large manufacturing firms produced goods in unionized factories. Wal-Mart is the leading edge of a proletarianized economy in which large retailers squeeze those manufacturers while doing everything possible to drive down wages. Tapped's Ezra Klein spells out those behaviors in more detail.

Perhaps I'm showing my age, but at one time the populist political economy saw those large manufacturing firms as building blocks of a monopoly capitalism that practiced conscious parallelism, which reduced efficiency by restricting output and raising prices, and the unions as accomplice residual claimants to the monopoly profits thereby obtained. The retailers of the era were complicit in that monopoly capitalism, with a concentrated food packing industry and often vertically integrated supermarkets profiting by the inflated price of bread, although, again, food and commercial workers' unions participated as residual claimants. Because firms could practice conscious parallelism without calendars to keep track of the phases of the moon or meetings in the back room at Dirty Helen's, antitrust action could do nothing about the resulting inefficiencies, although Wal-Mart could.

But when Wal-Mart goes after those inefficiencies, that's bad. Mr Klein summarizes in a few sentences what several chapters of the book spell out in more detail.
In action and effect, Wal-Mart is an active monopsony -- a seller able to dictate the price to its producers. They've forced Coke to change their secret recipe, Kraft to lay off thousands of employees, and Vlasic to declare bankruptcy. And because Wal-Mart so obsessively pursues the lowest possible prices, they're not only depriving their own workers of generous benefits and compensation, they're making it literally impossible for their producers to do so, as Wal-Mart won't abide by the minor cost differences that on-shore production and respectable benefits demand.
(The book concedes that Kraft and Vlasic committed other errors and declines to blame those companies' troubles solely on Wal-Mart.) An article by Barry Lynn, which appears in Harper's, suggests that the presence of Wal-Mart as a major buyer of groceries restores conditions reminiscent of the Great Depression in food distribution.
Kraft has announced plans to shut thirty-nine plants, to let go 13,500 workers, and to eliminate a quarter of its products. Most reports blame soaring prices of energy and raw materials, but in a truly free market Kraft could have pushed at least some of these higher costs on to the consumer. This, however, is no longer possible. Even as costs rise, Wal-Mart and other discounters continue to demand that Kraft lower its prices further. Kraft has found itself with no other choice than to swallow the costs, and hence to tear itself to pieces.
In a "truly free market," a seller can stick to the equilibrium price secure in the knowledge that another buyer who is willing to pay the equilibrium price is out there. A buyer can hold out for the equilibrium price secure in the knowledge that another seller who is willing to ask the equilibrium price is out there. Perhaps Wal-Mart is behaving like a monopsonist, compelling Kraft to lower its prices or sell nothing at all. But for that to work, there has to be another vendor who is able to sell at the price Wal-Mart asks, and under those circumstances, a true monopsonist is able to inefficiently reduce output of cheese and pickles. (But Wal-Mart's sin is in selling larger volumes at lower prices.) If there is no such vendor, the bargaining is repeated bilateral monopoly, a somewhat more complex proposition. (Looking for a dissertation topic?) There appear to be other vendors. Sometimes those vendors have factories in developing countries, which the authors of Wal-Mart view as more evidence of globalization-as-immiserization. Michael Strong's "Forget the World Bank, Try Wal-Mart" on Tech Central Station works as a companion piece, should you be considering Wal-Mart for your course outline. There's also potential for comparing repeated bilateral monopoly with antitrust action as countervailing power at work. Again, Mr Lynn has the short form, there are longer forms of this theme in the book.
The text of the Sherman Act itself is famously vague, but the Supreme Court's decision in the 1911 Standard Oil case was based flatly on the assumption that the need to ensure robust competition sometimes outweighs the benefits of near-term efficiency. Standard's roll-up of the oil industry cut the cost of kerosene by nearly 70 percent, and yet the justices shattered the firm into thirty-four pieces. For many legislators, this was not nearly enough. Three years later, Congress greatly strengthened the rules against inter-firm price discrimination, in the Clayton Antitrust Act. Then in 1936, Congress did so again, even more resoundingly, by passing the Robinson-Patman Act. Wright Patman, the Texas Democrat who was the main force behind the bill, made sure everyone understood Congress's intent. "The expressed purpose of the Act is to protect the independent merchant," he wrote on the first page of a book he published to explain the law, "and the manufacturer from whom he buys."
For discussion: is it a proper function of government to support our right to pay higher prices to buy locally? Wal-Mart repeats the complaint that local merchants tend to spend a larger portion of their receipts locally. But those merchants cannot exist without suppliers elsewhere. Is a larger share of a smaller volume of business necessarily better?

A second theme of the book is the evolution of public attitudes toward chain retailers. Although the Robinson-Patman act targeted A&P, and conference participants are groping toward some analogous taming of Wal-Mart, the first self-service supermarkets were Piggly Wiggly's in Memphis, and Wal-Mart is a scaling up of Butler Bros. Ben Franklin dime stores. Sam Walton ran one, and a craft store still trades in Sycamore, a Wal-Mart supercenter in Schaumburgmore notwithstanding. Local shopkeepers understandably didn't like distant competitors, particularly those offering more stuff at lower prices. (Superior efficiency is never popular?) Advocates of local control didn't either. Neither did nativists. As I noted, populist political economy has a tortured history.

A third theme of the book is possible regional differences in attitudes toward the New Deal consensus. One author noted Wal-Mart and other new business models growing up as it were in the cracks of the New Deal consensus. (Open markets are environments in which powerful evolutionary forces are at work?) Another found a blend of old-style social norms with modern management methods. (Page 80):
The company could win an employee's bedrock loyalty by accommodating her hours to her children's school day -- a perk few parents would take for granted in any field. In the context of small towns, extended families, and long-term marriages, women compared Wal-Mart's stable, sociable hourly jobs to the lonely monotony of ironing or chicken processing, not to the brutal schedules and constant mobility of Wal-Mart's well-compensated male managers. And while it took a federal court battle to force Walton to pay even minimum wage to his stores' staff in the Ben Franklin days, many employees from Wal-Mart's biggest growth years found the pay competitive if not munificent. Moreover, the constant stock splits rewarded the same stability that they valued themselves. Raised on farms that were rapidly losing their viability, many women of Wal-Mart saw the company's terms as a reasonable bargain that allowed them to stay close to home and accorded with their own essential conceptions of their responsibilities.
Those managers? Generally recruited from nearby state universities, most likely not the flagships. No Harvard MBAs or Kellogg quants here.

The book is a conference volume out of a humanities symposium. So What Is to be Done? Here, the book falls flat. The concluding chapters are by union organizers. Guess what? The participants appear to have left tendencies. Wal-Mart is a very centralized corporation (cash registers will be turned off if Benton discovers a cashier has not taken a break required by hours of service laws) with a lot of planning and budgeting. Curiously, nobody recognized the potential for applying one of the old syndicalist arguments and simply taking control of the means of distribution (which have sufficient cost controls over the means of production) on behalf of the workers and shoppers. The essays that focus on conditions of work in the States suggest Wal-Mart is instrumental in fostering income polarization, while those that focus on the company's overseas efforts suggest Wal-Mart's focus on the lower-middle-class will not work well in developing countries where there is real polarization. Several essays note the company's high labor turnover rates, but none of them recognize those as symptoms of weakness both in the company's business model and in the conference's prior belief that the company is a monopsonist capable of immiserizing its workers and its suppliers.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, 40 MILES TO HARVARD. Unless you're riding Metra, in which case you must go to Elburn, ride a train to Chicago, and ride another train to Harvard. The Chicago Tribune sent its "Ends of the Line" team to Harvard for today's report, which ran sans pictures. The dairies have pretty much gone away, and a Motorola plant the town pinned its economic development hopes on has opened and closed, but Harmilda the Plastic Holstein still taunts arriving Wisconsinites with her "milk center of the world" motto.
COMPETING IN THE PROFESSION? Richard Vedder, an emeritus professor of Economics at Ohio University, reports that his colleagues voted to go from a 2+2+2 course per quarter teaching schedule to a 2+2+1 schedule, ostensibly to obtain more research visibility. He's skeptical.
My prediction is the departmental output of articles may rise from 15 to 16 or 17 a year - roughly 10 percent. Is it worth $100,000, bigger classes, and more closing out of students in classes to publish perhaps two more papers per year, each one of which will probably be read by a best a few dozen readers? Is anyone doing a cost-benefit analysis of the advantages of this move? The answer, of course, is no. Universities simply do what they want, namely the things they like (writing papers which help get faculty promoted and tenured), rather than the things the public that is paying the bills thinks is most important, teaching students. No one is accountable, the decisions are hidden from the public, and the returns on many of those decisions are very low in relation to the costs.
His analysis, like that in his book, is incomplete. Is it the number of articles, or the quality of the articles? Will the Economics faculty use the reassigned time to polish their work so as to make it more attractive to Journal of Political Economy or Economic Inquiry or Economics Letters, or will they simply be ensuring that Rivista Internazionale Numere Due di Bovini will be able to meet its production schedules? If the latter, perhaps the decision will inefficiently allocate resources. But what's special about the former journals? Publish in the former journals and your department moves up in the disciplinary league tables. Why does that matter? Because the league tables color the impression observers have of the prestige of a university. So what? People engage in positional arms races to get into universities with a lot of prestige.

Ultimately, then, the responsibility is on the public to quit spending money on getting their kids into "prestige" universities with brilliant research faculties that spend no time with undergraduates, particularly not with freshmen, and on the public to quit recruiting their entry-level employees from those universities. But until there are changes in those behaviors, it is not an error on the part of the Ohio faculty of Economics to offer working conditions more like those prevailing at the "prestige" campuses. Ohio might secure a recruiting advantage thereby, and some Ohio faculty might publish work that attracts the attention of a department higher up the academic food chain.

It might well be the case that a student will do just as well out of Ohio as out of Harvard, and the research mania is nothing more than expense-preference behavior on the part of university employees. Professor Vedder, however, does not suggest how his colleagues might act to exploit that reality rather than becoming more like Harvard.

He will be appearing on a Fox News special report on college costs, currently scheduled to air Sunday at 7 pm (Central; 8 pm on the east coast, that's some clout preempting Col. North.) We'll see how precise his reasoning is.
FINDING THOSE MISSING MEN. In City Journal, veteran teacher Gerry Garibaldi explains How the Schools Shortchange Boys. Money quote:
A female teacher, especially if she has no male children of her own, I’ve noticed, will tend to view boys’ penchant for challenging classroom assignments as disruptive, disrespectful—rude. In my experience, notes home and parent-teacher conferences almost always concern a boy’s behavior in class, usually centering on this kind of conflict. In today’s feminized classroom, with its “cooperative learning” and “inclusiveness,” a student’s demand for assurance of a worthwhile outcome for his effort isn’t met with a reasonable explanation but is considered inimical to the educational process. Yet it’s this very trait, innate to boys and men, that helps explain male success in the hard sciences, math, and business.
And he suggests that the kind of internalization of stereotype as character traits, which discrimination researchers have documented in the case of ethnic minorities, is permissible when it comes to boys.
The notion of male ethical inferiority first arises in grammar school, where women make up the overwhelming majority of teachers. It’s here that the alphabet soup of supposed male dysfunctions begins. And make no mistake: while girls occasionally exhibit symptoms of male-related disorders in this world, females diagnosed with learning disabilities simply don’t exist.
Bundle that with the Harrison Bergeron world in which the Grand Handicapper provides accommodations for recognized afflictions, and what comes next ought not surprise.
For a generation now, many well-meaning parents, worn down by their boy’s failure to flourish in school, his poor self-esteem and unhappiness, his discipline problems, decide to accept administration recommendations to have him tested for disabilities. The pitch sounds reasonable: admission into special ed qualifies him for tutoring, modified lessons, extra time on tests (including the SAT), and other supposed benefits. It’s all a hustle, Mom and Dad privately advise their boy. Don’t worry about it. We know there’s nothing wrong with you.
The message, however, isn't lost on the boys. They intuit that they're not wanted.
For several decades, white Anglo-Saxon males—Brandon’s ancestors—have faced withering assault from feminism- and multiculturalism-inspired education specialists. Armed with a spiteful moral rectitude, their goal is to sever his historical reach, to defame, cover over, dilute . . . and then reconstruct.

In today’s politically correct textbooks, Nikki Giovanni and Toni Morrison stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and Charles Dickens, even though both women are second-raters at best. But even in their superficial aspects, the textbooks advertise publishers’ intent to pander to the prevailing PC attitudes. The books feature page after page of healthy, exuberant young girls in winning portraits. Boys (white boys in particular) will more often than not be shunted to the background in photos or be absent entirely or appear sitting in wheelchairs.

The underlying message isn’t lost on Brandon. His keen young mind reads between the lines and perceives the folly of all that he’s told to accept. Because he lacks an adult perspective, however, what he cannot grasp is the ruthlessness of the war that the education reformers have waged. Often when he provokes, it’s simple boyish tit for tat.
I wonder, though, whether Mr Garibaldi's conclusion is correct.
Boys who get a compartment on the special-ed train take the ride to its end without looking out the window. They wait for the moment when they can step out and scorn the rattletrap that took them nowhere. At the end of the line, some, like Brandon, may have forged the resiliency of survival. But that’s not what school is for.
It's not? Do a quick search on "helicopter parents" and ask whether the youngsters are sufficiently reliant, or not?
COLLEGE, THE NEW HIGH SCHOOL. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley wants to make that a policy.

Mayor Daley suggested Thursday that high school be extended for a fifth year to defray college education costs now squeezing working poor and middle-class families.

Unless something is done to loosen the college tuition collar, Daley warned that the “birth rate will go down in the United States and our knowledge-based economy will not grow.”

Okaaaay ...

“America had better come to grips with this….If we’re a land of opportunity and we want to be a knowledge-based society and we want to compete against India and China, we had better educate our children. These young kids should not be worried about financial assistance — all worried in the [senior] year. Every principal will tell you that. They’re in their offices trying to figure out,
‘Can I get $500? Can I get $1,000, $1,500?’ We have to set our priorities and our priorities should be giving everyone an opportunity to go to college….I hope in 2008 there is a huge national debate on that issue alone.”

Daley had no shortage of ideas when asked what he believes should be done to bring down the rising cost of a college education.

“Well, I think we better reevaluate what college could be all about, maybe — whether it’s four years or should it be three years? Whether, basically, we should look at high schools and extend high school for a fifth year and basically have that fifth year through the state — that one year to really help them through the state system. There’s a lot of ways you can look at it,” he said.

“Now, we have students in senior year who are qualified who are taking college courses and get credit for that. That’s what you’re looking at. There’s a lot of different avenues to look at…There’s experts out there. We have all the experts you want in higher education. They should evaluate that and look at it…We have studied elementary and high school. You’re going to hear from principals saying, ‘Why don’t we study higher ed? Why can’t they do a better job?’ ”

Why not make senior year optional for advanced placement students, who are probably happy to get away from the time-serving status-anxiety hell that high school often is? For that matter, why not make the Chicago high schools more effective? With six in a hundred Chicago high school freshmen finishing college, Hizzoner Boss Da Younger is asserting it's higher education that ought to be doing a better job? Mightn't it be the case that the high price of college is driven in part by a positional arms race among parents desperate to get something resembling a proper college education, or at least the possibility of interacting with other motivated youngsters, rather than to have their childrens' future diminished because of all the remediation those Chicago graduates are imposing on Illinois public colleges? If the issue is matching the calculus preparation of Indian and Chinese students, more of whatever passes for public secondary education is not likely to be the resolution.

24.8.06

THE THINGS YOU LEARN.

Goat breeders do not dock their animals' ears. These seem to be getting along well enough despite their very different ears.


In a nearby pen, at the Kane County Fair, another goat with even larger ears. I was sufficiently intrigued by the difference in goat anatomies that I asked about the phenomenon. There is a simple enough explanation, which will occur to readers with a bit of introspection.


In the Corn Belt, there are still opportunities for people to show horses. These are Percherons with carts (I'm sure there's a special term for these carts but it escaped me.) The center team driven by the two young ladies won this judging.


After the show, they tidied up the horses for the ride home.


There was also a judging for Percherons pulling these beer wagons, which, however, were not laden with kegs of Schlitz or Kingsbury for a real test of strength.


There was a petting zoo at the Ogle County Fair, which, in addition to the usual lambs and bunnies, offered this simulation of milking a Holstein. (A rubber glove is a mutant facsimile of an udder. Why?)


What always impresses me about the local county fairs are the 4-H projects. At Ogle, the names "Huskie" and "Badger" are popular for the chapters.


The theming for the Lincoln Highway chapter in Kane County is imaginative.


Many 4-H participants raise prize animals. The sign indicates this pen would be auctioned off on the last day of the fair. As it's a pen of barrows, the price they sold at was probably already determined in the futures market, which makes contracts on barrows and gilts.


I work very hard at keeping the bunnies out of my Victor E. Garden, but some people work very hard at raising bunnies, in this cage "Flake" and "Henry" who are prize-winning blue-eyed Polish rabbits.


Some of the science projects are pretty good. Here's a door circuit built by a ten year old.


At Ogle County, one contestant scratchbuilt a pogo stick, complete with a notebook of engineering calculations.


Another contestant at Ogle County might be a comer in a future Punkin' Chunkin' competition.


I also discovered something called the 4-H Cooperative Curriculum, which includes projects on money management and personal finance. This display won a prize for Kane County.


At Ogle County, there were several displays, some of which used the "Checking It Out" activity and some of which used other materials. I discovered that these projects were popular with chapter treasurers.


This bratwurst stand at Kane County was a tasteful distance from the swine barn. Again, it's serving my favorite bratwursts, and the proprietors understood that a bratwurst is eaten with sauerkraut and horseradish mustard. We will know that the State Line has become an integrated economic region when proper mustard becomes a standard option at sausage shops south of the Cheddar Curtain, most of which labor under the misapprehension that that bland yellow stuff is mustard.


And at Ogle County, a corn stand with a name that hasn't been completely lost to history.


The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, for the uninitiated. (When I'm feeling wicked, I contemplate teasing my Great Western Railway friends with a sketch of a four-cylinder, six-foot drivered, double chimneyed mixed-traffic steamer called King County Grange Hall, which could refer to a real P of H chapter.)
FOURTH TURNING ALERT. At Chicago Boyz, John Jay suggests there are going to be plenty of opportunities for bashing first-wave Baby Boomers. First a disclaimer followed by an anecdote.
Perceptions of the prime Boomer generation by late Boomers and Gen Xers tend to be highly selective. I’ll give you an example. I was in the Mall the other week. I was dressed in my normal business casual – slacks and a short sleeve button down shirt. I happened to glance over at a guy about 70 or 75 years old. He was dressed almost the same as I, save for a baseball cap that proclaimed that he was a veteran of Chosin. Holy cow. I gave him a smile and a nod. Walking up the stairs between us was a guy about 55 or 60. Receding gray hair worn long and in a pony tail wearing shorts, a tie-died Grateful Dead t-shirt with the colorful dancing bears (one of whom was toking on a bong), and socks with sandals (for which he should be whipped with lederhosen daily). The image of two adults two generations apart looking at an overgrown child with gray hair between us has stuck in my mind for over a week. I’m sure that I saw numerous other Boomers that day, but it’s the bozo that sticks in my mind. Selective perception.
After some reflection and qualification, a prediction.

Quantum Shift Coaching and the Hidden Messages in Water are just the sort of New-Agey crapfests that I associate with the Boomers. But let’s be fair. There’s a significant segment of my generation that would go for this crap, too. The junior positions in consulting firms are staffed by Gen X and Gen Y parasites. It’s just that in absolute numbers, the Boomers so dominate idiotic vocations such as life coaching that I tend to associate the evils of such activities with that generation. Selective perception of the segment. Confirmation bias.

If there hadn’t been so dang many of them relative to other generational cohorts, a lot of this youthful idiocy would have slipped into historical obscurity. And if they had not been born into a period of relative affluence, a lot of them would have shed their youthful misperceptions and become fully-fledged adults. But the economy (at first) did not demand all that much from them, and there were an awful lot of them. The Boomers are like the great Dane in the room who knocks vases off of the shelf when he wags his tail. A generational cohort bigger than either the preceding or succeeding one warps the social space-time continuum around itself.

With potentially dire consequences (particularly when the Social Security contingent liabilities turn into real claims on resources?)
As I said above, while the Boomer generation is somewhat skewed left and New Agey, I’m not sure that its character is hugely different from other generations, past or present. I’m pretty sure it’s shifted a bit left of my generation, but the Boomer demographic segment is so large that its flaws tend to be written in fire on the wall rather than in the fine print of history books. And when that demographic finally comes to the end of its productive years and beginning to draw a significant degree of wealth from younger folks, the perceptions are going to get more and more selective.
More potential for social upheaval.
SUGGESTIONS FOR AMTRAK. Passenger Rail offers some suggestions to Amtrak upon meeting passengers off the Southwest Chief (see trip reports Los Angeles - Albuquerque, Albuquerque - La Junta, Kansas City-Chicago)
The trains were reasonably on time. We say reasonably because both delays were none of Amtrak's fault. Train 3 was delayed by a freight train engine failure, and Train 4 by wet roadbed resulting from the record rains in New Mexico.
Are recovery margins of the order of an hour Amtrak's fault, or good planning?

The personnel we met were courteous and helpful, and my family reported that service enroute was exemplary. Even food service was praiseworthy, and that's saying a mouthful.

Station personnel were equally to be praised. The station agent was happy to describe his understanding of delays, and the baggage clerks were pleasant and communicative. No secrets were being kept, or at least one didn't get that impression. Amtrak take note! These are the loyal personnel of the Albuquerque station.

Those observations square with mine.

Amtrak needs to break out only a small fraction of what they will spend for locomotive and car maintenance, for track maintenance, and for new equipment over the next few years and spend that money on dunderhead cities like Albuquerque. The station is a disgrace, and the dunderheads that run Albuquerque have seen fit to highlight the disgrace by sandwiching it between the brand new city transit station and the brand new city bus station. Both are less than magnificent unless stood up against Amtrak's hovel. Then they become palatial.

Yes, we know it was about forcing Amtrak's hand, but Amtrak and Albuquerque both dug in for a battle and both lost. Now the arriving passenger gets a bad impression, not of Amtrak, but of the City of Albuquerque, because by the time the passenger gets there, he/she already knows Amtrak is trying.

So get out of your foxhole, Amtrak, and put up a few bucks and build a decent station waiting room, ticket booth and baggage handling area. One that doesn't look like the roaches are going to eat the luggage as soon as the lights are turned off. The dunderheads that run Albuquerque will never do it.

As bus stations go, Albuquerque's isn't bad. But perhaps Albuquerque's city government could do with an infusion of Sewer Socialists. Wisconsin money has paid for new stations at Mitchell Field and Sturtevant for Racine, and the renovation of Milwaukee's quickly-dated-Space Age downtown station is now underway. The money to restore the Hiawatha line to 110 mph standards (albeit without the semaphores or the Super Atlantics) is being negotiated among the Great Lakes states and the national government.

What else? Amtrak should refuse to pay New Mexico to use the tracks until they are upgraded to a standard that doesn't look like a branch line from the 1930s. Now that New Mexico owns the right of way used by the Chief from Raton to Isleta, Amtrak should have the right to demand decent track or withhold enough payment to do it yourself. (The washout wasn't anybody's fault.)

Amtrak, playing second fiddle to state legislators for funding of many of its routes, needs to get some nads and be ready to put some feet to the fire when a state doesn't deliver. We have suggested before that using the right-of-way for free should be New Mexico's contribution to Amtrak's subsidies.

There are some divided responsibilities here. If Four is delayed by the washouts, that's Santa Fe's, now BNSF's, responsibility most of the way west. The state also has to decide whether to rebuild the Raton Pass line to the cab-signalled 100 mph speedway it once was, or not. I'm not sure New Mexico and Front Range traffic densities are ready for that yet.
EIN PROSIT. Division of Labour's Craig Depken is a bit skeptical of the latest "Places Rated," this a Forbes survey of drunkenness. The top five cities: Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Columbus, OH, Boston, Austin, TX. Four capital cities that are also home to major universities, and a city whose Brewers play in Miller Park. To be sure, this is a censored sample.

To determine the rankings, we started with a list of the largest metropolitan areas in the continental U.S. Thirty-five candidate cities were chosen based on availability of data and geographic diversity.

Each city was ranked in five areas: state laws, number of drinkers, number of heavy drinkers, number of binge drinkers and alcoholism. Each area was assigned a ranking in each category, based on quantitative data, and all five categories were then totaled to produce a final score, which was sorted to produce our rankings. ( Click here for the complete methodology.)

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel coverage notes that residents have reason to be skeptical of such surveys.

Residents may be quick to dismiss such rankings based on other awards the city's seen - from fifth Fittest City in America by Men's Fitness magazine in January to 17th Best City for Singles by Forbes last month.

But Milwaukee does have other undeniable drinking statistics. In the city of Milwaukee, there are more than 1,000 outlets for beer, wine and liquor, according to the city's License Division. These include about 978 locations with Class B tavern licenses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Milwaukee in 2002 had 261 taverns and 67 liquor stores. Those 328 businesses generated more than $148 million in sales, or about $250 for every man, woman and child who lived in the city that year. And that doesn't include alcohol that was sold at grocery stores, gas stations or restaurants.

The proliferation of taverns is for real. Do your own research. Go to Thirteenth and Becher, behind the old Mitchell Street Sears. Go west on Becher. Count the taverns on the street corners between Thirteenth and Sixtieth. (Many of them are five-stoolers with a collection of softball and bowling trophies behind the bar. Use your own judgement about stopping to sample.) Go north on Sixtieth, which becomes Hawley Road, to Greenfield Avenue. Keep counting. (Some of your count will be in West Allis and West Milwaukee. Small detail.) Go east on Greenfield to First. Now that you've finished your count, find a Walker's Point watering hole to your liking and toast your efforts. Na zdorovje!
MY VERY EARNEST MOTHER JUST SENT US NEWS. No plutocracy can preserve Pluto's planetary pretensions.
Pluto, a planet since 1930, got the boot because it didn't meet the new rules, which say a planet not only must orbit the sun and be large enough to assume a nearly round shape, but must "clear the neighborhood around its orbit." That disqualifies Pluto, whose oblong orbit overlaps Neptune's, downsizing the solar system to eight planets from the traditional nine.
Under the new definition, Neptune is now obligated to invoke the Law of Gross Tonnage and clear the dwarf planet known as Pluto out of its orbit when that overlap produces a near collision. (I think there's a fixed point argument that assures the existence of such an event, and I bet some astronomer has already calculated its timing.)
Astronomers have labored without a universal definition of a planet since well before the time of Copernicus, who proved that the Earth revolves around the sun, and the experts gathered in Prague burst into applause when the guidelines were passed.
Which gives Poliblogger a moment of Schadenfreude.
And the hard science types make fun of us social scientist because we argue about definitions….
But, as with any other debate, there is No Final Say.

Pluto and objects like it will be known as "dwarf planets," which raised some thorny questions about semantics: If a raincoat is still a coat, and a cell phone is still a phone, why isn't a dwarf planet still a planet?

NASA said Pluto's downgrade would not affect its $700 million New Horizons spacecraft mission, which this year began a 9 1/2-year journey to the oddball object to unearth more of its secrets.

But mission head Alan Stern said he was "embarrassed" by Pluto's undoing and predicted that Thursday's vote would not end the debate. Although 2,500 astronomers from 75 nations attended the conference, only about 300 showed up to vote.

"It's a sloppy definition. It's bad science," he said. "It ain't over."

I'm waiting for the radical semioticians to put their two cents in. If the concept of "planet" is a social construction reflecting the interests of a power structure, of what meaning the concept "universe," let alone the perception of "universe?"
DOODLEBUGS RETURN TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. Years ago, the Santa Fe Railroad envisioned Budd Rail Diesel Cars on frequent headways providing the Los Angeles - San Diego service. Two cars were purchased for proof of concept, but after a fatal derailment at Redondo Junction, they were rebuilt and exiled to routes in west Texas once protected by gas-electric cars.

German-built twenty-first century rail diesel cars (today referred to in the British fashion as Diesel Multiple Units, and timetabled under the British-sounding name "Sprinter") are now being delivered to the commuter railroad's shops.


San Diego Union-Tribune photograph by Charlie Neuman.

I like the colors, which remind me of my Laser, Warp Thirteen.

(Via Dan Zukowski)
JUST OBEY GOOD LAWS? Wednesday's Chicago Tribune had a front-page story on a flagrant act of civil disobedience suggesting Chicago's foie gras ban might not be enforceable.

Chicago's immediate reaction to a city ordinance banning foie gras--the French dish made from the livers of force-fed ducks and geese--was to embrace the gray goo like never before, in flights of culinary imagination.

Rhetoric and pate abounded on the first day of the City Council's ban, as restaurateurs and gourmands openly flouted the prohibition--cultured, giddy, goose-liver-fueled acts of defiance.

Worse yet for the prohibitionists, they had a good time while flouting the law.

At BJ's Market & Bakery, a soul food restaurant on Stony Island Avenue, a sign placed next to the cash register declared foie gras the special of the day, and those who had it proclaimed it delicious.

"I've had regular liver and it doesn't taste like that. I hate to say it, but it tastes like chicken," said manager Steven Jones, 22. "I tried it and I thought it was pretty good."

At Connie's Pizza on Archer Avenue, employees wedged a foie gras pizza on a table display between a pork cutlet sandwich special and a bucket of Miller Lite bottles.

His table shaking with laughter, 54-year-old Jerry Stout of Naperville pronounced that "it tastes like expensive liverwurst. But I better not say that, they might try to ban that too."

Ban Braunschweiger with a bunch of expatriate Prussians a Hiawatha ride away? (Well, maybe the damage has already been done. "Noodled geese" are a German tradition too.)

That got me thinking about yesterday's mini-dissertation on viewpoint diversity (sorry, Professor Munger, not enough time to write a short post this evening either) and I had a bit of time to download and skim Thoreau's "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" over lunch (no pate shops near campus, sorry) which one of the Inside Higher Ed essayists endorsed, highlighting "Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them? Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?" as a passage for further discussion. Sure, that passage appeals to the mind-set that would "interrogate the power structure" to discover its desire to suppress any threats to its continuance, and sure, "Civil Disobedience" is an abolitionist tract. But it's an odd sort of abolitionist tract that also argues,
Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an expedient, by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it.
Warm-up question: has the Chicago foie gras ban put off longer the day when the last goose is noodled, if in fact the practice of noodling geese is a barbarous relic? Harder question: is Mr Thoreau arguing that government policies that stop compelling people not to trade with each other (segregated schools and lunch counters) by instituting specific compulsions (intact busing and quotas) put off longer the day when people can interact with other people?

I read Thoreau further. "Must the citizen, ever for a moment, in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator?" No collectivist tract this.

Possible exam question: Can the proprietors of Chicago restaurants find an intellectual argument for their pate parties in "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience?"

Others have been thinking about different dimensions of the protest. Marquette Warrior notes a potential separation-of-powers case in which the Chicago City Council has exceeded its authority. (Be careful what you ask for, such a litigation might lead to a nationwide prohibition of pate, and your Braunschweiger and my double bratwursts will be next.)

Hit and Run's Katherine Mangu-Ward also celebrates the civil disobedience. But again, one has to be careful.
A few enterprising chefs have already figured out ways to work around the sloppily-worded ban, while they wait for the outcome of their pending lawsuit against the city. Chef Michael Tsonton of Copperblue explains:
I'm usually serving the foie gras with some potatoes, salad and brioche. If we cannot sell the foie gras, I will be giving it away complimentary, and I will be charging $15.99 for the potatoes and salad and brioche.
Careful where you go with those blue-plate specials. In my regulated industries course outline is a case called Nebbia v. New York, 291 U.S. 502 (1933) in which a grocer's bundling of a bottle of milk with a loaf of bread was successfully prosecuted as a subterfuge to evade a minimum price regulation enacted to support dairy farm incomes. The court held, "The use of private property and the making of private contracts are, as a general rule, free from governmental interference; but they are subject to public regulation when the public need requires. P. 523." The rest is left to the reader as an exercise.
LOSING CONFIDENCE IN CONVENTION. I have come across a number of posts by some of the cooler heads around the internet that suggest great discontent with established ways of doing things, as well as the potential for great social upheaval, of a form not yet clear. It would be depressing to address all of them in turn, but I'll not lack for material rolling into the new semester.

Start with an Arnold Kling column at Tech Central Station.

The main prediction from this essay is that we will see an outbreak of popular frustration in the next few years. I think that many people are tired of political spin machines, diplomatic "solutions," and fancy intellectual models of the world that fail in practice. They long for a leader who talks straight and who can make the plays work on the field the way they were designed to work on the chalkboard.

The failures of elitist thinking will create an adverse environment for haughty, cerebral politicians such as Tony Blair or Benjamin Netanyahu. Instead, I expect more populist figures to emerge, which gives me considerable misgivings. I think that populist economics is mostly bad. If voters turn to populists on the issue of national security, my guess is that the economy will suffer for it.

But I think that the popular instinct is that the elites so far have not gotten it right on security and Islamic militancy. And in that regard, the popular instinct is right.

The tiredness is out there. Additional examples over the next few days.

23.8.06

BUYING BOWL ELIGIBILITY. Phil Miller at The Sports Economist discovers that the hottest college football program at schedule completion time is ... Buffalo.

Buffalo became such a hot commodity in the off-season that it broke contracts with West Virginia and Rutgers because Auburn and Wisconsin were offering at least double the money. Troy State of Alabama will receive $750,000 from Nebraska to play in Lincoln this season. Louisiana-Lafayette will get the same amount from Tennessee next year.

With the weakest teams in Division I-A becoming more expensive, top programs are stooping lower for competition. Iowa, a Big Ten favorite this year, wooed Montana, a Division I-AA program, for $650,000.

“It’s all about the money — any administrator will tell you that,” said Rich Rodriguez, the head coach at West Virginia. Buffalo dropped West Virginia from its schedule, without even a courtesy phone call, to earn an extra $300,000 to play at Wisconsin. Mr. Rodriguez added: “It’s not for the excitement of college football. Let’s not kid ourselves.”

The joys of life in the Mid-American. Poor Troy University, last seen in these pages giving Northern Illinois an opportunity to come from behind at the Silicon Valley Bowl, is still Troy State as far as the New York Times is concerned. (Sorry, Richard.) Northern Illinois has climbed out of the "bought win" category, going for the two point conversion and a shot at a win in Evanston and getting robbed on their last trip to Madison, thereby extracting a visit from Iowa to Soldier Field, but the opener at Ohio State and the Iowa game, as well as a division winner's schedule in the Mid-American, expose the guys to a risk.

When the N.C.A.A. proposed allowing 12 games, most coaches objected. Some saw the proposal as exploiting players to fill athletic department coffers. When the extra opponent is a bigger, faster and stronger team, not only does the risk of embarrassment rise, but the potential for injury also increases.

N.C.A.A. officials agree that the change was about money. Football home games are typically the primary source of revenue for an entire athletic department. Other than football, the only college sport that makes consistent money is men’s basketball. The other men’s and women’s sports, except in rare cases, cost more to run than they generate.

David Berst, the N.C.A.A.’s vice president for Division I, said the organization’s board authorized the 12th game because universities could increase revenue. He said data showed no significant injury risk in playing one more game. Coaches are resigned to the change.

Catch that "no significant injury risk." Small sample!

That is because the 12th game means another Saturday to fill hotel rooms, pack restaurants and bring in millions of dollars more in ticket and concession sales. Wisconsin and Auburn, for example, have stadiums that hold more than 80,000 fans and can usually sell out any game, regardless of the
opponent.

Adding a weak team like Buffalo can be beneficial for two reasons. First, it practically guarantees a victory. Second, weak teams will visit for a lower price than better teams, meaning a higher profit on each home game. And many of the weaker teams do not insist on a home-and-home series that would require the better team to visit the next year. That means the better team has an open home date for the next season, which it can use to play another weak team.

But Buffalo, which was once a solid State University of New York operation with no athletic aspirations, is unlikely to attract the kind of beer-and-circus student buzz its decision to join the Mid-American and obtain visibility in athletic programs. (Read Murray Sperber's Beer and Circus for the elaboration of this argument.) The newest member of the Mid-American is Temple, where the attendance and revenue pressures will also be growing.

One suspects, however, that the Times reporter has never been to Madison.
Fans at Wisconsin may complain about sitting through home games against Western Illinois, San Diego State and Buffalo. But the coaches love it, even if they oppose the idea of a 12th game. Wisconsin will be favored in all three games and, by winning, would be halfway to qualifying for a bowl game.
Answer me this, New York Times: how many Badger fans are actually watching those games? Western Illinois, incidentally, is not an opponent to be taken lightly. But the bought wins are not prostituting selling themselves cheaply.
[Wisconsin associate athletic director John] Chadima, who has arranged Wisconsin’s schedule for 17 years, said he had seen a sharp increase in the cost for nonconference foes over the past five seasons.

For the weaker teams, a bigger appearance check means a chance to upgrade. Buffalo Coach Turner Gill said the Bulls were able to buy new furniture for their football complex and improve their weight room with the $1.5 million from their three nonconference road games. Buffalo plays in the Mid-American Conference.
But there appear to be some troubles.
Not everyone is so rosy about the frenzy involved in finding a 12th opponent. West Virginia and Rutgers learned via the Internet during the off-season that Buffalo had broken their contracts for 2006. When Buffalo did not return phone calls about whether the deal was off, West Virginia’s president wrote to Buffalo’s president demanding an explanation.

“The manner in which it appears that this situation is being handled has detracted from the considerable respect we have gained over the years for your school and conference,” David C. Hardesty, West Virginia’s president, wrote on Feb. 26.

When Buffalo responded two weeks later, it said that the Mid-American Conference was in charge of its scheduling. Buffalo’s athletic director, Warde Manuel, said he regretted the way the situation was handled and that he, and not the conference, would handle Buffalo’s future scheduling.

“It literally had nothing to do with money,” Mr. Manuel said. “This wasn’t a money grab for me at all.”

Rick Chryst, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference, said he took over Buffalo’s scheduling because of Mr. Manuel’s being new to the job and the poor financial situation for the university’s athletic department.
Question: is Buffalo effectively in receivership with the conference facing being de-rated out of the major bowl circuit? (And $1.5 million for the weight room is well short of the new locker room, weight room, and study hall a-building in DeKalb.)

22.8.06

NO RESEARCH TRIANGLE SPRINTER. Newmark's Door has been no fan of a proposed light rail project in Greater Raleigh. The proposal, which appears to be to operate diesel multiple unit cars on existing tracks, has been cancelled account reality checks in the ridership projections and rising costs for the additional tracks and buildings, reflecting global economic growth. The freight railroads, themselves straining under additional intermodal and coal traffic, and more than a few loose cars bringing building materials to the Triangle, saw the project as an opportunity to obtain additional tracks, an agreement that Metra was willing to make with Union Pacific and CN to expand service to Elburn and Antioch, but those were expansions of existing commuter railroads serving a traditional metropolitan area, which the Triangle is not.

I'm surprised the Door didn't post a thesis on the transit authority's use of the sunk cost fallacy.
"Given the investment we've made in rail to date, I think that should ... still be the priority," said Durham Mayor Bill Bell, a TTA trustee. "The main question is probably how to replace the federal funds."
Sometimes, it is efficient to cut your losses.

Live from the Third Rail offers a somewhat different perspective, although it seems a bit churlish to criticize people for wanting some green space between their house and their neighbours.
Meanwhile, conservatives in this relatively moderate state have been able to take advantage of the long, drawn-out process to exploit the plan's vulnerabilities, notably its escalating costs, need for land acquisition, and inability to serve all of the region's centers, most importantly (to them), the airport. Their shrill and misguided criticism has focused on the fact that the line would cost thousands of dollars for each rider it would serve, and they have emphasized the fact that North Carolina's citizens seem to prefer living in a sprawled-out environment.
Transit advocates would do better to consider adapting their technologies to what people want, rather than coming off like noodgy parents insisting that their children eat their broccoli.
Most politicians, including the two senators, have bought full-heartedly the concept that North Carolinians simply don't like density, ignoring the reality that density is impossible without strong mass transit opportunities. No one remembers that New York City's Upper West Side was back-country before the first subway line was completed in 1904.
And it pays to study history. Sure, there are plenty of pictures of New York elevated lines over prairies now built up, but there are also plenty of pictures of houses in Muskego and Hales Corners and Pewaukee and Mequon and Northbrook and Batavia that went up long after the Milwaukee Electric and the North Shore and the Chicago Aurora & Elgin sold the tracks for scrap. The Triangle is less thickly settled than either Milwaukee or Chicago, and yes, we're looking into ways to put some of the trains back, but the ones we had were marginal to the transportation system.
IT'S NOT AS BAD AS SOME WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE.




There's something wrong in higher education, but the lack of viewpoint diversity is probably not a big part of it.

Retired professor Donald Lazere, in Rethinking the Culture Wars — I, takes up the traditional claim that Academic Freedom and Critical Thinking are TOO IMPORTANT for mere politicians, let alone trustees to interfere. But he then destroys some of his credibility by denouncing his students.

I have spent 30-some years in conservative communities and state universities, teaching lower-division English argumentative writing and literary history courses that are general education requirements for students in business or technological majors, many of whom would not have chosen to take any such courses and resent them as increasingly costly obstacles to the most direct path to a high-paying job. Most such students are conservative, not in any intellectual sense, but in the sense (which they admit) of fearfully conforming to the political and economic status quo, to the attitudes that will be expected of them as compliant employees, and to the necessity of looking out for number one in the “Survivor” sweepstakes of the global economy. Such students are not likely to welcome the cognitive dissonance forced on them by humanities courses demanding Socratic self-questioning of their sociopolitical or religious dogmas, and they are wont to express their resentment, if not in complaints to Horowitz, in the course evaluations that have been debased into consumer-satisfaction surveys in which the top-ranked teachers provide the fewest demands and the highest grades.

Translation: his courses have been strained through the race-class-gender filter and his charges properly resent his patronizing them as oppressed drudges that their betters at Berkeley or the Harvard Business School will put onto the 24/7 treadmill only to downsize them in the next paradigm shift. Is it not possible to help his charges develop their b.s. detectors and at the same time contemplate expanding their horizons? Or is his column an indirect admission that there's excess capacity in California's higher education system, and his former employer, California Polytechnic at San Luis Obispo, exists only to cool out a few marks or to do the work the high schools should have done?

That tone comes through in his essay.

This conception of liberal education as a minimal counter-force to the political and economic status quo, as well as to majority opinion, is fraught with difficulties and possible abuses, to be sure. Can we, or should we, avoid revealing our own moral or political sympathies in class? Should we, for example, teach Plato, Jefferson, Emerson, and Thoreau (or Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King) as inspirations for existential moral choices, or simply as subjects of neutral study, perhaps as representatives of a particular viewpoint or “bias,” always to be balanced against sources on “the other side,” including equal time for defenses of slavery and segregation? Moral judgments are of course less disputable in reference to such past conflicts than to present ones like the war in Iraq or affirmative action; neither conservative nor liberal polemicists have provided a clear road map for how teachers should deal with current moral disputes and public opinion about them.

I suspect we could find people who disagreed with each of those individuals on fundamentals of their world views, without necessarily defending slavery or segregation, and there is certainly room for consideration of the pre-industrial acceptance of slavery or serfdom as a necessary evil to support the inventors and thinkers of the time. (To do that, however, might compel the professor to see the legitimate achievements of capitalist development.) I also recall more than one source of advice for beginning professors suggesting that the most effective way to teach the New Deal (as an example) is to leave students unsure whether the professor thinks of Franklin D. Roosevelt as inspiring leader or as tyrant. (There is ample evidence on both sides of that disagreement.) The professor is part way there.

My impression is that the exhortations of NAS, ACTA, and other conservative educators for core liberal arts curriculum and more requirements in history — with which I happen to agree — fall short of outlining a coherent curriculum and pedagogy for critical citizenship. (On the flip side, many liberal advocates of multiculturalism and diversity have failed to delineate what kind of studies American students of all ethnic, gender, and social-class groups need for minimal common knowledge as citizens.) In such a curriculum and pedagogy, students would not merely be indoctrinated into American chauvinism and simplistic “virtues,” as some on the right advocate, but would be encouraged to think critically about competing ideological or moral viewpoints (in party politics, journalistic and entertainment media, as well as scholarly sources) about American and world history, as well as about the present world.

The pedagogical approach that I personally have developed over the years applies Gerald Graff’s principle of “teaching the conflicts,” in presenting students out front with the current debates on such issues and disclosing my own left-of-liberal viewpoint on them, as exactly that — one perhaps biased viewpoint among other possible ones, to be understood in relation to opposing ones and studied through the best conservative vs. liberal or leftist research sources that students can find, leaving it up to them to evaluate the opposing arguments, and grading them on their skill in researching and analyzing sources. I do not claim that mine is a foolproof approach, but most of my students have found it a fair one throughout the years, and I have heard few alternatives, especially from conservative educators.

I suspect he would have been more effective had he left his own preferences out of it. But if he is true to his words, students who take the time to express a conservative viewpoint will not be marked down for it.

Colby College professor Joseph Reisert offers a companion column, Rethinking the Culture Wars — II, that also rebuts Mallard Fillmore's presumption.

The first reaction I usually get when I tell people I’m a Republican and a college professor is bewilderment, followed by such questions as: “How is that possible?” (usually from someone on the left who assumes that to be smart and well educated is to be liberal) and “Do they allow that these days?” (from someone on the right who assumes that academic conservatives invariably suffer discrimination).

Although some vocal conservatives complain that liberal faculty members use their classrooms to indoctrinate students and to punish dissenting students by giving them poor grades, my own experience suggests that such incidents are quite rare. In my 20-plus years as a conservative student and teacher at three strongly left-leaning institutions (Princeton, Harvard, and Colby), I have never felt discriminated against.

The stereotype of liberal elitist dies hard, doesn't it? It's also likely that a lot of the poor grading of conservative arguments reflects sloppy thinking by the essayists, but there's a deeper problem if solid conservative arguments aren't on the reading list. But his essay reflects a deeper frustration with hyperspecialization breeding insularity among the professoriate.

That danger is the ever-increasing cultural marginalization of academe, which threatens intellectual impoverishment to all of us — professors, students, and ordinary citizens alike. There was a time, not that long ago, when leading figures in higher education served as public intellectuals, addressing the vital issues of their day and receiving a respectful hearing from political leaders and the public at large. These days, if a professor from any field outside the hard sciences is being quoted in the media, odds are good that it’s for the purpose of ridicule.

Academics are fond of lamenting the decline of the public intellectual, but we too often blame the public for having forsaken us without asking whether it is not we who have forsaken the public. The central problem with academe today is that we overwhelmingly speak professionally only to other academics, who share our sense of what questions are important and our wider range of values and commitments. Academe has continued to move ever further to the cultural and political left not through any overt discrimination against conservatives but through a decades-long process of self-selection.

Left-leaning professors tend to address questions that interest them, with the predictable though not intended consequence of inspiring their left-leaning students and leaving their more conservative students indifferent or disenchanted with academe. Is it any surprise that smart young liberals get Ph.D.’s and become liberal professors, while smart young conservatives tend to pursue careers in business or the other professions instead? I have no doubt that academe will never again become central to American cultural life as long as professors continue to represent such a narrow spectrum of political affiliations and religious beliefs. Nevertheless, our problems cannot be solved by party politics or by legislation and lawsuits.

True up to a point. I have always been fascinated by leftism in Physics. One would think that people who grasp conservation of matter and energy might appreciate laws of conservation in human interaction, such as my friend the Say Aggregation Principle. But the Physics department is a good place to find socialists, and I suspect that responsibility for containing nuclear weapons is a small part of it. I have also noted the tendency of academicians, including individuals so well-placed as to not be threatened by the success of others, to dismiss public intellectuals, whatever their persuasion, as "popularizers." That was the case, by the way, long before the conservative criticism of "eggheads" included the introduction of evidence of policy failures.

21.8.06

UNDOING THE SHAMEFUL ACT? The redevelopment of the Farley Post Office into additional passenger facilities for New York's Pennsylvania Station faces yet another complication.

Sheldon Silver, the Assembly Speaker, who controls the State Board together with Gov. George E. Pataki and Joseph L. Bruno, the State Senate Majority leader, said yesterday that there are still too many unresolved questions.

In addition, he said, there is also a new, more comprehensive proposal to modernize and expand Penn Station on both sides of Eighth Avenue, between 31st and 33rd Streets, by moving Madison Square Garden a block west to the back of the post office building that was to be converted into Moynihan Station.

If memory serves, there was once a Pennsylvania Railroad plan to build something called a World Trade Center on that west side site, which is now air rights over the Long Island Rail Road coach yard. But if the Garden goes, look what's envisioned to take its place.
Aside from the political sparring, the nub of the issue today is that the developers subsequently put together what some are calling Plan B: the complete renovation of Penn Station, which sits below Madison Square Garden, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. The current Garden would be demolished to make way for office towers, a soaring glass canopy and a commercial complex. Across Eighth Avenue, the post office would be converted to an adjunct train station.
I suppose it would be too much to ask that the "soaring glass canopy" bring to mind London's Crystal Palace and that the office tower have a lobby reminiscent of a Roman bath. (The Michigan Central station and office tower in Detroit carried the lobby off more effectively than Pennsylvania Station did, but Michigan Central had the misfortune to build that office tower in a market where additional office space has not commanded a premium in years.)

Let us praise Plan B, starting with James Lileks's riposte to the designers who promised "the world's finest railroad station."
No, I hate Penn Station. I’d like to go back in time, drag the architects into the present, and ask them: what, you thought we would all be wearing George Jetson jumpsuits, queuing patiently for the Atomic Express? The reality is a waiting room with insufficient signage, a great hall that isn’t, and a Hudson News thronged with balding guys, ties askew, furtively paging through battered porn mags.
Quite. Now turn to page 28 of The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station, where Garden president Irving Felt predicts, "Fifty years from now, when it's time for our Center to be torn down, there will be a new group of architects who will protest." Doubtful. Bring on Plan B.