31.1.07

MORE POWERFUL THAN THE EIGHTH AIR FORCE. "Kyrill" sounds vaguely Russian, but he's neither Koniev nor Zhukov.

The decision to suspend all train movements nationwide was made in Deutsche Bahn's (DB) operations center in response to the massive winter storm called “Kyrill” which lashed Germany, Holland, Belgium, England and Poland with hurricane force winds for two days last week. DB management took the action to avoid stranding numerous passenger trains in between stations in case of loss of electrical power, signals, or obstructions in the right of way. The shut-down decision left many thousands of travelers stranded overnight in dozens of different train stations across Germany. The lucky ones were able to sleep in trains parked in numerous stations during the nationwide shut down.

Although the action itself brought praise from various consumer advocacy groups, passenger rail supporters and government officials, they were at the same time highly critical of the lack of communication and information provided by DB to the travelers during the period. A spokesman from “Pro Bahn” a Germany based rail transit advocacy group similar to NARP in the USA stated: “We are totally dismayed with the lack of news and information Deutsche Bahn provided to train travelers during the storm. There is no excuse for the lack of information about the planned shut down of the nation's rail system on the day of the storm. Thousands of travelers were not allowed to know what was happening or when it was planned to begin to move trains again.” There were also numerous reports that a hotline which was set up by DB to provide information to rail travelers during the crisis was mostly unavailable or busy during the storm.

Amtrak recently fired several senior managers for reasons that the latest print edition of Trains gives as related to the carrier's poor performance during the December snowstorm in the Midwest. Whether that will encourage the others remains to be seen. Details from Germany will be provided when I find them.
I SUPPOSE IT'S TO BE EXPECTED. Students at Indiana University petitioned to cancel class the Monday after the Super Bowl, and a few Northern Illinois students thought it wouldn't hurt to ask.

According to NIU Vice Provost Earl Seaver, there are no plans to cancel classes on the day after the Super Bowl, despite the student petition that originated on Facebook.

The group hosting the petition was created on the online networking Web site last week by freshman English major John Talarico,, urging students to join an effort to get the university's attention with hopes they would cancel classes the day after the Super Bowl.

"I have already heard that a lot of students will not be attending class on Monday due to being out of town, with some even going to the game in Miami," Talarico said. "Having the extra day off would be ideal."

When asked about student petitions, Seaver said, "The university has no such provision, as far as I know, in our bylaws regarding petitions."

The original idea for the group came from a student at Indiana University in Bloomington. According to the group, if enough people were able to petition to cancel classes, the university would look into it. But when asked about the situation, Damon Sims, Indiana University's associate vice president for Student Affairs, shot down the rumor.

"The university has no formal policy about petitions because they are not part of formal decision-making processes," Sims said.

Unofficial requests to accommodate attendance at Tuesday night football are another matter.

On the Sunday of the game, however, much of the campus will be standing down. I have learned of shorter hours at the libraries and of the closing of the afternoon open swim session.

Blue and orange remain the theme until Monday morning.
YOU, TOO, ARE MORTAL.

Cue the closing meditation from Patton.

Here's University Diaries on the joys of teaching.

Because you really put yourself out there, and because a bad class session can end with your feeling both aggrieved and exhausted, teaching is humbling. From humbling it can tumble down to humiliating.

The larger your self-importance -- university professors are notorious for a certain anxious, unsteady self-regard -- the more you're liable to hate teaching. The professional world venerates you. The pishers in Room 12 C think you bite the big one. MacArthur says you're a genius. Miss Nose Ring blows you off as a jerk...

Miss Nose ring will live, in an absolute sense, better than the mightiest Caesar. In a relative sense, she might do no better than the slave on the chariot. Her role, however, is as vital.

30.1.07

COME OFF IT. The dean at Anonymous Community contemplates the difficulty of writing a letter for a female colleague in such a way as to make her appear motivated and responsible without sending what might be code words for "strident" or "ball-busting." (The post says more than it knows about the lack of a publishing hierarchy in his field: if my reference letter says "Colleague XX's proof in Journal of Economic Theory is a result that scholars have not completely exploited and she is at work on an even better extension" the message is clear to any economics search committee.)

His post, however, is topic drift from yet another lament by yet another semi-anonymous humanities type.
Women faculty will often have stricter policies on attendance, when assignments are due, when a student can have access to her (i.e. email policies or strictly observed office hours), strictly observed caps on course enrollment, and very carefully worked out grading rubrics. If you put the syllabi of women faculty next to men's, the women's will be longer, more detailed, and probably include a great many pages devoted to policies and procedures. Maybe you haven't noticed this. Or, maybe you have and thought the women were far more uptight than their male counterparts.
There is a simpler explanation: the course outline metastasizes into a document slightly shorter than the Consolidated Code of Operating Rules that Margaret Soltan at University Diaries refers to as the Syllabum Omnium at the urging of numerous functionaries within the university seeking the proper legal butt-covering or publicizing their support services or simply anticipating all the tricks that students will attempt.
What many people don't notice, including the colleagues of women faculty who are young and untenured (although tenure doesn't always solve the problem), is that these same women are physically and emotionally exhausted most of the time. Women faculty spend many more hours, on average, prepping for their classes. They also have to spend a great deal of time handling complaints from students that male faculty cannot even fathom. Why do women faculty have such strict policies? Why do they have grading rubrics that spell out with painstaking detail how they graded your work? Because women faculty get challenged on everything. Why do they spend hours prepping? Because if a woman walks into the classroom and doesn't appear to be an expert, which is proven by total mastery of the subject matter, the students will challenge her all semester.
I'd like to see some systematic evidence on the incidence of goldbricking in classes taught by females compared to the incidence in classes taught by males, and there is probably enough public information available to put in all sorts of dummy variables to naively "control" for age, skin color, or accent as confounding factors.

Some realities: First, when a student challenges a professor, it's business, not personal. Part of personal development is learning where the limits are and whether or not they are credible. One simply has to learn to say "no" very pleasantly and stick to it. (I don't get paid to prepare my notes, I don't even get paid to check the marginal conditions in my research. I get paid to say no and to enforce standards.) Second, some people -- not always college students -- confuse kindness with weakness. Bromides, like everything else, emerge in response to realities. That is true of "give him an inch." Third (and I'm laboring the obvious), what is a nonexpert doing in a classroom?

The post's concluding paragraph is a call for further commentary.
Teaching is one of the best jobs out there, but if teachers aren't properly supported by colleagues and administration, it can become one of the hardest, most draining jobs around.
No kidding. Here are three ways (I suspect there are more) that things can go wrong.

First, from time to time I have picked up on discussions of classroom incivility. That's not a problem limited to female faculty, it's the predictable consequence of years of treating "transgressiveness" as a virtue. Fortunately, there are some corrections in sight. Second, the academy's use of graduate assistants and freeway flyers for introductory courses sends the wrong message. The post speaks of office hour policies. How many students are taking classes from temps who have no office hours because they have no office? And what authority does such a surrogate professor have? (To repeat some pet themes of mine, one reason the military is more effective at developing troops is that the boot's introduction to the service is a senior noncom. The cub dispatcher who has tied up the railroad for the third time in a week has a conversation with a crusty general superintendent of transportation along the lines of "let's discuss a different career.") Third, the access-assessment-remediation-retention model of higher education impedes such correctives. A struggling source of tuition revenues student becomes somebody to be placated rather than somebody to be encouraged to face reality. A commenter on the lament recognizes the problem.

And the worst of it is, I think that as we add more"teaching support" services on university campuses, we get more and more like 3rd grade teachers. That is: "support" means that we learn how to build ever longer syllabi, rubrics, details, feed-back that "protect" us up front (but they don't really, because it just leads to increased demands).

Worst of all, from a pedagogical perspsective, it does not move the students toward greater independence of thought, or capacity to self-discipline. I'd say that all these efforts to be more inclusive and meet the "needs" (an implicit rights based imperative) of all these students actually does them a great disservice and violates their actual right to development of their autonomy (by preventing it for ever longer periods of time through strucutred dependence built into rubrics, syllabi, etc).

To repeat another of my pet questions: why are we letting the College of Education call the shots on curricular matters?
IS THIS THE LESSON WE'RE SUPPOSED TO LEARN? Northern Illinois employees get a dirty do-over for completing ethics training too fast.

Eric Castellucci was one of several student employees who avoided ethics training repercussions.

Of the 8,400 NIU employees who completed online ethics training last fall, more than 600 people have been issued a packet in response to completing ethics training in 10 minutes or less, said Deborah Haliczer, director of Employee Relations and Ethics Training administrator in Human Resources.

Castellucci, a sophomore marketing major and student manager at Pizza Plus, said he was told by other students to use the suggested 30-minute completion time when taking the online test.

"A lot of people just went on Facebook, or did whatever they could to kill time," he said. "We all just thought it was a blank threat to make sure you completed it."

Let me see if I understand this. It's wrong to treat the training as something to blitz through in 10 minutes, but it's right to multi-task a little so as to stretch the time logged on to a more satisfactory 30 or 60 minutes?
TO REMEMBER. Cold Spring Shops notes the passing of three giants of ferroequinology.

Bruce J. Walthers turned a small Milwaukee manufacturer of primarily O Scale kits into one of the largest hobby supply companies.
He was born in 1919 in Plymouth, Wis., and was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He served in the Navy during World War II as a meteorologist on Kwajelein Atoll in the South Pacific.
The company is mostly out of O Scale now, but for the flea-gaugers it's probably still true that "your dealer can get it from Walthers."

Bill Janssen hired out with Illinois Terminal and later made "The Joes and the Sputniks" possible.
After serving in World War II, he worked as a motorman on Chicago streetcars, the first of three or four stints with the Chicago Transit Authority. In the 1950s, he joined the Milwaukee Road, where he developed the control system to allow electric and diesel-electric locomotives to run in multiple. Janssen was in charge of the North Shore Line's substations from 1960 until the road shut down in 1963. He worked for the South Shore Line 1967-1973 as assistant superintendent, mechanical. Among other transit-related jobs, Janssen inspected rolling stock built in Japan for Philadelphia's SEPTA.
His Roaring Twenties and Depression era traction photographs are part of the Krambles-Peterson archives.

Senator George Smathers saw the wisdom of a balanced regulatory policy for transportation.
In 1969 Smathers retired from the U.S. Senate and took the reins at a new organization, America's Sound Transportation Review Organization (ASTRO). Under his direction, ASTRO conducted a comprehensive analysis of the regulatory laws surrounding railroads and impact of taxpayer-subsidized competition on the industry. The resulting report laid out a program for restoring the health of the railroad industry, including a substantial amount of deregulation. Many of those recommendations were finally enacted when the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 became law.
The Interstate Commerce Commission still serves as a canonical example of what philosopher-kings can get wrong.

28.1.07

A GLOBAL WARMING THEME, AN ICE AGE PASTIME. For the past 20 years, there has been an Illinois snow sculpting competition in Rockford's Sinissippi Park. I had never viewed these efforts, but today seemed like a good day to check out the works.

There was some worry about getting this show under way. Last year, it was postponed for a week. This year, in early December it appeared as though there would be plenty of snow, but that all melted by Christmas, and from mid-December to mid-January, there was a near record warm spell. Just before classes resumed, a cold snap came, which shows no sign of letting up anytime soon, and enough snow fell at the Rockford airport to provide raw materials for this year's contest.

But one polar bear is contemplating longer summers.


The park is on some hills that form the Rock River Valley north of downtown Rockford. Some of the park buildings look intriguing.


Contestants have a 12 foot high block of snow to use for their efforts. They are supposed to prepare a concept sketch. It is not required that the sculpture make contiguous use of the block although the mouse in the foreground had to be cut out of the block.


There's a separate division for high schoolers. A tall block of snow well might work for carving out some office towers.


Visual puns based on winter themes are in order.


I did a bit of radio surfing and came up with WEKZ out of Monroe, Wisconsin playing oom-pah music on AM 1260, including something called "Roller Coaster Polka" performed by Peter and Paul, perhaps out of New Ulm, Minnesota.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CHARITY. On occasion, the Lady Huskies hold a fund-raiser in which the team shoots free throws and donors base their contributions on the free throws the sponsored player makes out of 100. The team is among the national leaders in free throw percentage, and that ability helps in difficult situations.
“I thought that Northern Illinois won the game on the foul line today,” said [Buffalo Sabres] head coach Linda Hill-MacDonald. “I have to give credit to them because I thought they did a nice job taking advantage of penetration and going hard to the offensive boards and causing us to foul. We have to do a better job boxing out because today it killed us and you can win a game on the foul line.”
Or, if the opposing coach gets the message, get the game finished faster. The strategy of fouling to get the ball back, which prolongs the final two minutes of far too many games, is not effective if the other team is making its free throws. Buffalo have a team that has many of its games by small margins, somewhat like Northern Illinois a year ago.

Elsewhere, Badgerball returns with an emulation of the football team, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal unanswered to end the first half.
SOME LOSS. We generally leave the war commentary to others, but this Strategy Page evaluation of the liberation of Iraq warrants notice. There are ten points in all.

4-Overthrowing Saddam Only Helped Iran. Of course, and this was supposed to make Iran more approachable and open to negotiations. With the Iraqi "threat" gone, it was believed that Iran might lose its radical ways and behave. Iran got worse as a supporter of terrorism and developer of WMD. Irans clerical dictatorship did not want a democracy next door. The ancient struggle between the Iranians and Arabs was brought to the surface, and the UN became more active in dealing with problems caused by pro-terrorist government of Iran. As a result of this, the Iranian police state has faced more internal dissent. From inside Iran, Iraq does not look like an Iranian victory.

5-The Invasion Was a Failure. Saddam's police state was overthrown and a democracy established, which was the objective of the operation. Peace did not ensue because Saddam's supporters, the Sunni Arab minority, were not willing to deal with majority rule, and war crimes trials. A terror campaign followed. Few expected the Sunni Arabs to be so stupid. There's a lesson to be learned there.

Via Insta Pundit.
A BASKETBALL RECRUITING SCANDAL. In college, that's old news. In high school, it's not unheard of, but it is news.

Pius [XI High School] is again the talk of Milwaukee's basketball community. This time, though, it is for controversy surrounding some new faces in the boys program.

The private Catholic school that sits at the intersection of 76th and Stevenson has drawn ire for the six student-athletes who transferred in before the school year. The group was headlined by one of the nation's most praised players, Korie Lucious.

People outside of Pius, and many within the school's circle, believe the transfers were done illegally and unethically. High school basketball message boards called the program "cheats," and the overall theme of many of the posts was that "there's something obviously very fishy" going on at Pius.

Years ago, the ability of the religious high schools to recruit and to offer tuition assistance tantamount to athletic scholarships was a sore point with coaches and athletic directors in the public schools. In those days, they had to make do with whoever lived in the neighborhood. I understand that there is now statewide open enrollment, and it is not unknown for students to register at public high schools that are known for their sports programs. There remain, however, limits on financial aid for public school students.

Ultimately, will the transfers to Pius have any effect on the basketball team's standing? There is now one state tournament combining similar-sized public and private high schools in several divisions, rather than the two previously run for the government schools and for the "independent" schools. Milwaukee, Madison, and Janesville teams continue to fare well in the combined tournaments.
I KNOW IT'S NOT POLITE TO SAY "STRIDENT." Sometimes, however, that's the right adjective.

"Thank you all," she yells in that harsh tone her voice gets when she's going for volume. "Well," she says, now properly modulated and holding her hands out, palms up. "I'm Hillary Clinton." She leans forward and laughs, like it's a big joke that she actually is Hillary Clinton. The crowd laughs, either because they get the "joke" or they actually are jazzed up at the experience of witnessing the grand personage in the flesh.

"I'm running for President, and I'm in it to win it." Has she been going around saying "I'm in it to win it"? This sounds clever for half a second, and then you get distracted thinking about what other possible reasons might lead a person to run for President.

The House and Senate elected in November took their offices and already it's all Iowa and New Hampshire, all the time. Bleah.
TO REMEMBER MILTON FRIEDMAN. Monday, 29 January 2007 is Milton Friedman Day. Virginia Postrel has a few details and links to some tributes.

27.1.07

USING THAT PHOTO PERMIT. The Midvale Maritime Steel blast furnace is operating. Safety first!

On the high line, the State of Maine Northern pulled the empty hoppers we saw last week, to deliver more coke and iron ore. The buggy goes in such that it will be properly placed when the empties depart.


At the plant level, a bottle car of iron is bound for the open hearth shop. The car is from the MTH line, modified for two-rail scale operations. I have a few more that will also be dirtied up in proper steel-mill fashion.


The plant switcher is Rivarossi's model of the Prussian BR80 shifter, dirtied up to run as a U.S. industrial locomotive. (There's a Lima 4F that might receive similar treatment.)


Now that the hot metal has been delivered to the open hearth shop, the crew has to pull the slag cars (also by MTH; these started as Chicago and North Western (!) cars) and move that gon of fines to the sinter plant.
OOPS. Influencing policy isn't as easy as it looks.

We tried for years - decades - to get them to listen to us about climate change ... But now they are listening. Now they do believe us. Now they say they're ready to take action. And now we're wondering if we didn't create a monster. We're wondering if they realize how uncertain our projections of future climate are. We wonder if we've oversold the science.

... I think some people feel that we've created a monster by limiting the ability of people in our community to question results that say "climate change is right here!" ... Many of us are downplaying uncertainties for fear of not being listened to.

... Dealing with uncertainty is exactly what Congresspeople do, and they do it a lot better than we do ... For politicians and unelected decision-makers, uncertainty is life-or-death, yet decisions must still be made. [must they?] Politicians constantly make decisions amid levels of uncertainty that would stifle the publication of any academic climate change paper. We need to realize that, give the politicians their due, and get the hell out of their way.

Voluntary Xchange, who provided the link, adds,

Oh gosh ... now there's more reason than ever to make sure that economics is a GenEd requirement.

Here we have a well-informed, reasonable and influential climatologist who has an engineer's view of the public policy process. He lives by garbage-in-garbage-out and thinks the inverse has to hold: so the key to outputting good public policy is to input good (climate) science. And yet the whole point of why public choice is so influential is that it provides a reasonable explanation of why you don't have to put garbage in (to democratic decision-making processes) to get garbage out.

Y'all know I'm moderately convinced of global warming, and completely unconvinced of its anthropogenic causes ... but that isn't the point here.

Read the rest.
MERCANTILISM STRIKES? Minnesota's legislators fear they're losing money on the tuition reciprocity agreement with Wisconsin, under which Wisconsin residents get to attend Minnesota public universities at Wisconsin rates, which are lower than Minnesota's. (Is that confusing enough?) (Via SCSU Scholars.)
QUOTE OF THE DAY. The dean at Anonymous Community struggles with the Popularity Penalty.
Professors who become popular with the students find their sections perennially full, which increases their grading load. Professors whom students avoid like a bad smell wind up with fewer students, and therefore lighter grading loads, for the same salary.
Institutional arrangements such as union contracts and tenure, which are not without equivalents elsewhere in civil service and the private sector, inhibit his ability to reward the productive and sanction the shirking.
From an administrative point of view, the popularity penalty is hard to address. I like to hear that students like their classes, and the soulless bean-counter in me can do the math well enough to realize that the books balance better when the classes are full. That said, there's something perverse about the better teachers having to do more work for free, and the dregs getting a free ride.
It's difficult to design an incentive-compatible pay-for-performance algorithm. One could use the eight-week enrollment counts as one dimension of merit money, but then there's the temptation to be undemanding in the first eight weeks. Or one could use consistent low enrollments relative to other sections as evidence of ineffective teaching, but that's going to be harder to implement the more esoteric the section offerings are.

The Quote, however, is in the comments.
I am pissed off in practice I feel like I'm being punished for being good at what I do. No, it's not my job to worry about what's happening with Prof. X, and I try not to do so, but after a while, it begins to feel like one is being used, and that makes it really hard to be an effective teacher.
Immediately below is a response that captures the dilemma.
The catch, of course, is that it can be difficult to differentiate between the instructors who are popular because they're good, and those who are popular because they're ridiculously easy.
There might be ways of identifying Mickey's producers, but those would require somebody to do hard analysis of messy facts.

25.1.07

A LITTLE RAILROAD VIEWING. Book reviews will resume in the near future. For now, some quick observations on National Geographic Channel's Inside Grand Central, a recent DVD purchase. Some of the business history is wrong, and the use of stock footage from the London and North Eastern and the Boston and Maine at North Station distracts, as does the use of steam action shots and an Acela bound for Penn Station in the discussion of the electrification. On the other hand, the reporting on the complete rehabilitation of the world's greatest passenger terminal, complete with time-lapse photography of the cleaning is instructive, and I wasn't aware that some of President Roosevelt's secret train is still stabled at the Waldorf-Astoria platform. I was also pleased to see that Metro-North's Dan Brucker, who showed a group of O Scalers through some of the high-security areas before September 11, is still showing guests behind the scenes. There really is a power house that looks like it might have been the Penguin's lair underneath the headhouse, and the power desk and dispatchers' offices are impressive. And it now looks like some Long Island Rail Road trains will be terminating at new platforms east of the existing lower level loop tracks. There are also plenty of vintage shots of the terminal during the glamour years of the Twentieth Century Limited, as well as footage of the ETTS era. The terminal serves well as omnium-gatherum for commuters, and check out the shots of those trains arriving and the invading hordes charging up the ramps!
GOING FAR AWAY FOR COLLEGE? College Affordability's Bryan O'Keefe picks up an intriguing story.
Marketplace has a very interesting story about another possible alternative to paying $44,000 a year for American higher ed: studying abroad at a prestigious school for a fraction of the costs. As the story points out, the cost of a year at Oxford is only $10,000, which is considerably less expensive than Harvard and Yale and even less expensive than many second rate and third rate colleges.
That's the phenomenon we refer to as "bypass."
SOMEONE ELSE IS UNDERWHELMED. Charles Featherstone visits some of the war memorials in Washington, D. C. and offers this impression of the new World War II memorial.
It's gray marble and concrete combined with already-weathered bronze make this memorial look like something Albert Speer would have designed to celebrate Nazi Germany's final victory against the decadent West and Bolshevik Russia. The wreaths each look like they'd easily fit a swastika, and I cannot get images of harsher-looking eagles with much straighter lines hanging over each entryway. This is not so much a memorial to World War Two as it a memorial to the American version of National Socialism, of state supremacy, of rule by rightly guided elites, of global conquest and domination. Much like the Temple of Father Abraham, this memorial is designed to awe and overwhelm anyone who visits – "this is the state, and it means everything. You mean nothing."
I'm not sure about the parallels in the concluding sentences, but I do remember writing this.

Image from Alphecca.
MEASURING INPUTS, NOT OUTPUTS. The state's ethics board doesn't like people rushing through their online ethics training.

"The state feels that if you take the test too quickly you must have cheated, which apparently must be unethical," Paul Stoddard, president of the Faculty Senate, said.

NIU President John Peters said 10 percent of employees across the state failed to pass the state exam, even though most answered all the questions correctly.

Peters said the discrepancy occurs when the employee finishes the test in less than 10 minutes.

As King noted when fast test-takers got flagged at Southern Illinois, this is ethics, not rocket science.
DO I REALLY WANT TO KNOW? What's the purpose of the trailer-hitch scrotum? There's a larger version for vehicles with the ground clearance of a G.I. deuce-and-a-half, complete with a comment page for customers and others. It is possible to over-analyze.

On my drive to school a few days ago, while I was stopped at a red light, behind a Chevy pick-up, I saw something I didn’t understand. A pair of anatomically correct, flesh colored plastic testicles dangled below the truck’s Missouri license plate. Was this what the state legislator had in mind when they adopted the official nickname, “The Showme State?” As the bull-sized balls swung back and forth to the rhythm of the trucks idling motor, I wondered why anyone would accessorize their truck in this way.

So I asked my freshman composition class. The women had the usual short-guy-fast-car theories. Interestingly, all of their adjectives— redneck, low-life, hillbilly, hoosier —placed the proud owner of “truck nuts” on society’s lowest rung. During this discussion, all the men in class remained silent, apparently worried that merely having similar accoutrements tainted them. The women also pondered driving around with a set of cabbage-size hooters on the hood of their cars. Finally, they decided, who needs it.

Or to grouse.
What seems to me most culturally significant about the truck scrotum is the way it imposes crudeness; it forces before others' eyes a representation of a body part once so personal that a synonym is "privates." Unlike the schoolboys all those years ago, who at least made the effort to disguise their naughtiness with wordplay, someone equipping his vehicle with genitals is provoking without artifice or deniability.
Or to muse, or to speculate.

24.1.07

THE WRONG KIND OF CAPACITY. Discouraging news from Florida, via Phi Beta Cons.

Jolting the foundations of 11 Florida universities is a consultant's master plan looking ahead to 2030.

It suggests creating bachelor's degrees-only institutions - out of an existing university, community or private college or from the ground up - to counter Florida's low ranking of 43rd in the nation in adults ages 18 to 44 with four-year degrees.

As if further investment in access-assessment-remediation-retention is going to help Floridians or expand the share of knowledge workers in gross state product. But that appears to be exactly what this consultant has in mind.

For Florida State University, one potential fallout is the idea of limiting the number of expensive research universities supported by the state.

FSU is in the midst of striving to enhance its research reputation in order to be invited into the elite Association of American Universities. Yet if fewer research-level universities are funded, that sets FSU up for more competition with places such as University of Central Florida, University of South Florida and Florida Atlantic University, all trying to become research giants like University of Florida.

For Florida A&M University, there may be paranoia about a repeat of when former chancellor Adam Herbert tried to push FAMU to the bottom tier of universities. It may be defending itself against becoming only a bachelor's degree-granting institution, at a time when it wants to raise its research profile.

The report lists FAMU, where 87 percent of students are undergraduates, as one of six universities that "would be natural choices to form the foundation of the new state college system."

And the idea of basing state funding in part on a university's graduation rate could be tough for FAMU, with its six-year graduation rate of 42 percent. FSU's six-year graduation rate is 67.5 percent.

"We hold ourselves to a high standard, and we're going to be treated as all the universities in the state," Austin said of FAMU. "Whatever goals the board may have, we certainly will meet them, because we want to be the best."

What's that line about "he doesn't know the territory?" In an environment where there is excess demand for places at selective universities, which may well reflect a flight from perceived degree mills operating under access-assessment-remediation-retention principles, the creation of additional capacity that looks like a degree mill is unlikely to make good use of tax dollars, and the imposition of the responsibilities of a degree mill on faculty who aspire to more is unlikely to do much for their morale.
THE DAYS OF HIGH SCHOOL-IN-COLLEGE MAY BE NUMBERED. Encouraging news from Washington.

Colleges, like factories, need to work with their “supplier community” to improve the quality of the raw materials they end up shaping, a business leader told a group of about 120 college leaders and state policy makers gathered in Washington Monday for a summit on higher education’s role in improving America’s high schools.

“You want products to come to your factory that are suitable,” Craig Barrett, chairman of the Intel Corporation’s board said in industry speak, pragmatically pointing to a challenge for higher education that so often is couched in more tender terms.

Speakers at Monday’s “Advancing College Readiness” summit outlined the role higher education leaders should play in ensuring that high school graduates learn the right skills and graduate ready for college and the workforce. But some in the audience, while enthusiastic about the premise and willing to work toward it, seemed a bit skeptical about the potential for change within a seemingly intractable system — skeptical, and even a bit cynical.

The first comment at the post has the right idea.

There are steps that can be taken.

1. Gradually migrate existing first-year writing and mathematics, and any remedial instruction, from the universities to the high schools.

2. Give dual credit for the non-remedial courses.

3. Require the universities to certify and prepare the instructors who must hold the same qualifications as today’s first-year writing and math instructors (some of whom are already moonlighting and retired high school teachers.)

4. Require the universities to assess and continuously improve the program.

Many states already have such programs for elite high school students. Gradually expand the programs, and secondary school performance will improve.

The ensuing bull session is worth visiting.
ASK THE KIDS WHO DID THE JOB. They're pleased with what they're seeing.

The former Huskie stars were impressed.

Tammy Hinchee, the top rebounder (1,099) and third-leading scorer (1,921) in NIU history, said the Huskies are better prepared this season.

“It's very noticeable, just look at their record,” Hinchee said of NIU's improvement. “They have more confidence in themselves, [coach Carol Owens] has them prepared better and they know what they're doing out there. I think they've cut their turnovers down and they play better defense.”

Denise Robinson, who Owens called instrumental in her development as a freshman as teammates, said the team executed better and younger players improved since last year.

“I came last year when she first got the job and ooh, they stunk up the place,” Robinson said, laughing. “You can see a difference in the crispness of their game. You can see they have worked hard and the recruits they have brought in have helped. You can see the growth in last year's recruits from their freshman to sophomore year. Obviously they are doing something right, the record says it.”

Foss, the top scorer in Huskie history with 2,500 points, said it is a difficult task to take over a program and win with another coach's players, but Owens has the Huskies believing in her system.

“I think she's done a great job,” said Foss, an NIU season ticket holder. “It takes a little bit of time, but she's done it quick. The record shows she's turned the team around. Coming into a program with players who are not all your kids, then adopting those players as your kids and making them believe in you is a hard thing. I think she's done it. They trust her.”

The alumnae believe this season is just another step toward a return to prominence. Many of the returning alumnae played with Owens when the Huskies were perennial postseason visitors. In Owens' final season, she led the Huskies, along with Foss and Hinchee, to NIU's first NCAA appearances.

“Of course,” Hinchee said when asked if Owens could return NIU to past glory. “She knows how it's done because we did it and she will bring these guys back to the height of the program where it was before, maybe even better.”

Robinson said she believes Owens will need just a couple more seasons to recruit and teach to transform the Huskies into a contender.

There are still setbacks, but as is the case with poor regatta results, these are learning opportunities.
OUR MISSION IS ELIGIBILITY. Inside Higher Ed visits a Minnesota community college that recognizes the Faustian bargain inherent in getting football players eligible to play in Division I.

Hibbing’s administration took a good, hard look at those numbers and drew one obvious conclusion: Although the small college might sacrifice its diversity, and risk a serious hit on its enrollment figures, academics are paramount and football has got to go – at least for awhile. “We’re concerned that the players aren’t benefiting by being here, that academics isn’t a priority,” said Simberg, who explained that the administration has recommended a suspension and expects to make a final decision by next week. Two forums on the subject — one announcing the deliberations to faculty, and another seeking public input — were held last Tuesday and Thursday.

But another obvious conclusion that could be drawn is that these football players – largely out-of-state students who lack the grades and scores to get into four-year colleges – come to Hibbing because they see a place to play ball. Given their prior academic records and motivations for coming, their poor classroom performance is not surprising, and arguably for an open-access institution a situation worthy of greater intervention and stricter eligibility standards for athletes, not suspension.

“It sounds like Hibbing is blaming the student athletes for not doing the work as opposed to the system that sounds like it was set up to bring in very marginal students who overwhelmingly require that mediation,” said Richard Lapchick, chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida and director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. Suspending the team, Lapchick said, “seems counterproductive to ever having the possibility of having student athletes.”

Yet, Hibbing’s administration argues that the status quo, with dozens of students coming to the college for love of the game and distaste for the classroom, has got to stop. Students are coming and going ill-prepared, first bound for Hibbing’s classrooms, and then for the world of work, saddled with loans and little academic progress to show for them. And Simberg stressed that the opportunity for these students at Hibbing will always remain – in the academic sphere. “That’s where we want to see the importance placed.”

“I am recommending a suspension because I do think that we need to take the time to look at this from a lot of different angles,” he said. The length, or finality, of a potential suspension hasn’t been determined yet. The program, if suspended, may not ever return, he said. Or it may return, at some undetermined point, fundamentally changed: “What changes can we make where we aren’t in the situation where we are now, that situation being that the majority of the students on our football program are not maintaining satisfactory academic progress according to our policy?”

Kurt Zuidmulder, the head football coach, said that students must complete a total of 24 credits with at least a 2.0 average to return to play sophomore year. Although only 5 of 63 players were sophomores this year, he said that’s a down year for a team with a 37 percent retention rate. “Basically, if you look at why these kids come here, yes they want to play football. . .but for one reason or another, possibly a low ACT score, poor grades, it stopped them from going to a four-year school after high school. I feel as a junior college, it’s our job to give those kids a second chance to get those grades and move on.”

“As recently as last year,” he added, “we had 16 of 18 sophomores that were given scholarship opportunities [to transfer to four-year schools] that they wouldn’t have had if they hadn’t come here.” Without football, he said, most of these students wouldn’t be coming to Hibbing at all, and if football is their carrot, so be it. “I believe that football is the avenue and their motivating factor to get an education. Without this opportunity, I don’t see these kids making it a priority to work on their education,” he said. “If, through the positive efforts of not only the football program, but also the tutors, the counselors, and the advisors. . .if they use those avenues and come out of here with an education, that’s great.”

One wonders how much of an "education" they received (eligibility studies, anyone?) and how much of a major they will receive in the next two or three years.

There's a bit more to the story.

But academics aside, Hibbing’s football team has at times been a controversial presence in small-town Minnesota. When three current players and one former one were arrested in October in connection with the alleged gang rape of an 18-year-old high school senior in a college residence hall, it stirred memories of a town that has at times over the past 15 years been shaken by racial tensions and mistrust, as The Star Tribune reported. Among the incidents reported by the paper are attacks against black athletes, racist threats and suspicions that players were guilty of rape. The out-of-state recruitment has been a source of tension not just at Hibbing, The Star Tribune reported, but also at nearby Mesabi and Vermillion community colleges.

Simberg stressed that the decision to potentially suspend the team is not a result of the alleged October rape. And while Zuidmulder said he doesn’t know if the town’s racial tensions were a factor in setting the stage for the proposed suspension, he thinks the situation needs to be
scrutinized.

Hibbing’s mayor, Rick Wolff, said the mostly white, 16,500-person town will suffer a big setback if the football players stop coming, as about 60 to 70 percent of the town’s diversity comes from the college. “If the football team is suspended, something will be lost,” he said. But ultimately, Wolff respects the administration’s responsibility to safeguard the college’s academics. “First and foremost, I think the college is an academic institution,” he said. “The number one concern that they have to have as administrators of that university is the academic performance of students. It’s supported by tax dollars, and if the people who are attending aren’t getting an adequate education, there’s a problem with it being funded by tax dollars.”

Now, if the players were, oh, participants in an upper-class sport at a rich peoples' university, there'd be an easy solution? Nah.
WE GET CITATIONS. Joanne Jacobs picks up the commentary on the three, now two, freshmen, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has been following through Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She recommends College Puzzle's advice to matriculants so as to avoid some of the difficulties the three encountered.

1) Sooner is better than later. Start college right after high school graduation.

2) Take as many classes per semester as you can handle given other time demands (full-time is best)

3) Part-time attendance (less than 12 credits per semester) at any point proved to be detrimental to the ability of students to complete degrees. But continuous part-time enrollment is less damaging than excessive stop-out periods.

4) Earn at least four credits in the summer.

5) Do not withdraw from or repeat courses unless it is absolutely necessary. No-penalty withdrawals hinder degree completion and may be the principal cause of increased time-to-degree.

6) If you have academic trouble in the first academic year, the second year is crucial because many students recapture their momentum in the second year and complete gateway courses in basic subjects.

The conclusion:

Students are not passively passing through an academic pipeline to college completion. They can be active in creating their own path to college success.
Amen.

Phil Miller's Market Power extends the meditation on scarcity.



A second grader can understand that scarcity need not be conceived of in Malthusian terms.

John Palmer's EclectEcon extends the opportunity cost argument, where the connection between greater visibility in intercollegiate athletics and greater visibility in higher education is concerned.

I realize that some universities claim that having a top-ranked athletic programme will attract better scholars, better students, and more donations for academic programmes. I have yet to see any evidence supporting this argument.

King Banaian, who must have access to my great-grandfather's passport, provides a bit of the evidence.

There may be indirect confirmation of the link Toma and Cross identify in my back yard. The recent successes of Northern Illinois football, at the margin, might be bringing more students to campus (although the population boom in Greater Chicago and the Corn and Cheddar Free Trade Zone must not be discounted.) But without the efforts of a lot of people to hold the line on academic standards and staff development during the years of budget cuts and losing streaks, we'd not be able to serve those additional students well at all.

23.1.07

AN END TO ONE-WAY MULTICULTURALISM? Christopher Hitchens weighs in on America Alone, which I reviewed last year. (Via Milt Rosenberg.)
A WEATHERMAN CONTEMPLATES GLOBAL WARMING. Long-time WTMJ meteorologist Jim Ott retired from the fourth estate to run for public office. He recently responded to an inquiry about global warming.

The mainstream media has played an important role in fostering the idea that global warming is happening, and that it’s due to human activity and that it will get worse. That’s because much of the nation’s media, like the TV networks, are based on the east coast. Whenever there is an unusually warm weather event there, it is a story to them, and they bring in some climatologist or other researcher who believes that global warming is caused by human activity. When the weather on the east coast is cooler than normal, we do not see reports stating that maybe global warming isn’t happening.

Imagine an observer who was present in North America 10,000 years ago as the most recent continental ice sheet was melting. He would have observed the same thing we have observed for the last 20-25 years, but on a much grander scale: a warming climate that spanned hundreds, and probably thousands of years, and the associated melting of the ice.

All of this was happening without the impact of human activity.

(Via Charlie Sykes.)
NOT TRIGGERED BY COALITION TROOPS. Beirut is not garrisoned, but Michael Totten reports there is an insurgency in progress anyway.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. The Northern Star interviews the Director of Judicial Affairs.
Disciplining is a form of education, so let's say this: I like educating students. When I levy sanctions on students, it is to educate them. It is to teach you about academic honesty. In the real world, when you commit a crime, you go to jail. In this world (NIU), you see a man named Larry Bolles. It's all a part of a learning process.
He goes on to note that the most enjoyable part of the job is hearing from students who took their lessons to heart.
KILLING HIS INNER SUBVERSIVE? All-everything counter-terrorist operative Jack Bauer is the son of the West Coast dealer in aftermarket triggers for Soviet-era portable nuclear devices (you mean vacuum tubes aren't required) and brother of the shadowy Council on Foreign Studies type running dog capitalist (with that annoying portable radio on his ear) who was the real power behind disgraced ex-president Nixon Logan. More analysis at Below the Beltway. King Banaian suggests the show has jumped the shark. (Perhaps, but there are four portable devices still awaiting their triggers.)

22.1.07

DIFFICULT LESSONS LEARNED. Last fall, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel started following three freshmen through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (home of the "Milwaukee Panthers," for sports fans.) After one semester, one is making good progress, one is managing the additional freedom and might manage the academics, and one is out. The paper's conclusions: a stronger high school matters, passion for the work matters, compatible friends matter, and the record of student support services is mixed. Universities might not be able to control the high schools their applicants attend, but they can send the message to high schools that the days of high school-in-college, otherwise known as "remediation," are over. They may not be able to control the commitment students have for their work, but essays and test scores might tell admissions offices something about that motivation. The screen for motivated students might have the effect of screening out the party set, making it more likely that freshmen will encounter relatively more motivated classmates.
REDISCOVERING THE PRINCIPLE OF DERIVED DEMAND. Dean Edward Snyder, of Chicago's Graduate School of Business, contemplates the "consumer" model of the MBA program.

Instead of the customer is always right, we ought to go with a version of you get what you put into it. If we do, then the interesting and important question becomes how can we get our students to put more into their MBA educations?

My answer is that we should engage our MBA students with a combination of “stretch and support.”

- We should set high expectations of our students. When they meet them, shine the light and recognize them. When they don’t, kick them in the butt.

- We must care deeply about our students, their experiences, and what they are trying to achieve. This naturally leads schools to support them day-by-day and in truly profound ways.

If we get the right balance of stretch and support, then we move to a more productive equilibrium, in which students put more in (because they feel both challenged and supported) and they get more out of their experience.

They'll also be more likely to land jobs, he notes. (Via Newmark's Door.)
RETHINKING HIGHER EDUCATION. Arnold Kling favors more variety, not less.
Granted, it is better to train people for specific occupations than to have them waste four years earning what I call the "Wizard of Oz" diploma. However, in a dynamic economy, we have to recognize that vocational school is far from a panacea.
He elaborates:

Historically, European and Japanese youth were subjected to very severe tracking. An exam taken in one's early teens would determine whether the person is destined for higher education or for trade school. What [Charles] Murray is suggesting [in his Opinion Journal triptych] strikes me as similar.

Formal tracking is distasteful, for a number of reasons. First, I believe that it is better to have multiple, competing elites than to go the route of having an "upper class" and a "lower class." Disparate elites are more easily penetrated by outsiders, which is important. Disparate elites also provide natural checks and balances. A unified elite would be a frightening proposition.

Second, the American narrative rests on equal opportunity. We know that people are born with advantages and disadvantages, but we like to think that we provide reasonable chances for people to overcome disadvantages and move up the social and economic ladder. Making college accessible to as many people as possible may represent a misguided attempt to err on the side of providing opportunities for upward mobility that are not realistic. However, formal tracking policies err in the other direction, by restricting opportunity. As an American, I see holding someone down with an artificial ceiling as a much more serious offense than extending a futile helping hand that fails to lift someone up.

Let's leave for another day the implicit message about that "unified elite" of The Nation or The Washington Monthly or Reason announcing to the world the hiring of their latest crop of interns from Harvard, Columbia, and Princeton.
HALAS, LOMBARDI, OUTDOOR FOOTBALL. The Packers' offensive line and secondary would not be any better if some team other than the Bears went to the Super Bowl. A Nightmare for Packers Fans...the Bears Made the Super Bowl.

No nightmare, not here. The Seahawks, coached by Mike "I'm Too Busy Negotiating with Paul Allen to Prepare for the 'Niners" Holmgren? Please. The Saints, better known for their fans' paper bags. A southern team that plays in a dome???? The opposition: the Baltimore Indianapolis Colts, first reassigned to the funny league in the merger, then pioneers of the "Build us a better stadium or we'll leave" hold-up.

Blue and orange are OK at Cold Spring Shops for the next two weeks.
BURYING THE LEAD. Some academic administrator at a place not on our coaches' poll burns a lot of neutrons on "Defining Academic Vision." After much stumbling and mumbling, he concludes with "I remain convinced of my original reply: the best academic vision builds on intellectual curiosity and the impulse to teach."

I wonder who he was trying to convince with the bulk of the column.
CAN WE BUY SOME CLASS SIX TRACK? Destination:Freedom offers particulars on the latest bipartisan Amtrak bill.

The bill enables Amtrak to match state funds for investments in the railroad. At present, Illinois, Missouri, California and eleven other states have funded corridor service that Amtrak otherwise would not provide. California currently contributes $73 million for the Pacific Surfliner and two other trains it runs jointly with Amtrak. Last year, Illinois doubled its annual subsidy to Amtrak to $24 million after several years of rapid growth in ridership on routes connecting Chicago with St. Louis, Carbondale, and Quincy. Missouri paid Amtrak $6.5 million in 2006 to help with service connecting St. Louis and Kansas City, which had 119,000 passengers that year.

States can only do so much without the availability of matching funds for capital improvements, said Jason Tai, director of public and intermodal transportation for the Illinois Department of Transportation. “Unlike other modes of transportation ...highways, transit, even waterways, there is no dedicated substantial funding for rail. It is an unlevel playing field,” he said.

Under the Lautenberg-Lott legislation, states would receive 80 percent federal matching funds for capital projects.

That's not quite as generous as the 90-10 split for Highway Trust Fund capital projects (when Congress authorizes such expenditures rather than sitting on the money to make the deficit look smaller) or the 100% funding in earmarks, but progress.

No mention of whether Amtrak will offer some refresher courses on the proper behavior of crews on delayed trains.
WHY ASPIRANTS DON'T SAY "HECK, YES, I'M RUNNING." This Ron Elving column explains more than many would care to know about presidential exploratory committees and formal announcements of candidacy. Much of that foofaraw is driven by campaign finance "reforms."

And then the candidate's dance of the seven veils has begun.

The next step is another veil -- usually the formation of an exploratory committee to consider formal candidacy. The exploratory committee has been around for decades, and technically it creates a legal shell for a candidate who expects to spend more than $5,000 while contemplating an actual run. Under the rules, exploratory money may be raised without the full disclosure of sources required of true candidates. Only when the candidate drops the exploratory label does the full responsibility of transparency apply.

The balance of the article is similarly instructive.

Must research Duncan Hunter.
MAKING THE COACHES' POLL. Sometimes there's more effort in quantifying what the universities are doing than in doing the universities' business.
According to the Top Research Universities in the 2005 Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index by Academic Analytics, [Northern Illinois] is ranked 17 out of the top 20 small research universities.
The people who are supposed to call attention to good news are doing their work.

While many research facilities attempt to rank universities based on various qualifications, it is difficult to rank a university based on just certain attributes, said Melanie Magara, assistant vice president for public affairs.

"This set of rankings came out of dissatisfaction of the methods of other rankings," Magara said.

Magara also said it is equally difficult to rank a university's productivity.

"How do you judge the productivity of a university?" Magara asked. "It depends on who you ask. What are you asking and who are you asking?"

Despite the difficulty in ranking a university, Magara said that 17 out of 20 of the top 20 small research universities is still an accomplishment.

"It's relative," Magara said. "We're there, as opposed to not being there. Whereas thousands of universities are not there."

The dean of the graduate school aspires, not unjustifiably, to more.

In contrast, Rathindra Bose, the vice president of research and graduate
studies, is disappointed by the ranking.

"[NIU] should be in the bigger classification, not the smaller one," Bose said.

Bose also said that NIU would rank higher if the classifications of universities were more specific.

"If you exclude the medical colleges, I think we would be in the top 100 doctoral colleges," Bose said.

Additionally, Bose said that the scope of faculty productivity should be larger.

"I can name many faculty who are highly productive, but they don't contribute to the graduate program," Bose said.

The productivity of faculty is ranked by the index based on articles and books written, as well as the amount of citations received by each faculty member contributing to a graduate program at the university.

Grrr. One of these days Northern Star editors will learn to distinguish "number" from "amount."

On a happier note, my colleagues understand opportunity costs (unlike some people who ought to know better.)

"Our scholars teach more than at other universities," Magara said.

Magara said that from the student perspective, it is important to acknowledge that studying with real professors as opposed to graduate students allows less time for professors to do research and more time for one-on-one contact between the student and professor.

The topic of discerning NIU's focus was also discussed at the Faculty Senate meeting Wednesday.

"The argument is that we are not going to be U of [Illinois, which ranked 34 out of the top 50 large research universities], we can't be research only and turn over the teaching to our graduate students. That's not us," said Daniel Kempton, associate professor of political science.

Kempton suggested a division of teaching and researching to balance both necessities.

"We can't compete with liberal arts colleges and do only teaching," Kempton said. "We are a place for both research and our students."

A place that continues to be oversubscribed.
[Northern Illinois] listed the fall semester's 10th-day enrollment at 25,313 students, the university's highest enrollment level since 1987, when it listed an enrollment of 25,455, according to the NIU Data Book.
Headquarters understands that there are limits.
[Assistant vice provost of enrollment services Brent] Gage said NIU's goal is to recruit talented students while closely watching enrollment numbers to make sure the university can provide all students with the necessary resources. Gage said consequently, the enrollment numbers may drop so NIU can continue to effectively manage resources.
Resources, by the way, that are circumscribed by the state. Our colleagues at Urbana sometimes demonstrate the mind-set that successes in DeKalb or any of the other state universities reflect poorly on them. That would not be a good mind-set if there were an excess supply of spaces in selective universities. It is particularly troubling under the current conditions of excess demand for such degrees.

20.1.07

ANOTHER GIANT PASSES. Richard A. Musgrave, 1910-2007.

Mr. Musgrave took about 20 years to conceive, write and publish the 1959 work for which he is best known, “The Theory of Public Finance,” an analysis of how governments allocate resources and respond to social needs.

“It still stands unchallenged,” the economic historian Mark Blaug wrote decades later. “Anyone with a question in the theory of public finance can be told even now, ‘it’s all in Musgrave.’ ”

Before Mr. Musgrave’s research, most theoretical work by British and American economists was geared toward understanding the behavior of prices, supply and demand as they interacted with other market forces. Governments played a secondary role, stepping in mainly to fill gaps when the markets failed.

Mr. Musgrave had a different view, his wife said. He saw the government as having an important economic role and developed a theory on the way taxes and other factors interact in areas where goods and services — roads, schools, courts and national defense, for example — were best provided by the government.

I still refer to my well-thumbed Public Finance in Theory and Practice, the undergraduate version by Richard and Peggy Musgrave.

He and Paul Samuelson benefitted by trading ideas.

A case in point: a three-page paper by Samuelson that appeared in a symposium in the Review of Economics and Statistics in 1954 titled "The Pure Theory of Public Expenditure." It began, "Except for Sax, Wicksell, Lindahl, Musgrave and Bowen, economists have rather neglected the theory of optimal public expenditure, spending most of their energy on the theory of taxation."

Whereupon Samuelson proceeded to restate Musgrave's argument as a mathematical model of the overall interdependence between public and private goods – with immediate and explosive results. Overnight, the language of public finance, at least cutting edge public finance, became mathematics.

"Never have three pages had so great an impact on the theory of public finance," Musgrave wrote thirty years later. They spawned a large volume of literature, with many variations on the theme, but the basic model had been set. The conditions of Pareto optimality had been expanded to include public goods and the optimum optimorum based on a social welfare function had been restated accordingly.

"The excitement lay in the moment Samuelson chose to write his paper. It was a little like Babe Ruth pointing deliberately to the wall before his next home run. In the early 1950s, resistance to increasing formalization was widespread.

Resistance was futile. I may not have a copy of The Theory of Public Finance, but I do have several ring-binders full of works from Journal of Economic Theory, Journal of Political Economy, Quarterly Journal of Economics and the like full of the mathematical conditions. (Or as I was teasing our job candidates, "public finance is general equilibrium theory with funny first-order conditions.")

But the proof of the pudding was the mathematical restatement of "The Voluntary Exchange theory of Public Economy" that Samuelson concocted on short notice, based on his "dim remembrance" of a diagram in Musgrave's paper. So obviously superior was the treatment, at least to the mathematically well-versed, that it was a devastating response to Novick's charges.

Musgrave, for his part, was delighted – at least for the most part. He and Samuelson had been close friends for 20 years, ever since they had been graduate students together. Musgrave frequently expressed pleasure in later years at having led Samuelson to the problem that he so successfully solved. Samuelson in turn occasionally mused that perhaps he had cost Musgrave -- or Abram Bergson or John Rawls or some combination – a Nobel Prize.

Then again, Musgrave did periodically permit himself a demurrer.

In Samuelson's famous model, Musgrave would sometimes observe, rather than become bogged down in a morass of intractable game theory, he had simply set aside for some later date the problem of how an efficient solution of the public goods problem might actually be achieved in practice. For the purposes of model-building, Samuelson conveniently assumed the existence of a beneficent social planner who knew everyone's inner-most thoughts. No need for voting mechanisms when you've got a friend like that!

But then there's D. McCloskey's American Question: if you're so smart, why aren't you rich?

Civil servants became bureaucrats. The ways in which interest groups manipulate democratic processes to serve their own ends took center stage.

Which leads directly (and finally!) to Musgrave's second remarkable contribution to 20th century economics. In 1998, Hans-Werner Sinn, the leading economist at the University of Munich, invited Musgrave and his arch-rival in the study of political economy, James Buchanan, father of the relentlessly skeptical study of "public choice," to a carefully organized five-day debate.

The scholars took turns stating their positions. They responded to one another. They took questions from the floor. Then they restated their views more narrowly. The results were published in 1999 as Public Finance and Public Choice: Two Contrasting Visions of the State. [Emphasis and link added - SHK] Their debate was a textbook example of what psychologist Daniel Kahneman recently called "adversarial collaboration." So useful are both lenses for different purposes that it is not easy to form an opinion about who "won."

Marginal Revolution links to excerpts of that debate. I am considering buying the book.
THE CURRENT MESS, AND THE WAY FORWARD. Hammorabi suggests much of the past six years' unpleasantness could have been avoided.
We think that all of what is going on now and the attacks of the 11 September 2001 in NY could not have been happened if the war in Kuwait was avoided or at least if Saddam was toppled after that war and of no doubts that was much easier and better than the present situation. The mistake was that GWB the senior accepted the advise of the Saudis who themselves fed the ideology and strategy of September the 11th attacks and much more and seems to be more to come and may be so soon.
So much for the notion of preserving "regional stability" for its own sake?

The Mesopotamian has had a bad winter, and suggests that some of the present unpleasantness could have been prevented.

Safety of the ordinary people is the key to the safety of the troops and the general security situation, I said. But tragically, so much precious time was lost. I tell you, it would have been easier then and much more difficult now. I don’t say that nothing was done. A lot was done, and it must be admitted that you cannot safeguard the capital without some degree of control of the provinces, and a lot of work was done in the provinces. The situation in the Anbar, for instance, is drastically different today than it was before, and in a positive way. This was due mainly to the struggles of the American forces, after so many trials and tribulations. At long last the Americans are beginning to understand better the psychology and the nature of the people there. And indeed, the situation in Baghdad, in a way is the result of successes there and the influx of [Saddam loyalists, al-Qaeda operatives, and general delinquents] into the capital after having been driven out of the Anbar.

Yet there is this new American strategy, and the new security plan. We have to admit that for the ordinary people of Baghdad such announcements have lost much of their credibility due to successive failure of previously much trumpeted similar attempts. Nevertheless, deep down, there is a faint hope that something different might be achieved this time. And, you know, nothing succeeds like success. Any kind of appreciable change in the dismal situation will have a huge uplifting effect. If security in Baghdad can be restored to some bearable level, and if basic services, i.e. electricity, water, garbage collection etc. can be improved to something less absurd than the present levels; then this will have a tremendous effect completely out of proportion with the actual size of the achievement.

Best wishes to coalition and Iraqi troops and to Iraqi civilian authority. Are there any sewer Socialists in Baghdad?
HOW OFTEN DOES THE WEAK PLAYER DEVELOP A STRONG POSITION AGAINST A GRANDMASTER? And how often does the grandmaster go on to win?
SOCIALIZATION. The common schools used to inculcate the habits of the middle class (before "bourgeois" became a put-down.) Perhaps the common schools will rediscover this part of their mission.

Motivated by a declining sense of values in a society in which people are more likely to curse and less likely to offer their seat on the bus, schools in Wisconsin and across the country are turning the teaching of character into a formal part of the curriculum.

"I think that society has recognized that our young people - and not just the young people - have lost sight of what it means to be civil, of what it means to be polite," [Jefferson (Wisc.) school superintendent Michael] Swartz said.

Although some behaviors are evolutionarily stable and others are not, they have to be learned.

The growing consensus is that children are less likely than ever to absorb basic values more naturally - in the home, on the streets or in church.

"It doesn't always just happen," said Henry Tyson, the principal of St. Marcus [Lutheran School in Milwaukee]. "It has to be taught."

And the Habits of Effective People might be more useful to the students than, say, the times-twelve tables (although elementary teachers really ought to be more conversant with Steve Karlson's rapid calculation tricks!)

While some may criticize such lessons for straying from a school's academic mission, Marvin Berkowitz, a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, notes that there's increasing evidence that when character education is done well, test scores can rise. He points to a study done between 1999 and 2002 at several dozen California elementary schools that found that schools that established stronger character education programs also showed greater test score gains.

Berkowitz attributes the rising interest in the last five years not only to a decline in civility, but also to increasing federal support for the programs. He's reluctant to publicize results showing rising test scores, though, out of fear that school officials may turn to character education as a quick fix.

The research isn't limited to the assessors. Chicago's James Heckman has been doing a lot of work of late on the role of noncognitive skills in human capital development.
MINNESOTA = NORWAY? Ya, py yumpin' yiminy, but not in de vay ya t'aught it vas.

19.1.07

PLAY VALUE. Every once in a while, one has to play with trains.

Thus, a Riverside line Suburban Tank winds up on Boston's North Shore hauling a boxcar I bought after the World Trade Center atrocity.


The ship's chandler receives a consignment of supplies. In the background is the blast furnace. I have an application pending for a photo permit on mill property.


A banana boat is due, and cars are being positioned for quick loading and shipment.

Just-in-time logistics sounds like contemporary business wisdom, but the railroads and the fruit packers were doing it early in the twentieth century. The real artistry took place at the docks: some green bananas were closer to turning yellow than others. Those would be loaded onto cars for the short destinations. The ones destined farther away (the Illinois Central, for example, would load at New Orleans for Dubuque or Omaha or Albert Lea) would ripen in transit.
MAYBE I SHOULD HOIST A SPRECHER. What's this loose talk about Christmas closure being a paid vacation for academicians? First, a weekend at the Embassy Suites chatting with potential future colleagues. Then some extended sessions with red pen and scratch pad fixing up a paper. (I have learned how to code in Scientific Word and how to convert documents to .pdf and assemble .pdf documents, but composing at the keyboard is for Mozart.) The assembled document went off for review today. Tomorrow I tackle some really messy Lagrangians.
MORE ON ECONOMIC INTEGRATION. A faster commute to Chicago might keep middle-and upper-middle income Milwaukeeans in state.
The Milwaukee area faces a stagnating economic outlook but can improve its fortunes by creating closer ties with Chicago, including a new commuter rail service, an executive told area real estate and financing professionals on Thursday.
That Cheddar Curtain free trade zone looks more and more promising. Wait a minute, the United States are already a free trade zone...

There's still enthusiasm for the Milwaukee Racine and Kenosha suburban train.
A commuter rail link from Milwaukee to Chicago - with stops at communities between both cities - would make it easier for professionals to live in southeastern Wisconsin and work in either or both cities, supporters say. That would greatly improve the region's ability to recruit such employees, and effectively create one large labor market between Milwaukee and Chicago.
That enthusiasm, however, is contingent on somebody else paying for it.

Congress has authorized $80 million for construction, and fares would bring in $3.8 million a year to help cover operating costs, the study says. Officials hope to get additional federal and state funds.

But the 33-mile extension cannot move forward without a local funding source, which would need approval from the state Legislature. A proposed sales tax for Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties, amounting to 5 cents on each $100 purchase, failed to gain enough support at a Jan. 9 meeting of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority.

The project becomes somewhat more urgent, as Interstate 94 is to be rebuilt under traffic. Evidently new interstate highways are something else nobody's interested in paying for.
Authority members are trying to meet a June deadline to apply for federal aid. issing the deadline would prevent completion of the rail line by 2010, in time to provide an alternative during the main phase of work on rebuilding I-94 between Milwaukee and the Illinois state line. The authority's next meeting is set for Jan. 30.
New highway construction has advantages and disadvantages. In the early 1960s we didn't have to put up with summer construction delays because the interstates were being built on entirely new alignments. On the other hand, new construction doesn't really alleviate congestion: perhaps we get back to the "rush hour" instead of the "rush evening." There's a book review coming on that topic.