31.12.06

A LONGER BOOKWORM THIS YEAR. I was uncertain about being able to make the norm for the 2006 Fifty Book Challenge, but with a little bit of luck and a few mental health train rides, I was able to compile 51 reviews. Herewith the fourth quarter report.
  1. I Hate Corporate America Reader, 2 October 2006.
  2. The Corn Belt Route, 24 October 2006.
  3. Black Hawk: The Battle for the Heart of America, 2 November 2006.
  4. Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States, 7 November 2006.
  5. Homegrown Democrat, 8 November 2006.
  6. The Men Who Loved Trains, 11 November 2006.
  7. The Elephant in the Room, 12 November 2006.
  8. American Evita, 24 November 2006.
  9. $ervants of Wealth: The Right's ASSAULT on Economic JUSTICE, 11 December 2006.
  10. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, 14 December 2006.
  11. Bitter Ocean, 17 December 2006.
  12. The I Hate the 21st Century Reader, 19 December.
  13. The Rising Tide, 21 December 2006.
  14. Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government, 22 December 2006.
  15. America Alone, 27 December 2006.
  16. Pushing the Limits: New Adventures in Engineering, 29 December 2006.
  17. Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945, 30 December 2006.
  18. Enough, 31 December 2006.
Follow any of these links for prior book reviews.
At Cold Spring Shops, the first, second, and third quarter reports.
At European Tribune, the first, second, and third quarter reports.
At the Fifty Book Challenge, the first, second, and third quarter reports.

The bookworm now has 51 segments.

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The Packer victory inspired me to use a lot of green and gold construction paper on the tail of this bookworm. Happy New Year.

Crossposted at European Tribune and Fifty Book Challenge.
WIN ONE FOR NO. 38. The late President Ford was recruited by Curly Lambeau for the Packers. He opted to go to Yale Law School instead.

Brett Favre is being interviewed as I post this, noting "what a great way to go out" against the Bears, but not committing to return or to return. John Madden is speculating that he's decided to leave.

Packers 26, Bears 7 to finish at 8-8. No playoff for the Packers, but perhaps Brett Favre's last act was to demonstrate how to beat the Bears in the upcoming playoffs. And in the proper Wisconsin style, the Packers ran the last 8:30 off the clock.
SEARCH WENT MISSING. Just released to the fourth estate, the 2007 List of Banished Words from the Soo Lakers.
RESPONSIBILITY IS POWER. Thus notes Juan Williams in Enough, an extended commentary on Bill Cosby's famous speech to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education that provides a bonus Book Review No. 51 for 2006. Mr Williams is the author of Three Lives for Mississippi, Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary, and Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 and holds sufficient civil rights credentials to be able to comment on the hijacking of the civil rights movement by "phony leaders, dead-end movements, and culture of failure" without being mau-maued as a sell-out.


Image from the I AM A MAN online exhibit
courtesy of the Reuther Library at Wayne State University.

Mr Williams is not happy with what has happened to the poorer quarters of Black America since the end of segregation, and, while acknowledging the continued existence of white racism and accumulated disadvantages, he has scorn for self-inflicted impediments such as Hip-Hop Nation. Consider pp. 135-136.

The rappers also argue that their rank depictions of black women and glorifications of violence are simply a reflection of the "authentic" black experience. Oh, so why is it that the biggest consumers of rap music are white men? Why are 80 percent of all hip-hop music customers white?

Statistics show that black men, black women, and white women don't buy even half of the rap music purchased by white men, mostly high-school and college-age boys. The attraction of the music is its crass, pornographic approach to sex and its crass, racist indulgence in stereotypes of black people. This is an invitation for immature white males to indulge their basest feelings about women and blacks. Advertisers will do anything to penetrate [c.q.] this lusty, beer-drinking demographic even if black women get crushed along the way. White women are not exactly queens in this fantasy world, either. But they can at least join their boyfriends in the pleasure of rebelling against their parents by losing all restraint, sowing their oats with wild partying to rap. And white women have no vested, personal interest in arguing against images of black people as oversexed, overly violent, and overtly stupid. After all, those are black performers in the videos, not white people in blackface.

It's difficult to disagree with his characterization of rap as the contemporary minstrel show, given that I have sometimes suggested Springer is the contemporary morality play. At the same time, I flagged the reference to "penetrating" a male audience to highlight the book's somewhat distracting lack of editing and tightening. Perhaps it's supposed to be a stream of consciousness polemic. But it might have been more effective as an essay in American Prospect or Harpers or Commentary with each point made once and made tightly. I noted several uses of the same Bill Cosby quote to make several slightly different yet connected points in different chapters. Yes, "Dogs, water hoses that tear the bark off trees, Emmett Till. And you're going to tell me that you're going to drop out of school?" Powerful words, particularly as a reproach to the National Leadership that may have acquiesced in squandering the gains of the late 1950s and early 1960s. But Mr. Williams, you're not on Crossfire. We'll believe you even if you don't shout.

30.12.06

ARCOLA, TUSCOLA, PEPSI-COLA. The expanded Amtrak service to Carbondale, Illinois, is not yet as comprehensive as the mini-corridor service the Illinois Central operated until the coming of Amtrak, but it now permits a day return trip to either end of the line.



Illinois Central services, February 1970.
Click the image for the actual sized schedule.
Note Memphis service. Northbound American runs on a comparable schedule.
Southbound City of Miami is about 30 minutes faster into Carbondale.

The new trains have seen a 61 percent increase in ridership over comparable totals a year ago and the corridor serves a number of the Illinois public universities along the eastern border of the state.

At Christmastime, the Great Hall (why not call it a waiting room?) of the Chicago Union Station is well-decorated.


The mini-corridor service originated at Chicago's Illinois Central Station on the lakefront. Amtrak rerouted all trains into Chicago Union Station, making use of a connecting track called the St. Charles Air Line that involves a reverse move out of the station and some slow running on elevated trackage.

The Metra Electric has been taking delivery of a new fleet of electric gallery cars (the original units are pushing 40) that have the control station upstairs, as is the case with the diesel control trailers on the other lines. A few of the older cars are on the easterly tracks.

In the background is the rebuilt Soldier Field. I sometimes wish the Chicago authorities had said "Build your new stadium in Arlington Heights" or "Go back to Decatur" rather than foist this questionable aesthetic on the lakefront.

The train ultimately makes its way out of suburban territory (including the southbound odyssey out of Kankakee) but it's unable to make the 1970s timings. Illinois Central was the last of the Chicago corridor operators to remove the 100 mph operation on its passenger mains, and the two-track speedway is now a rather busy single-track line with frequent passing sidings.

At Gilman, we had to duck into the TP&W interchange to clear a path for the northbound morning Saluki.

The station building, which is the setting of a famous double-time-exposure centerspread in Trains in the late 1950s, is in use by CNR maintenance staff. The Gilman station, in keeping with Amtrak's practice of building facilities in suburban locations, is a halt hard by the parking lot of a Citgo mini-mart in the truck stop quarter of town.

Further south, there appeared to be work in progress building an additional siding at Rantoul, and the station at Champaign has been made over as the "Illinois Terminal," although I saw no evidence of electric cars awaiting riders for Danville or Springfield.

The mini-corridor trains do not operate in the push-pull fashion of the Illinois Zephyr or Hiawatha lines. The train arriving Carbondale (close to time) turns on a wye north of downtown.

Concrete coaling towers proved to be such a good investment in durability that their removal is uneconomic. As long as there's enough overhead clearance for stack trains, railroads tend to leave them alone.

The campus of Southern Illinois University is easy walking distance from the Carbondale station, which is staffed with ticket and baggage agents.

Somebody got a deal on the plans for Chadbourne Hall.

I'd like to have train service this close to Northern Illinois University (viewed here from a pedestrian bridge linking the Chadbourne triplets to the main campus on the other side of Highway 51.)


I understand that all the turn-of-the-twentieth century state normal schools received a castle for a main building. This one is named Altgeld Hall, much like its counterpart at Northern Illinois.

I like our design better, and it's oriented for full sun on its front facade most of the day.

The Main Line of Mid-America is still a busy freight railroad connecting traditional CNR property Grand Trunk and new CNR property Wisconsin Central to Gulf ports.

There's not much time in town, especially if the incoming equipment is a few minutes late. On the other hand, there's no risk of getting stranded in Carbondale on a day-return trip as the equipment down as the morning Saluki goes up as the evening Illini. There's usually enough time to recess the train on a center servicing track away from excessively eager passengers and clear of the two tracks through town.


The service is still decently fast, capable of overtaking everything on Interstate 57 in open country, and during the holidays the lighted houses add to the view. Much of the run is at speed through smaller towns with their public illuminations and a Casey's general store at city limits. How long, though, before the secularist killjoys decide that herald angels and westward-leading stars are contrary to the Establishment Clause?

Amtrak 392 Saluki, Carbondale-Chicago, 28 December 2006: Genesis diesel 41, Amfleet dinette-business class car 48177, Horizon coaches 54517 - 54579 - 54536. Temperature approximately 50o (F), dry rail.

Leave Carbondale 4:05:50; DuQuoin 4:26:55-4:28:37; Centralia 5:00:11-5:01:43; Effingham 5:45:44-5:47:15; stop south of Mattoon, no explanation, no meet 6:03-6:06; Mattoon 6:16:21-6:17:40, meet train 393 waiting in siding 6:44, Champaign 6:54:00-6:59:05 (business class full out of Champaign, I suspect that when the semester begins coach will be crowded even with strengthened formations), Rantoul 7:12:36-7:13:00, second stop, moving again 7:16:40; Gilman 7:42:38-7:43:00; Kankakee 8:04:57-8:05:25; Homewood 8:32:14-8:34:48, fast run through south suburbs and no impediments on Air Line or reversal into station, Chicago 9:18:37. I didn't have to run to catch the 9:40 to Elburn.

WE WERE ALWAYS TOLD THAT THE AMERICANS WERE SISSIES. But when a combination of errors in judgement and garbled information left three escort carrier task forces guarded by destroyers and destroyer escorts exposed to long-range shelling by what remained of Japan's battleships, the destroyers went straight at those battleships. We started the year's book reviews with H. P. Willmott's The Battle of Leyte Gulf: The Last Fleet Action (joining an August 2005 review of Thomas Cutler's The Battle of Leyte Gulf) and we'll post Book Review No. 50 on Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945, by Newsweek's Evan Thomas.

The four commanders are Admiral Ugaki Tomoko, chief of staff to Yamamoto Isoroku, who survived the P-38 attack on Admiral Yamomoto's staff planes in April 1943 and led Japan's last kamikaze flight on the evening of 15 August 1945, after hearing the Emperor's radio broadcast noting that "the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage"; Admiral Kurita Takeo, who survived the torpedoing of his flagship Atago (Japanese naval doctrine had flag officers in cruisers to lead the torpedo attacks that preceded shelling from the battleships) and an afternoon and evening of dithering to catch the escort carrier task forces unguarded only to break off the attack, fearing the loss of his remaining ships and sailors; Admiral William Halsey, commander of the U. S. Third Fleet (when Raymond Spruance was in command, the same fleet was called the Fifth Fleet), who may have been undone by poor radio communications or led astray by his hopes for one great fleet battle; and Captain Ernest Edwin Evans, killed commanding destroyer Johnston, which the Japanese heavy ships sank off Leyte Gulf.

Although much of the writing focuses on that confrontation, there is a great deal of character development, tracing the struggles and triumphs of each man from their time at Eta Jima or Annapolis to the end of the war. The background details about the ships are themselves instructive: for instance, the Third Fleet included "eighteen fast carriers, six battleships, seventeen cruisers, and sixty-four destroyers." We've apparently learned how to make carriers more effective since then, projecting more force from fewer decks. In subsequent operations off Okinawa, the fleet sustained damage to 368 ships (compared with a current fleet strength of 278 ships.) Different circumstances, different forces mobilized.

The stories about intelligence, counterintelligence, and radio deception are also instructive reading.
BUSH DERANGEMENT SYNDROME? How else describe this rant?

Tonight in Dearborn Michigan, Iraqi expatriates have taken to the streets to celebrate the hanging of Saddam Hussein. As a non-Iraqi who values the lives of the people living in Iraq today, I have a message for these celebrants:

If you truly believe, as you have stated to American media, that Saddam's hanging justifies the deaths of 650,000 innocent Iraqis under the regime of George W. Bush, you are neither lovers of Iraq nor lovers of Iraqis.

Shame on you!

The death of one man cannot justify the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children who survived Saddam, but perished under George W. Bush.

Shame on you for celebrating in the safety of your comfortable Michigan neighborhoods while the people still living in your "beloved homeland" are subjected to car bombs, abduction and torture every day.

As you celebrate your retribution, do so visualizing the faces of your dead and maimed compatriots who have perished since March 20, 2003... all of whom would have preferred an internationally subdued, monitored and intact Iraq under Saddam Hussein, to the violence and anarchy in Iraq under George W. Bush.

If you believe for one minute that Saddam's death justifies the demise of the infrastructure of Iraq. If you believe for one minute that Saddam's death justifies the sectarian violence in Iraq. If you believe for one minute that Saddam's death justifies the current hell of "your" people in Iraq... then trade places with them.

Give them your comfortable homes in Michigan and take their destroyed homes and lives in Iraq. Perhaps then you will stop your celebration and consider the hell they will live through tomorrow even after the death of Saddam.

Millions of Iraqis suffered under the regime of Saddam Hussein. If you or your loved ones were victims of his cruelty, I am sorry. I understand and accept your hatred for him. But to celebrate the current state of turmoil in Iraq for even one night is neither humane nor patriotic to me.

Wasn't that "internationally subdued, monitored and intact Iraq under Saddam Hussein" the one that was underwriting human bombs in Israel, bribing United Nations personnel, selling some of the medications that were shipped in in response to the outcry of individuals such as joined Code Pink about the consequences of the sanctions on Iraqis neither connected to the Saddam regime nor gutsy enough to leave the country?

Shame on you, Linda Milazzo.
BLACK TIE OPTIONAL. Been invited to a McDonald's opening lately?
Special invite-only soiree at McDonald's.
Details:

There are no iconic golden arches against bright red background on the building, only clear arches etched into glass tower windows. The familiar yellow-and red arches are on a ground monument sign at the entrance and on directional signs around the new dual drive-through lanes.

Inside, the upscale changes continue with WiFi and computer access in the dining area, as well as a three-sided fireplace, leather lounge chairs, plasma TVs and a "refreshment center." Even the restrooms - doubled in size - have plasma TVs.

As Confidentials puts it,
God, Guns, and plasma-tv-leather-recliner-piped-in-music, McDonalds.
Quite.
RALLY HO. Good going,kids.
The lead changed hands nine times in the second half. Two free throws by [Stephanie] Raymond allowed the Huskies to take a 66-65 lead with 3:31 left to play. They would never relinquish the lead the rest of the game.
That's despite trailing at halftime on the road.

29.12.06

ACCUMULATION OF SMALL DISADVANTAGES. Henry Petroski's Pushing the Limits: New Adventures in Engineering provides a collection of his Engineering columns from American Scientist. Subscribers to the magazine are free to skip Book Review No. 49 and pass on buying the book. My post title deliberately distorts a chess maxim to highlight a central theme of the book, which is that great engineering disasters often arise from seemingly incremental tweaks to existing practice that appear to work well until seemingly unrelated difficulties with the tweaks cumulate in a catastrophic failure. The paper on the bonfire collapse at Texas A&M illustrates the dynamics. See p. 183.
The report shows the structural collapse to be a classic case of design evolution and engineering hubris contributing to what in retrospect appears to have been an accident waiting to happen. Bonfire tradition was to build on the successes of past years, but modifications made from year to year negated what could be learned from experience.
Such unobserved lessons included premature collapses of the fire and injuries suffered by previous fire-builders.

A similar pattern of apparently incremental modifications by Los Angeles water czar William Mulholland, a self-taught dam builder, led to the 1928 failure of the St. Francis Dam and at least 400 lives lost. (The essay appears surprised that in the 1920s, rural Californians were dynamiting the Los Angeles aqueducts. I'm being only mildly alarmist identifying the Lake Michigan - Mississippi River ridgeline as a potential flash point of a resource war.)

A number of the essays feature bridges, including, yes, the accumulation of small disadvantages, and the book has a short but instructive chapter on the collapse of the Twin Towers that advocates of the government-inspired-controlled-implosion fantasy ought be required to read, understand, and comment on why the chapter isn't sufficient evidence to end that fantasy for once and for all.

One chapter also addresses a number of engineering fantasies envisioned by Willy Ley in Engineer's Dreams. I recall works in a similar vein aimed at younger readers, published in a more ambitious or more optimistic era. Some of the projects are possibilities. Others are truly fantastic.

27.12.06

IS DEMOGRAPHY DESTINY? Mark Steyn's America Alone suggests that it is, and he is not optimistic about Europe's future. His fear, which is summarized in a recent Chicago Sun-Times column (via Milt Rosenberg) is of a demographic time bomb in which alienated Islamist young people will find themselves with majority voting blocks in European countries and little ability to preserve the social and physical capital they will inherit. The central message of his book appears at p. 202.
But that's Islam in the third millennium: they want the certainties of seventh-century society with the conveniences of the twenty-first century. It doesn't work like that, of course. An Islamic States of America, an Islamic Republic of France, an Islamic Kingdom of Belgium, an Islamic Dominion of Canada would all very quickly be societies in decline, living on the accumulated capital of their pre-Muslim past -- as, indeed, much of Islam did at its zenith. But do we really want to test that proposition?
For Book Review No. 48 I will argue that Mr Steyn might have had a more convincing book had he considered what that test would look like. I suspect the result would be a Malthusian trap along the lines of the early Dark Ages. (It might be one that could be simultaneously hurried along and contained by invention and innovation that would render oil exports even cheaper, but that gets us far afield.) The problem with America Alone is that it's a Regnery book, subjected to their usual editorial treatment of providing witticisms that will strengthen the prior beliefs of prior believers without changing many minds of people not yet convinced. For instance, Mr Steyn addresses the red-state, blue-state difference of opinion (p. 181) with
It's secular Europe that's living on faith. Uncowed by Islamists, undeferential to government, unshriveled in its birth rates, redneck America is a more reliable long-term bet.
That's really going to persuade blue-state DINKs and Italian professionals. Too bad, because there are numerous observations about the current state of the world that deserve more serious discussion. For instance, at p. 158 he's spot on.
Unfortunately, magnanimity is often seen as weakness by those on the receiving end. It's easy to be sensitive, tolerant, and multicultural -- it's the default mode of the age -- yet, when you persist in being sensitive to the insensitive, tolerant of the intolerant, and impeccably multicultural about the avowedly unicultural, don't be surprised if they take it for weakness.
At least one Swedish intellectual ought to be advised of that observation.

Next door in Norway and Denmark, two thirds of all men arrested for rape are “of non-western ethnic origin”—the preferred euphemism for Middle Eastern and North African Muslims—although they account for under five percent of their residents. The number of rapes in Oslo in the summer of 2006 was twice that of the previous summer. All “gang rapes” in Denmark in 2004 were committed by immigrants and “refugees.”

The victims are overwhelmingly Scandinavian women, yet only one in twenty young Muslim men say they would marry one. Their reluctance is explained by an Islamic scholar, Mufti Shahid Mehdi, who told an audience in Copenhagen that European women who do not wear a headscarf were “asking to be raped.” His view is shared by Unni Wikan, a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo and a self-described feminist; she holds that “Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes” because Muslim men found their manner of dress provocative: “Norwegian women must realize that we live in a multicultural society and they must adapt themselves to it.”

(Also via Milt Rosenberg. I remember a judge in Madison, Wisconsin who was recalled for reducing the sentence of a rapist because his victim was dressed for the summer.)

And yes, I'd like to see Mr Steyn's smackdown of boutique multiculturalism (see p. 194) in a promotion dossier at a major university.
TO HONOR PRESIDENT FORD. William J. Polley has a tribute with links to Gerald Ford memorial sites as well as links to other remembrances and some macroeconomic analysis of the Whip Inflation Now campaign.
SEEKING A PATTON OR A HALSEY? Michael Ledeen reacts to news that Iranian military officials are in U.S. custody in Iraq.
Those killer quotes from the Times show once again the failure of strategic vision that has plagued us from the beginning of the war. We can only win the war—the real war, the regional-or-maybe-even-global war—if we stop playing defense in Iraq and go after regime change in Damascus and Tehran. Everyone in the region, above all, the Iraqis, knows this. And everyone in the region is looking for evidence that we might be able to muster the will to win this thing.
(Via Power Line, with a link to further developments.)
The Bush administration has described the two Iranians still being held Tuesday night as senior military officials. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell IV, the chief spokesman for the American command, said the military, in the raid, had “gathered specific intelligence from highly credible sources that linked individuals and locations with criminal activities against Iraqi civilians, security forces and coalition force personnel.”
Senior military officials of one power organizing attacks against military personnel of another power. I think that's called a war.
OUR NEIGHBORS AT WAR. Katie Newmark at A Constrained Vision has put together a number of suggestions for readers who wish to remember the troops during the holidays.
CARNIVAL CALL. The Christmas edition of Carnival of the Capitalists is available at Worker Bees.

22.12.06

MARKING OFF. Thank you for looking in.

PUBLIC CHOICE TRUMPS IDEOLOGY. I just finished Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government. It's by Stephen Slivinski of the Cato Institute, yet another libertarian disgusted with the Republican proclivity to become more interested in being re-elected than in restoring the national government to its Constitutionally enumerated and limited powers. For Book Review No. 47, I'll note that the work is more likely to shore up the converted than to change many minds. But at page 50 his description of President Bush (41)'s loss to President Clinton is a precise characterization of the recent Congressional election, which occurred after Buck Wild went to press. "If Republicans are going to act like Democrats anyway, what's the use in showing up to vote for a GOP candidate?"

He's not referring to civil rights or environmental policy or negotiating with Communists.

He's referring to the use of the power of the purse to smooth passage of legislation. Relatively small expenditures can ensure veto-proof majorities on major legislation, and the failure of the gasoline and tire taxes to cover all the costs of providing and maintaining roads make transportation bills such as the notorious 2005 bill, passed just before Katrina and Rita, popular. That beneficiaries of relatively small expenditures have incentives to defend those expenditures much stronger than those who must pay taxes further strengthens the temptation to buy peace.

Where the book fails, however, is in offering any concrete proposals to tame the public choice dynamic, which is at work whether both houses and the White House are held by the same party, or if there is some division of the government.
THE EXCESS DEMAND IS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION. The New York Times states the obvious. Public Universities Chase Excellence, at a Price. The article opens with the University of Florida's efforts to become as well thought of as California or Michigan before the state went broke or Wisconsin before the place went nuts. But quickly the carping begins.

Like Florida, more leading public universities are striving for national status and drawing increasingly impressive and increasingly affluent students, sometimes using financial aid to lure them. In the process, critics say, many are losing force as engines of social mobility, shortchanging low-income and minority students, who are seriously underrepresented on their campuses.

“Public universities were created to make excellence available to all qualified students,” said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, an advocacy group, “but that commitment appears to have diminished over time, as they choose to use their resources to try to push up their rankings. It’s all about reputation, selectivity and ranking, instead of about the mission of finding and educating future leaders from their state.”

Look at it from a different perspective. These missions do not have to be mutually exclusive, but too many public universities, and more than a few private universities, have fallen into the trap of access-assessment-remediation-retention as College Lite, and ambitious students and pushy parents have figured it out. The obsession with reputation and selectivity is one that can easily be countered by university administrators, whether at Flagship State or Compass Point State or Jesuit Basketball Power or Saint Somebody, credibly committing themselves to offering higher education. Abolishing all remedial classes might be the place to start that commitment.

The article goes on to note,
The demands on such universities are growing, too, particularly with many states questioning their spending on higher education. Increasingly, these colleges are expected to bolster their states’ economies by attracting research grants and jobs. To do that, they say, they must compete with elite private universities.
Put another way: the university that treats its faculty as interchangeable parts, and has an "if you can get a better offer, we'll consider raising your pay" personnel policy is likely to stagnate, no matter how many fine words come from the president or how many "business models" the trustees crow about.
So the universities face a tough balancing act: should they push for higher status and higher tuition revenue by accepting more top-achieving, out-of-state students, or should they worry about broadening access for low-income, in-state students? Is their primary goal to serve the people of their state or to compete nationally with private research universities? Can they leave the less prestigious state colleges to serve the bulk of in-state students?
Omitted: any suggestion that some tough love directed at the common schools might have a salutary effect on student performance. There's enough excess capacity in access-assessment-remediation-retention that many high schoolers have the attitude that they don't have to work hard because some college will take them anyway. That's where the social waste is.

Administrators at Florida grasp some of these points.

[Florida president J. Bernard] Machen said the university needed the surcharge to supplement its inexpensive tuition and bring in 200 new faculty members.

“How can I tell parents that the education their children can get here is on a par with Michigan or North Carolina,” he said, “when my student-teacher ratio is 21 or 22 to 1, and Michigan’s is 15 to 1, Chapel Hill’s 14 to 1?”

Observers, however, are notoriously tone-deaf. Here's College Affordability, commenting on the article.
There will be no real solution to this dilemma until the "bottom line" changes. We need a new, much utilized ranking of educational excellence that stresses outcomes, incremental learning, vocational success of recent graduates, and other similar measures of accomplishment. Or, we need more for-profit education, where the bottom line is simple: profits.
There is a subtle point under this formulation: putting small cohorts of already-educated, motivated people together might be an expensive way of producing small increments of learing. Vocational success is a bit more difficult to measure. It's not clear, however, who the "we" in that formulation is. I have been using a derived demand argument all along: employers are not interested in hiring graduates they have to train ab initio, and students are not interested in enrolling in universities of little reputation. And the pursuit of higher rankings for their own sake might not be all bad: the market for genuine higher education is large enough that if fifty or sixty universities can claim to be in the top 25 in one way or another, that serves employers (a final demand) and students (the derived demand) more effectively than if administrators allow the historic top 10 or 25 or 50 to hold those positions without competing for their faculty or enticing their students to enroll. As Joanne Jacobs notes,
Top-scoring students seek the most selective colleges and universities. Getting in establishes their status.
The push for selectivity and research visibility simply provides additional credible markers of status.

Think about it this way: would diners be better served if only 20 restaurants earned a five-star rating, or if (with no dilution of standards) they had a choice among 50, 100, 200 five-star restaurants?
THE OPTION NOT CONSIDERED? Snow in Denver and fog in Chicago mean stranded air travelers. A morning news reporter spoke with a traveler at O'Hare who had been there for two nights awaiting a connection to Memphis. It never occured to her to check if there was a seat on the City of New Orleans? Even on a bad day, you should get there the following afternoon.
A "BAH, HUMBUG" MOMENT. When did Christmas become the season for giving luxury cars as presents? Lexus has spared us the vignettes of adulterous spouses shopping for forgiveness this year, but I have heard their obnoxious jingle and seen a few pictures of cars with those same red bows. They've been joined by Mercedes and BMW, both with somewhat more clever adverts, and Ford thinks this is the season to push their Lincoln Navigator. Is the up-armored version favored by drug hustlers everywhere?
LIONS AND VIKINGS AND BEARS. (Oh my!) The Packers played at Lambeau Field, and again they played badly, but the Vikings also played badly. The Packer defense held the Vikings to three first downs all game, and the offense put placekicker Dave Rayner in position to kick enough field goals for a 9-7 win.

(The game reminded me of a game in Milwaukee in 1969 in which Packer safety Doug Hart had an interception return for a touchdown but the Vikings managed to give future chiropractor Fred Cox three field goal opportunities.)

And I'm not alone in disliking Thursday night football.
Packers fans across much of Wisconsin who planned to settle into their Barcaloungers to watch what might be Brett Favre's final appearance at Lambeau quickly learned this: Unless they could tune in to local stations in Milwaukee or Green Bay, or had access to the NFL Network, they couldn't watch the game.
Apparently there are limits to the rent-extracting behavior of the league.

An NFL Network spokesman said Wisconsin Packers fans are no different from NFL fans in other states experiencing the same withdrawal pangs.

"This is what's been going on every week every time there is a game airing and there is a holdout cable company," said Seth Palansky, communications director for the NFL Network.

The network is available in about 40 million of 110 million homes with TV. Last week the network caved a bit by offering one free week of its network programming to many cable customers on the East Coast so college football fans could watch Rutgers in the Texas Bowl game.

Northern Illinois puts up with all sorts of bizarre game times to harvest a few dollars of television revenue. Saturday is for college football. Now fans of the professional game get caught in a pissing contest between the cable companies and the league's attempt to harvest a few dollars of television revenue. Sunday is for professional football.
GRIPING ABOUT UNFAIR COMPETITION? At Econ Log, Bryan Caplan notes a Pareto-improvement from illegal immigration.
But it takes more insight to notice the role of immigrants in less exotic industries. In fact, I doubt I'd have to linger in an L.A. doughnut shop for long to overhear an elderly customer denounce the unmitigated evils of immigration while devouring a delicious Cambodian-made cruller.
But the article he links to commits a number of fundamental errors in economics.

Winchell's, the largest West Coast chain, has just 17 of the roughly 400 doughnut shops in the Valley.

"The small independent doughnut shop operators are able to run a lower overhead," said Lincoln Watase, president of Yum Yum Donut Shops, which owns Winchell's. The mom and pop stores don't have to pay managers, administrators and other support staffers like the chains do.

Sigh. What's that equivalence theorem of Adam Smith that the doughnut shop must pay the owner the wages of the baker, the interest of the bondholder, the rent of the landowner, and the profit of the shareholder? Alternatively, perhaps there is a maximal efficient size of a doughnut chain, and Yum Yum has exceeded that.

The immigrant owners seem to understand this concept. Althought the couple that owns one of the doughnut shops appears to believe in a free lunch, they're also aware of the subtleties.

For Kim Thean, owner of K's Donuts at Ventura Boulevard and Fallbrook Avenue, staying in business comes down to simple economics. When a relative works the register, it's free.

"We are family so we don't really care about hours," said Thean, 39, who runs the shop with the help of one employee - his wife, Sokha. "When you have to hire someone and pay them, it's expensive."

But family labor isn't really free. Read on.

The couple's three daughters are too young to work in the store, and Thean isn't sure they ever will.

"I don't know if they'll like it," he said, flashing a quick smile below wire-rimmed glasses. "I'm not going to force them."

Thean doesn't take days off because when he is not around, nobody bakes doughnuts for him. Instead, he closes on New Year's Day, Christmas and Labor Day. A two-week vacation is out of the question.

Selling doughnuts has allowed the Theans to make payments on a home in West Hollywood and own two cars.

One day Thean wants to invest in real estate, but for now he says he cannot expand until he has relatives who can work in his shop.

The kids will develop Californian notions of opportunity costs. The relatives might look into real estate hustling themselves.
NOT LARGE ENOUGH TO PUT ON THE BARBIE. There are now freshwater shrimp in Lake Michigan.
Add a bug-eyed shrimp to the ballooning list of Great Lakes invaders that has likely hitchhiked its way into the region aboard an overseas freighter, and nobody can say we didn't have fair warning it was coming.
The shrimp has been deliberately introduced into European waters. (Wasn't that the plan with the Asian carp now taking over the Mississippi?)

The fat-rich shrimp, a high-quality food source, have actually been planted in some reservoirs in Europe to boost fish populations. The problem is the shrimp themselves feed on tiny zooplankton and phytoplankton that directly or indirectly sustain the Great Lakes native fish species, said [David] Reid [of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration].

"It will have an ecosystem effect. How significant that will be, we don't know," he said.

If the coho salmon (themselves a transplant) develop an appetite for the shrimp like the one they exhibited for alewives, sport fishermen will be pleased.

There has been a rule change requiring loaded ships bound for the Lakes to flush their ballast tanks at sea.
The Canadian government began requiring overseas ships to flush their empty ballast tanks with saltwater before entering the Seaway, and early studies show that is an effective means of killing unwanted critters.
Of which the shrimp might be only one. Invasive Species reports something called the Chinese mitten crab has turned up in Lake Superior. (Can you stir fry it and serve it with steamed rice?)

21.12.06

QUAGMIRE. Sandstorms threaten the health and safety of the troops, tanks bog down in the desert during the rainy season, Arabs are indifferent to the passage of U.S. and British soldiers, although some may sell information to them today, only to sell information to the enemy tomorrow, the French raise diplomatic objections when they're not actually interfering with the movement of troops, and Members of Congress are urging the President to cut his losses, bring the troops home, and regroup.

The President is Franklin D. Roosevelt, the enemy is German, abetted or impeded -- it's sometimes hard to tell -- by Italians, and the Arabs live along the Mediterranean coast of Africa. But I have to wonder if Jeff Shaara's The Rising Tide isn't a cautionary tale for our time, and if he isn't cautioning the cautious about the dangers of being cautious. Never mind that. I'll keep Book Review No. 46 relatively short and commend the book as a quick, historically accurate read. (And we know the outcome: the President and the commanders stayed the course.) Mr Shaara gives us two fictional troopers, a tanker and a paratrooper, and three very real commanders, Eisenhower, Patton, and Rommel. The plot: Rommel chases Montgomery east. Montgomery regroups, assisted by German logistical failures (fatso Hermann and his delusions about aerial logistics: what would he make of our C-17) he chases Rommel west. A coalition force invades northwestern Africa. Rommel gets his licks in but the logistical failures get worse. If you're familiar with Patton, the book mirrors the first half of the movie, from Morocco to the slapping incident in Sicily. There are to be more novels in this series.

Betsy's Page links to Third Wave Dave's tribute to General Patton, who died on this day in 1945.
SPEAKING OF CORVETTES. The first of a new series of littoral combat ships (longer than swift boats or patrol torpedo boats but not quite destroyer escorts), USS Freedom, is being built in Marinette and will be commissioned in Milwaukee.
Officials including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and County Executive Scott Walker had been lobbying Winter to stage the commissioning off Veterans Park on Lake Michigan - while Chicagoans waged a campaign of their own. A consolation prize for Chicago: It's hoped the ship can pay a visit there before leaving for its home port of San Diego.
The designation of the ships is not the only thing that's changed in today's Navy.
At the commissioning, the vessel earns the designation as a United States Ship and becomes the USS Freedom. It's then part of the Navy's fleet, which now stands at 278 ships.
That's a somewhat smaller fleet than President Reagan's hoped-for fifteen carrier groups and 600 ships, let alone the 847 ships, many of them life-expired World War II destroyers and cruisers, in Richard Nixon's Navy. The kind of war we find ourselves in is one in which, like the Battle of the Atlantic, small ships will be more useful for keeping sea-lanes free of pirates and interdicting terrorist logistics than battleships and cruisers. (All the same, there's something about steaming the Iowas into the Persian Gulf and compelling President Ahmadinejad to sign terms on Missouri, National Command Authority demurrals notwithstanding.)
FALLOUT. The Northern Illinois football team learned a lot at the Poinsettia Bowl.
Motivation won't be an issue for Northern Illinois during its winter 6 a.m. offseason workouts.
The problem: Texas Christian's one-sided victory will probably inspire some sports pundits to question the policy of giving preference to seven-win teams from conferences without bowl ties over six-win teams from conferences with bowl ties. USA Today's Erick Smith notes additional evidence of inefficiently many bowls.

International Bowl — Western Michigan vs. Cincinnati, Jan. 6, noon

This game screams out as the poster child for the gluttony of bowl games that now exist. And I am not even mentioning the venue of Toronto in January. Western Michigan 20, Cincinnati 19.

In other cheerful news, the basketball winning streak ended in Chicago.
LIVING AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS? The Southeast Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority is considering a special sales tax to pay for the commuter trains.

The rail line, meanwhile, has attracted relatively little controversy to date, but that could change once new taxes are on the table, [authority chairman Karl] Ostby conceded.

"I think everybody loves things until they have to pay for them," Ostby said.

By comparison, the five-county sales tax levied to pay for building Miller Park is 0.1% - twice the rate under consideration for commuter trains alone, or one-fifth of the combined bus and train tax. The stadium tax drew bitter opposition when the Legislature imposed it in 1995.

Sales taxes are among the most common ways of funding new commuter rail lines nationwide and transit systems in metropolitan areas about the same size as Milwaukee, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission staff has told the authority.

Editorial writers at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel approve of the sales tax (which is the way Chicago's Metra receives funding.)

Milwaukee is one of the largest transit systems in the nation that relies on the property tax; most transit systems rely on sales taxes. The result: a steady deterioration of the system.

So the RTA proposed that the three-county authority consider asking for legislative authority to levy a 0.05% sales tax to cover the local share of building and operating the rail line. The authority would also consider asking the state to give each of the three counties the option of levying up to 0.45% more in sales taxes to replace property tax support for their buses.

They'd like to go a bit further.

These are legitimate concerns. Fortunately, there are other options, including an idea that Walker likes - as do we - by Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale) to earmark part of state sales tax on motor vehicles for transit purposes.

The RTA isn't wedded to its proposal, a spokesman says, but would like to hear other suggestions and not just grumbling.

Good point. The region needs commuter rail and has the continuing need to fund other transit. The property tax is overburdened. A sales tax should be on the table, but it shouldn't be there alone. Let's look at that tax on motor vehicles as well.

Pigouvian taxation? Countervailing subsidies? Discuss.
MY VISIT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. Inside Higher Ed reports on a Presidential Ouster at Quincy.

Quincy University, a Roman Catholic liberal arts institution in Illinois, has dismissed its president, who had seen the enrollment drop steadily during her term.

The total head count at Quincy slipped to 1,250 this fall from more than 1,350 a year ago. Over the past two years, freshman enrollment has gone down by about 30 percent. Tuition is $18,450, but with a full-time undergraduate population of only 863 students, almost all of whom receive some financial aid, drops in enrollment can have a major impact on the college.

It's rather difficult for a religious college to exile its president to a convent. On the other hand, Sister Margaret M. Feldner might have something in common with Larry Summers.
The Quincy Herald-Whig reported that faculty returned a no-confidence vote this fall for Feldner and the head of admissions, who was placed on administrative leave with pay earlier this month. Yates said he is unaware of the vote, and the Faculty Senate chair didn’t return calls for comment.
For $18K, one can buy a spot at Marquette or DePaul, where there's a shot at seeing a decent basketball team, or one can go out of state to a flagship university going after the Coastie trade. Is Quincy's admissions trouble evidence of excess capacity in the obscure parts of higher education?

Rest assured, when I go train riding, it's not as traveling hatchet man for small-college trustees.
ENERGY PRICE FORECAST? I recently received a gas bill in which the optional fixed budget payment amount I could pay was approximately the same as the payment based on usage. I also received an offer from the regulated gas distributor's affiliated gas supplier to lock in the next twelve months of payments. This offer included a $60 cash payment if I signed up. That's not a put option I'd like to sell to the gas company.
SOLSTICE. Go frolic and play, the postmodern way, walkin' 'round in women's underwear.

19.12.06

BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME. A corridor operation generates additional passengers, rather than stealing passengers from existing trains. The Quincy Herald Whig has good news and bad news about the expanded Chicago-Quincy service.

Marc Magliari, a spokesman for Amtrak, said total ridership for both the new Carl Sandburg train and the long-established Illinois Zephyr was 14,103 passengers during November. That's up from 10,469 passengers in November 2005 when the Zephyr was the only local option.

"The good news is that the Carl Sandburg appears not to be taking passengers away from the Illinois Zephyr, which I presume means we're attracting more passengers," Magiliari said.

David Johnson, assistant director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, agreed that the new trains do not seem to be draining many riders from the existing routes.

"Imagine that. You add routes and give people convenient times and you get more riders," Johnson said.

Amtrak officials are excited about the 34.7 percent increase in passengers between Quincy and Chicago. They've got even more good news along other routes that got new trains — all debuting on Oct. 30. During the first month there were 61 percent more passengers along the Chicago-to-Carbondale corridor and 49 percent more riders between Chicago and St. Louis.

"All the new Illinois trains are off to strong starts," Magliari said.

The bad news is that freight train interference is still a problem.
Although ridership numbers were good, Amtrak had a disappointing 53 percent on-time performance in November. Some of the late arrivals during the month were caused by railway congestion. A single track is available over most of the corridor between Quincy and Galesburg.
That single track line once hosted the Kansas City Zephyr and American Royal Zephyr as well as Burlington's Kansas City - Chicago freight business, presumably that mostly uses the more direct former Santa Fe line.

Contemporary timings are not bad for a single-track line without the safety appliances required for speeds in excess of 79 mph. For example, the evening departure from Quincy is carded at 48 minutes over the 56 miles to Macomb: 70 mph. Macomb to Galesburg is 40 miles in 38 minutes and Galesburg to Kewanee 31 miles in 28 minutes.

As a present for finishing the grades, I decided to explore this route, which is new territory for me beyond Galesburg. It's easier to drive to Mendota to catch this train rather than ride a suburban train into Chicago. The morning train leaves Chicago at 8.00, covering the 83 miles to Mendota in 85 minutes inclusive of two stops. I left DeKalb just after 8.00 and intercepted the morning Illinois Zephyr, running a few minutes late, at Mendota.


Mendota is one step up from what the British would call a "halt" in that there is an enclosed, heated station building with washrooms that is open at train time, as well as when the town's railroad museum is open. There is neither a station agent nor a ticket machine.


The Milwaukee branch-line combine is not out of place in Mendota. It's part of the museum collection, parked on former Illinois Central trackage used by Milwaukee across the Burlington. The Illinois Central's original Centralia - Freeport line and Milwaukee's Rockford - Rochelle - Ladd line were all lifted in the early 1980s.


In time the westbound Carl Sandburg showed up, with a cabbage car in the lead. Time for a second cup of coffee, another book review, and an approximately on-time arrival at Quincy. The Quincy station is another of Amtrak's new-style stations located on the edge of town. Quincy is not that large a city, although it is on some hills, and I estimate my total walking to the riverfront downtown and back to the station as five or six miles. The legs are still objecting.

Quincy is home to a Franciscan college now known as Quincy University (with masters' programs in business and education) housed in a few buildings on the northeast side of town, with a baseball and football field along the way to the station.


The related St. Francis Solano school building has the kind of motto that would provoke questions that got my fourteenth great-grandfather tossed out of the Anglican Church.


GOD'S WILL. THE END OF MAN
Repunctuate. Discuss.
"That's enough out of you, Mr Brewster."

There's also this rather imposing St. Francis Church, in the German style, complete with a clock that chimes the quarters in the German fashion.


(There's another chiming clock on the university building that chimes quarters in the Westminster fashion. The two clocks are not synchronized. The German clock goes first.)

I also found a neat-looking boat club, but the photo-upload isn't working at the moment.


But on Thursday night, the upload took. Enjoy.

Then it was time to walk back to the station and head home. The train didn't get into the station until 5.32 (the layover tracks are somewhere in West Quincy, Missouri, and at one time this train was called the "Quincy Local" and its station was in West Quincy.)

Amtrak 382 Carl Sandburg, Quincy-Mendota, December 18, 2006: Genesis diesel 128, Horizon coaches 54441 - 51000 - 54561, Amfleet dinette-business class car 48165, cabbage car 90222. Temperature approximately 32o (F), dry rail.

Leave Quincy 5:36:55, Macomb 6:30:13-6:33:13, Galesburg 7:10:34-7:12:20, Kewanee (a halt) 7:39:26-7:40:41, Princeton 8:03:34-8:04:17, Mendota 8.24, seventeen minutes late.
STOP THE WORLD, I WANT TO GET OFF. My purchase of The I Hate Corporate America Reader, which I reviewed here, came bundled with The I Hate the 21st Century Reader, which gets a somewhat shorter and somewhat crankier Book Review No. 45. I'll let one quotation from an essay that begins on p. 335 speak for the entire book.
The invention of agriculture is itself a runaway train, leading to vastly expanded populations because of two inevitable (or nearly inevitable) consequences. The first is biological: the population grows until it hits the bounds of the food supply. The second is social: all civilizations become hierarchical; the upward concentration of wealth ensures that there can never be enough to go around. The economist Thomas Malthus explored the first dilemma, and thinkers from Christ to Marx have touched on the second.
As with the companion volume, this reader ought best be viewed as a statement of faith for people who might have argued themselves into or who are disposed to accept the argument that we'd all live well but for a few greedy people who seek everything for themselves. Life-extending research is a bad idea, not because it's contrary to Gaia's plans but because rich sesquicentenarians will buy up all the life-prolonging technologies and the researchers should be providing cheaper HIV treatments to the Third World, even though antibiotics induce selection for resistant bacteria. (Yes, that sounds incoherent, but read the book, especially the Grimmer Harper's Index stuff between essays.) The book also illustrates the hazards of making economic forecasts. It reprints the usually sensible James Fallows envisioning a future near-Depression in which the Dow closed at its all-time high of 11,090 just after the first Bush administration tax cut bill became law.

Although the book is long on complaint, it is short on suggested improvements or course changes.
SOMEBODY WILL TAKE THIS IDEA SERIOUSLY. Despite the Swiftian title, I can see some enrollment manager viewing Edward F. Palm's Inside Higher Ed article as a Great Suggestion.

Colleges and universities were bursting at the seams with more students than they could handle, and the sky seemed to be the limit for the expansion of programs and the hiring of new faculty members. What did we have going for us then in the American academy that we don’t have now? We had a Selective Service System — a draft — that until 1971 featured a calculated system of deferments for college and graduate school.

We need to restore that system today — the most significant refinement being that, in keeping with today’s more enlightened sensibility, today’s draft would extend to young women as well as men. The advantages would be obvious and undeniable.

The Department of Defense would have more than enough fresh troops with which to “stay the course.” This should satisfy the critics on the right and the left who would use the current exhaustion of the all-volunteer military as an excuse to “cut and run.” The number of college deferments would remain relatively low compared to the number of young people available, especially if we made deferment contingent upon maintaining a passing grade-point average. We could even make deferment contingent on enrolling in programs that lend themselves to the kinds of assessment approved of by the Spellings commission — if those classics and philosophy departments want to hold on to their students, they’ll come around to believe everything can be measured in tests or your post-graduation income.

Patriotic appeals and current threat levels notwithstanding, the prospect of being drawn into a shooting war in Iraq or Afghanistan, or even Iran, will continue to appeal to a limited spectrum of American youth. Matriculation and retention rates in American colleges and universities, then, are likely to soar, thereby alleviating one concern of the Secretary of Education and her Commission. We are also likely to see a war dividend in terms of increased accountability, as students and faculty alike face a clear and present incentive to assess and document student learning.

There must exist some member of the intelligentsia who will take up this proposal as holy writ.
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN'. Look back at forty years of campus rioting. University Diaries links to Northampton Republican (yeah, right) coverage of a riot that broke out at the University of Massachusetts (now ZooMass; my dad left the engineering faculty there at the end of the 1955-1956 academic year for heavy industry.) The cause of the riot: ZooMass lost their bowl game to Appalachian State. "NCAA Division I title game" is kind of underwhelming: why not call it the "Amateur Bowl" or the "Not Ready for the Mid-American Bowl"?

What's instructive is that campus officials are describing this riot as bad.

Eleven people, including 10 UMass-Amherst students, were arrested. Their arraignments were scheduled for yesterday and today in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Hadley, with charges including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, failure to disperse in a riot, minor in possession of alcohol, possession of marijuana, breaking and entering, mistreatment of a police horse or dog and destruction of property.

About 60 campus, town and state police officers in riot gear were needed to squelch the riot that drew more than 1,800 students to the plaza of the Southwest residential area. Students threw bottles, cans, bricks, pieces of concrete and other items at the officers and yelled obscenities.

So much for generational morphology. This riot reminds me of a brawl that erupted at Massachusetts when the New York Mets defeated the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. That brawl probably strengthened the hands of diversity hustlers at Zoo Mass as Mets and Sox fans differed along racial as well as geographic lines. Millennial crudity, just more of the same Thirteenth Generation crudity. But back up another 20 years: possession of marijuana was a political act, breaking and entering was expropriation of the capitalists, and mistreatment of police animals a display of courage. Maybe in another 40 years the football yobs will have a Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture celebrating their efforts and there will be a special reference collection in the library.
DEAN AHMEDWORMERJAD? Via Best of the Web, citing a Guardian article about Iranian students protesting their fuhrer's visit.
"Witnesses say Mr Ahmadinejad also tried to ridicule the students by referring to the university disciplinary code, under which those with three penalty points are suspended from studies. 'He joked that he was going to issue a presidential order for those with three stars to be enlisted as sergeants in the army. That made the students really angry,' said Mr Zamanian."
"And I have advised all of your draft boards that you are immediately eligible for military service."

But don't you have to put the students on double-secret probation first?

Do view the Guardian article, the photograph of Dean Ahmadwormerjad's supporters is instructive.
OUCH. College bowl season is underway, with Texas Christian besting Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl, 37-7. (This prognosticator came close with the final score, and got the total points right.) Northern Illinois special teams set a new team record, with three blocked kicks, one a punt block for a touchdown. Team members did have sightseeing opportunities. Three weeks to go and already the ennui sets in.

18.12.06

WHILE OTHERS FRET ABOUT PRACTICE PLAYERS. Final exams are behind us, graduation ceremonies are committed to pixels, and the Lady Huskies have quietly extended their winning streak to five, at the same time ending Bradley's home winning streak.
RESOURCE WARS IN THE LAKE DISTRICT. The ridge dividing the Lake Michigan watershed from the Fox River basin, connected to the Mississippi River, is in some places within sight of Lake Michigan. By international treaty, water taken out of Lake Michigan must be returned to Lake Michigan. That treaty requires water-hungry suburbs of Milwaukee and Chicago to return any Lake Michigan water to Lake Michigan.

The Lake Beulah water management district has recently passed a law inspired by that treaty, to prevent the rapidly-growing Municipality of East Troy from tapping an aquifer that might feed Lake Beulah.
The new ordinance also says that water pumped out of the basin, above or below ground, must be returned to the basin, a directive that reflects a hotly debated issue in Waukesha's attempt to divert water from Lake Michigan.
At the moment, the disputes and debates are in public hearings and in courts. The Winchesters have not yet been broken out.
THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE. LET'S REDECORATE THE SUN-ROOM. The National Collegiate Athletic Association faces Congressional challenges to its not-for-profit, tax-exempt status, and bowl guarantees no longer suffice to cover the incremental costs of delivering the team, to say nothing of the band and the sugar-daddies. Sounds like an excellent time to deal with an existential threat to college athletics: male practice players for womens' basketball teams. The topic has crowded out almost all other coverage at Women's Hoops. Now Phi Beta Cons have picked up the story (via SCSU Scholars.) Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins is not impressed with the efforts.
Anyone who thinks [the guys are] automatically superior ought to go to a practice at U-Conn. or Tennessee and watch the women beat the snot out of the male scrubs in a scrimmage. Last year, Connecticut's Ann Strother gave one a busted nose.
She's also less than pleased with the folks pushing the reforms.
This brings us to the second reason why the committee's position is not funny: It reveals the broken workings of the NCAA. This is a perfectly lucid window into who runs the organization: deputy administrators from smaller schools, with a tendency toward chronic and wrongheaded attempts to legislate parity. My bet is some folks on the committee are just paranoid that male practice players might give someone an edge.
Per corollary to Munger's First Law of Time Allocation, the best way to prevent others from working on their edge is to tie them up in more meetings.

Hurry up, sailing season. (I have been schooled by collegiate sailors of both sexes, and one-design dinghies are not gender-biased.)
WHAT TEAM WILL SHOW UP THURSDAY? The Packers have not done too well in Green Bay this year, but the Detroit Lions have not done well anywhere. Result: a win for the Packers, despite Detroit attempting a quarterback sneak in a long-yardage situation. (Why not? Years ago, a Detroit quarterback turned a sneak in an obvious sneak situation into a long gain, part of a 40-0 Lions win.)

Thursday? Yes, the Packers will be hosting Minnesota on Thursday. Thursday night football is not any better an idea for the professionals than it is for the universities. Repeat after me: Friday is for the high schools, Saturday is for the universities, Sunday is for the professionals, and Monday is for the water-cooler league.

17.12.06

ON MY WORKBENCH. The early December snows might all have melted, but it is modelling season. First up, two budget projects I've been working on. The outside-braced automobile boxcar might be scratchbuilt. I paid $25 for it at a nearby hobby store a few years ago.


This tank car is brass. I don't know the manufacturer's particulars yet.


It's smaller than the tortoise-shell 20,000 gallon Jones and Laughlin car (which I have in kit form) but looks enough like one that I've assigned it to coal-tar service at Midvale Steel.
A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. From EclectEcon, who got the word from somebody at CBS.

I wanted to give you a heads-up on a story that will be running this Sunday, Dec. 17 (7PM ET/PT on CBS) on "60 MINUTES" about a long-secret German archive that houses a treasure trove of information on 17.5 million victims of the Holocaust. The archive, located in the German town of Bad Arolsen , is massive (there are 16 miles of shelving containing 50 million pages of documents) and until recently, was off-limits to the public.

But after the German government agreed earlier this year to open the archives, CBS News' Scott Pelley traveled there with three Jewish survivors who were able to see their own Holocaust records. It's an incredibly moving piece, all the more poignant in the wake of this week's meeting of Holocaust deniers in Iran.

CONTEMPLATING ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. Here's another catch-up post, now that grades are in and Ph.D.s have been hooded. (Or is it a jump-start post for another research paper, now that there's a month of thinking time.)

I'll start, however, with recent empirical evidence that illegal immigration provides a cheap labor subsidy.

When hordes of police and immigration officials stormed meatpacking plants in six states this week, the illegal workers arrested may not have been the only victims.

Consumers and the industry itself may be feeling the repercussions in a shortage of meatpackers, higher wage costs and, ultimately, higher prices for the beef that lands on America's tables at home and in restaurants.

I'm not sure what this crackdown says about the model immigration policy makers are using. In my theoretical research, "probabilistic amnesty" refers to illegal immigrants devoting their entire working lives to work in the rich country's underground economy. I suppose the model could refer to periodic and unpredictable raids of employers hiring in that underground economy. In that case, the following paragraphs from the news report make sense.

Some analysts see the current emphasis on enforcement in the meatpacking industry as the precursor to getting an immigration bill through Congress - by demonstrating the government's capability to enforce laws at the work site.

"The meatpacking industry has become dependent on an unauthorized labor force, and it is not good government to destroy an entire industry. In some way, there is going to be a meeting of the minds," said Mark Reed, a former immigration regional director who now runs his own consulting business, Border Management Strategies, in Tucson, Ariz.

We're looking at precisely my modeling efforts. (.pdf) Employer sanctions lower the subjective probability of an amnesty, which reduces the flow of illegal immigration for rich-country welfare benefits. At the same time, the cheap labor subsidy in relatively unpleasant jobs (anybody else remember when beef boning was a skilled trade?) becomes one of the benefits the U.S. government has to consider in defining its immigration policy. But, contrary to what editorial writers at USA Today assert, the policy is a success.

Those who favor a rigid approach argue that the traditional immigration-reform bargain — amnesty for those already here coupled with rigorous enforcement forevermore — has proved to be a lie. And so it has. In 1986, for example, a congressional compromise gave amnesty to 2.7 million illegal immigrants and set up a new enforcement scheme. Today's illegal immigrants are eloquent evidence of its failure.

The reason it failed, however, was not the amnesty. It was Congress' unwillingness to create and fund a viable enforcement system.

No, Congress has to balance the potential burdens on social services against the cheap labor subsidies and the admission of entrepreneurial people who might not possess the verifiable credentials of a university graduate. Representative Mike Pence, offering the counterpoint at USA Today, still has that to learn.
Some argue that putting border security first and asking millions of illegal immigrants to leave the country is unrealistic. I submit that it is unrealistic to assume that another round of amnesty will not result in another wave of illegal immigration in the years ahead. We must address illegal immigration, but we must do so in a way that reasserts the principle that the only way to enter the United States is under the law.
Is it cheaper to build the fence (using the underground economy?) or to revise the laws? The existence of a rich country with both ample opportunities for entrepreneurial people and generous social services is in itself temptation to residents in countries less rich.

That's not to deny the existence of serious tradeoffs in any change in immigration policy, as the concluding paragraph of Heather Mac Donald's "Seeing Today's Immigrants Straight" in City Journal notes.
Many of the costs imposed by Mexican immigrants are a function of their lack of education, their low incomes, and their own and their children’s behavior, not their legal status. Without question, we must balance those costs against the immigrant generation’s admirable work ethic. But immigration reform that institutionalizes the present immigration mix—or, worse, increases its volume by three to five times—is certain to expand the Hispanic underclass. There are many educated foreigners patiently waiting for permission to migrate to the United States. The United States can better honor its immigrant heritage by accelerating their entry rather than by continuing to favor the most low-skilled of our neighboring populations.
Her essay favors a tougher stance on border enforcement; she might also be making the case for instilling the Habits of Highly Effective People, rather than Gang Nation, in immigrant children. The tough part, however, is that nowhere else in the world does a rich country have so long a border with a country relatively much poorer. (There are gradations of poverty as one proceeds from the European Union countries east into Siberia, southeast into the Middle East, and across the Mediterranean Sea.)

Also in City Journal, Steven Malanga suggests that the cheap labor subsidy is relatively small.
America does not have a vast labor shortage that requires waves of low-wage immigrants to alleviate; in fact, unemployment among unskilled workers is high—about 30 percent. Moreover, many of the unskilled, uneducated workers now journeying here labor, like Velasquez, in shrinking industries, where they force out native workers, and many others work in industries where the availability of cheap workers has led businesses to suspend investment in new technologies that would make them less labor-intensive.
That induced-innovation hypothesis is a topic of research in progress. Stick around.