28.2.07

SUBADDITIVITY. Psycmeistr sees his gas company raising prices because people are conserving.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but if demand for a product goes down, shouldn't prices go down along with demand? Not only that, but if they're selling and producing less product, wouldn't their overhead to extract and transport same decrease, as well?
He tosses it over to King Banaian, who offers a first approximation at resolution.

Those utilities were encouraged to expand energy production. An unregulated monopolist makes money by lowering the amount of goods and services it provides and thus pushing up the price of its product (for instance, newer sports facilities often have fewer seats than those they replace.) That is what maximizes profits -- lower quantity, higher prices. Regulators hold prices down and encourage the monopolist to provide more. But because of environmental concerns, we've pushed energy distributors in the opposite direction.

In return for submitting to regulation, energy producers are guaranteed that the physical plant they build will receive a normal rate of return. Again, when the goal was to get them to produce more energy, we would do this by permitting some small passthrough of the costs of construction to rates. But not too much, because we want access to electricity and heat for all. But now because of conservation measures the access problem can be solved with less physical plant than was there before. "So shut the inefficient, dirty producing facilities down!" you might say. But the regulator promised them a fair return on the investment, and that may mean the old plant has to stay open longer.

What he's just identified is the stranded asset problem (.pdf), in which capacity built with the expectation of continued expansion in a regulated environment has little or no going concern value in a deregulated environment with policies that encourage conservation.

There's a further problem, which is that the regulated monopolists often operate under conditions of natural monopoly. Thus the title of the post. Economies of large scale are sufficient but not necessary for subadditivity, and subadditivity is sufficient for natural monopoly (which might have to be regulated unless some rigorous regularity conditions hold.) This site is more accessible to readers less well versed in theoretical industrial organization although it has some major errors. There's a proper theoretical treatment here (.pdf) that requires a good background in math.

Psycmeistr's problem is worsened under subadditivity. Suppose people buy less natural gas, such that the output under conservation Q1 is less than the previous output Q2. It then follows that Q2 = Q1 + Qd. Under subadditivity, the cost of producing Q2 in a single firm, C(Q2) is less than the cost of producing Q2 in two firms,including the partition C(Q1) + C(Qd). If we stipulate further that the subadditivity is a consequence of increasing returns to scale, C(Q1)/Q1 > C(Q2)/Q2, and the gas rates have to increase to reflect the higher cost per unit that accompanies the smaller output. (In practice, the "overhead" to transport and distribute gets allocated to fewer cubic feet of gas.)
LOSING THE GOOD OF THE INTELLECT. Perhaps the Southern Illinois University looking-glass lawsuit in which two professors are asserting it is unethical to make them sign a confession that they were unethical when the ethics training site authorized a certificate of completion that they obtained too quickly is a sign of a deeper malaise. An Inside Higher Ed column approximates a Fisking of the Daily Egyptian's criticism of the professors who correctly stayed away.
The attitude that education is, when you get right down to it, one more service industry.... this does not warm the academic heart, somehow. About 10 percent of faculty and staff actually showed up.
That "service industry" attitude contributes to higher education's failing its market tests, as regular readers understand. The column focuses on a clash of values.
But the editorial is also interesting for how it mimics management-speak. A motivational speaker provides “valuable information ... to improve the quality of the university’s product.” Not a hint of skepticism about the corporate rhetoric. No questioning at all of the idea that learning to answer the telephone in a pleasing manner will contribute to the manufacture of skilled and well-informed students.
(Need I note that one doesn't require a motivational speaker to develop a properly firm persona that does not start a class with AWRIGHT, MAGGOTS!)

More importantly, the motivation fad has numerous failures of market tests on its permanent record.

“For much of the eighties and nineties,” writes [Jonathan] Black, “the motivation business was all about making it, self-propulsion, getting rich quick. Athletic coaches ruled, because winning wasn’t everything – it was the only thing. The lecture circuit starred corporate titans like Malcolm Forbes, Lee Iacocca, and Ted Turner.” The ethos of this period was summed up by a pace-setting speaker named Zig Ziglar (something like the Stanley Fish of the motivation world) when he titled one of his books See You at the Top.

Around the turn of the century, though, something happened — several things, in fact. The tech bubble burst. Dubious business practices eroded corporate prestige. Murderous fanatics showed that globalization would not be all about getting and spending in peace and comfort. The old motivational messages started sounding hollow, and the market took a hit.

You'd think the folks in charge at Southern Illinois would have enough confidence in their core functions of teaching and scholarship to support faculty in maintaining standards and saying no.

What works to motivate workers, [Black] believes, is ‘an authentic cause that becomes the culture of the company.’ ” One example [Jason] Jennings offers is IKEA, with its proclaimed devotion to “furniture for the many – not for the few, not for the rich, not for design magazines.” The company’s president takes just two weeks of vacation a year, and stays at Motel 6 when he travels.

I don’t have statistics at hand about how many chancellors or provosts stay at Motel 6. It would hardly be surprising to learn that most do not. That sort of change might not be the solution to “pridelessness” or academic anomie. But there’s certainly no evidence that motivational bromides are, either.

(Can you say Nucor Steel, another of my favorite stories about the austere company that does what the later sold at a bankruptcy sale Establishment concluded couldn't be done?) The column goes on to quote a graduate student who identified some candidate opportunity costs for the Saluki Dilbert moment.
“Spending $20,000 on motivational speakers is absurd in the face of so many laid-off graduate assistants and deferred facilities maintenance. Let’s look at what $20,000 could do that would make a difference in the actual education of students. On my estimation, it could hire two half-time graduate assistants, purchase 31 new Dell computers (assuming no discount) or pay for any number of books. I suspect we could even make a big bonfire with money that would draw more than 50 people..... All this occurs in the face of raising fees and tuition are ion incoming freshmen and graduate students.”
That in a world where the positional arms races to get into brand name colleges is a flight to quality driven by the perception that Southern Illinois, and more than a few other public and private universities, are in thrall to various fads, whether from the corporate world or from the Perpetually Aggrieved, that have crowded out the higher learning.
NIGHTMARES. La Profesora Abstraida describes one in the usual sense.
My typical stress dream involves preparing for international travel and discovering that I can't find or have left behind my passport.
I've had that one more than once. The weirdest version was the one where I was crossing the border from Poland to East Germany, and the conversation was in German. I have never been to Poland, and by the time I got to Germany, there was one Germany, although Konigsberg is still Kaliningrad.

The other one is an eyes-wide-awake one.
Only to be derailed by reviewer #3.
That's the nature of top journals. The American Economic Review's instructions to referees practically say, "Give us a reason to turn the paper down."

27.2.07

LECTOR, SI COGITANDUM REQUIRIS, CIRCUMSPICE. The dean at Anonymous Community has included Cold Spring Shops among his five "thinking bloggers" (model railroad coverage, of which you ain't seen nothin' yet, notwithstanding.) Apparently, the category originated here, and propagated from here to here to wherever Anonymous Community is.

The rules for further propagation appear simple.
  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
  2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
  3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).
The mathematician in me sees a problem with that "if, and only if." Being tagged appears to be sufficient for writing a post, but not necessary. (One would have to track more track backs back than I have time to track tracks back to locate the counterexamples. And it appears as if the tagger who tagged the dean didn't link back to the Mother of All Awards.) I have, however, a more Difficult Problem in passing the honor along. Specifically, along the left side of this page is a long list of weblogs that make me think. Narrowing that field (or some sites that I read that are neither properly Company Mail nor providing reciprocal switching privileges) may take a few days of study of the outgoing links. Case in point: right now I'm working on some posts that will play off the dean's position on higher education's problems (simple version: yeah, there are problems, but some of the reforms would bring greater problems) against the position at College Affordability (simple version: it might be necessary to destroy higher education in order to save it) in order to generate a few theses of my own. And a few other candidates occur to me. But to narrow them to five?

For tonight, a cordial "thanks" for the nomination, and welcome visitors.
IMPEDIMENTA HAVE THEIR PLACE. Duke's Roy Weintraub offers a stern reminder.

For the library to tell me that in order to use library reserves I have to tailor my course presentation to their needs should bring laughs to faculty organizations. That it does not is a reflection on those organizations--remember that the library is an academic support operation, in support of research and teaching.

Further, this initiative comes from some unknown office of instructional technology (lodged in the library). These people are not faculty, and have no business whatsoever sending memos to faculty instructing faculty on how to redesign their course materials to make them suitable for public/student consumption. They have no legal or moral responsibility for instructing Duke students. I do.

If the faculty can be told to modify their presentation of course materials to suit such nonacademic employees, there is little meaning to be given to the idea that faculty are responsible for the curriculum.

(Via Constrained Vision.)
QUOTE OF THE DAY. Photon Courier.
When an organization deals only with those who are required to use its services, whether these be students in a school district or users of castings in a corporation, there will be less dynamism than in an organization that must submit its services to the free choice of outsiders.
DRIVEN TO THE RIGHT? A Chicago Sports Review interview of Durham-in-Wonderland's K. C. Johnson.

You've stated that you're a Democrat. When you began the blogging, were you surprised by critics calling you a right-wing nut? Did that make you re-examine some "right-wing nuts?"

Oh, absolutely. You have to. It's odd. You see groups that you saw before as unabashedly positive, like the NAACP, act the way they have, and your thinking has to change. You say to yourself, if I'm a supposed right wing nut, then 90 percent of the people in this country are too. This didn't surprise me in some ways though. One of the issues I've really pushed is more attention to the history of the American state. Looking at that, you know there's a tendency among activist-left in the academy to just brand anyone who disagrees with them as a right wing-nut. It works, and it's hard for them to give up that stance. … Put it this way: before this case started I had never seen defending civil liberties as a right wing position.

One would think that people in the civil rights community, particularly the older ones who became Communists or fellow travelers after being accused of being a Communist one time too many would be a little more careful with their accusations. But perhaps that is too much to ask, even of highly educated people. Professor Johnson is right to describe the lesson he learned as "depressing."
What have you learned about academia and higher education during this process?

I'm a professor, and for me this has been the most depressing aspect of the entire affair. One of the things that I assumed across the board is that as professors we have strong opinions, but the assumption is that most people enter the profession because they like students, and they enjoy working with students. And with this, you can see the behavior of the Duke Arts and Sciences Department, where close to 100 professors were eager to forward their personal agendas on the backs of their own students. I can't think of another case in the history of American higher education where that can be said. Here you have a students own professor cited in the case for a change of venue. Really, the absolute refusal of the Group of 88 or other players in this affair to apologize or tone down their behavior in any way, as if all of the facts are the same now as they were on March 29th, and to show no indication they've comprehended anything … it's depressing.
I believe the expression "mugged by reality" exists for such situations.
STILL IN STEAM. Meet St. Marys Challenger.
Challenger is one of only two remaining ships still active on the Great Lakes powered by a Skinner Marine Unaflow steam engine. The other vessel is the car ferry Badger, which is powered by two of these engines.
And consider both the staying power of classical allusions and the social forces that required the reporter to explain them to today's readers.

Challenger was christened as the William P. Snyder when originally launched in Detroit. Over the years, the ship also was known as the Alex D. Chisholm, Medusa Challenger and Southdown Challenger.

Medusa, a Greek mythological figure, was a Gorgon, with snakes for hair and the power to turn men into stone. Medusa Challenger, owned then by Medusa Portland Cement Co., featured the head of a Gorgon as its emblem.

In the 1970s, parents in Manitowoc were known to threaten rambunctious children with a trip to the boat docks when Medusa came to town, according to an Aug. 19, 1979, article in The Milwaukee Journal.

May Challenger and all who sail on her continue to enjoy calm seas and prosperous voyages.
IT'S UNETHICAL TO CALL ME UNETHICAL. The faculty revolt at Southern Illinois against Springfield's Impediment-In-Charge-of-Counting-Online-Minutes gains strength.

State employees that passed the ethics exam in less than 10 minutes received a noncompliant packet that must be read and signed, or the employee risks job loss. As a result, two tenured professors at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale have filed a lawsuit intended to counter the state's current solution.

"I believe that taking the additional training and signing the certification would be an admission that I was noncompliant, though I was not," said Marvin Zeman, a SIU mathematics professor, in a written statement. "It would be unethical for me to sign this document."

Frank Bucaro, an award-winning public speaker who specializes in business ethics, said the SIU professors are making a statement based on personal principles and called the state's noncompliant solution a "coward's way out."

"The noncompliant issue gives the perception of a guilty plea," Bucaro said. "To be noncompliant, in this case, is like pleading 'no contest' in court. You don't actually plead guilty, but you still have to pay a price."

Bucaro said state employees should not sign any noncompliant option if they feel it is unethical.

"An online ethics course with a 30-minute time frame reeks of being a waste of time, a joke and ineffective," Bucaro said. "Quality ethics training must be interactive, ongoing and enforceable."

At Northern Illinois, the official position on these make-up packets is that the recipients are compliant despite being sent the packets.

Deborah Haliczer, NIU director of Employee Relations and Human Resource Services, said state employees at NIU have generally cooperated.

"Most have been turning in their signed sheets," Haliczer said. "No one has been happy about it, but they know that the university does not consider them to be noncompliant."

Haliczer said most NIU employees argued they were already familiar with the material on the ethics exam, on top of being educated individuals who are adept at reading and processing information quickly.

The duplication and distribution of these compliance packets (which a number of people managed to avoid receiving by taking their time on the training site, perhaps mousing to other websites) comes out of the university's budget, which apparently does not include new dry-erase markers for the smart classrooms.

25.2.07

SNOWBOUND. The heavy weather has mostly passed, but it's not prudent to go anywhere. Maybe some posts of substance tomorrow.
IT'S JUST AS WIDE. Burlington, now BNSF, Milwaukee, now CP, Soo Line, now CN, North Western, now Union Pacific. Farewell, Hillsboro and North Eastern and Ahnapee and Western. But there's a common-carrier railroad in Wisconsin shorter than the East Troy Electric.

The Tomahawk Railway is the shortest railroad line in Wisconsin. Four miles of rail line, two locomotives and 17 workers are all that's left of an old logging railroad built on sweat and dreams.

Yet the Tomahawk remains one of those vital, nearly unseen cogs in the northern Wisconsin economy. It still runs, brings raw material such as coal and waste paper into the Packaging Corporation of America's massive containerboard mill and moves the finished products onto the long-distance freight lines via the CN, the Canadian National.

Here, old-fashioned railroading thrives, a carload at a time.

This isn't nostalgia - it is commerce with an endearing side, a railroad that is but a single red dot on a route map of parent Genesee & Wyoming Inc.

With illustrations and the obligatory train-spotter stories.

24.2.07

IMPEDIMENTA. Just for fun, a few job listings from Inside Higher Ed.

Eastern Connecticut State seeks a Coordinator of Professional Development.
Responsibilities: lead in planning, administration and coordination of credit and non-credit course offerings, conferences, workshops, institutes, and on-site company training programs; coordinates arrangements for use of campus facilities by external groups.
What: the college raises revenue selling a less than adequate degree, and it raises additional revenue by selling what it should have sold in its courses as "workshops and institutes?"

California-Los Angeles (motto: On! Wisconsin!) seeks a Director of Campus Sustainability.
The appointee will have a proven track record in participatory leadership, with a demonstrated ability to foster collaborations across diverse constituencies in a large institution, and to inspire confidence and motivate groups to collectively meet common objectives. Knowledge of sustainability theories and current local, national, and global sustainability initiatives and best practices is essential. Skill at problem solving and critical thinking, and the ability to work independently are also required, as well as excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Candidates must demonstrate ability to develop new projects within an academic setting, with an understanding of how to engender trust among various constituencies, how to design programs that advance strategic objectives and mission, and how to institutionalize and measure the success of new sustainability efforts.
What: the Biology Department couldn't dragoon a few students into making the recycling program ISO 14001 compliant as a service learning project?

Virginia seeks an Assistant to the Senior Associate Provost.
The individual in this position will serve as a key staff member whose primary responsibility will be to direct activities that support the senior associate provost and the provost. The assistant to the senior associate provost will assume responsibility for a wide range of duties that vary in size, scope, and level of complexity, such as: overseeing and coordinating the provost’s policy review process; overseeing the provost’s office Web presence; researching and preparing briefings; and designing and implementing research projects, costing studies, cost/benefit analyses, and policy analyses as requested by the senior associate provost. In addition, the assistant will represent the senior associate provost on various committees both within and outside the University, assuming a leadership role as needed. The successful candidate must be able to organize information in a logical and analytical manner and to prepare oral and written reports that are clear, concise, and thorough.
What: this job description is anything but clear, concise, or thorough. The Washington Monthly used to mock the proliferation of "assistant-to" positions in the national government, apparently to little effect elsewhere. Isn't the Associate Provost an assistant to the Senior Associate Provost? Or is this individual the civilian equivalent of a rear admiral's orderly?

That "assuming a leadership role as needed" means "the senior associate provost intends to blow off selected committees on a regular basis."
QUOTE OF THE DAY. Inside Higher Ed's Laurence Musgrove sees faculty "development" for what it is.

I’m cranky because I have to confront all of this professional development ruckus to claim my own professional authority, to say that I am smart enough to keep track of my own discipline and the latest pedagogical advancements without having to be lectured to two or three times a year about what college students need.

What our students need is not more of what they come in the door with. They don’t need more of the same in the same way they got it before. They need to be confronted with people who talk about ideas that matter. They need to become people who can confront and talk to other people about ideas that matter. They need to sit in a room of people and learn about humanity.

Also, not more Facebook, but more faces in books, extended periods of silent and sustained reading and writing, developing intellectual stamina and the ability to ask questions that don’t lead to easy answers or a quick and final Wikisearch.

In his column, what he is seeing is more wordnoise.
Nobody asks us what we already know and do. Nobody wants to know what the personality of our learning is. Nobody really wants to hear what we have to say. We’re stuffed into row after row of folding chairs facing the PowerPoint torture of illegible pie charts, tables, and data we need to remember so that we’ll be better prepped to perform in the learning community breakout sessions just after the chicken wraps at lunch.
But could anybody collect a large honorarium for doing what is basically tech support and referring to it as such?

23.2.07

CONSUMING HERRING AND COD. Sometimes, one can analyze the economics of fish as faith, and sometimes one can simply eat.

Golden slabs of fish, sweet on the inside and still steaming from the fryer.

Crunchy coleslaw, flecked with carrot shreds and slathered in homemade dressing.
And potato pancakes, sharpened with a little onion and then freshly fried to be crisp on the outside but creamy inside.

That threesome makes up what I consider an outstanding Wisconsin fish fry. And it's what I've been looking for on most of my Friday nights since July.

Don't forget the rye bread! With recommendations.

I'm informed that there are decent fish fries to be had just north of the North West Frontier. The concept (like brown mustard) hasn't caught on, this side of the Cheddar Curtain.
SEX, DEATH, AND WHY THE LINES ARE LONGEST AT THE ROLLER COASTER. The current thesis nailed to Newmark's Door.
If you didn't already know it, economics has no boundaries.
Indeed not.
Our empirical analysis suggests that older and more educated suicide bombers are being assigned by their terror organization to more important targets. We find that more educated and older suicide bombers are less likely to fail in their mission, and are more likely to cause increased casualties when they attack.
Elsewhere in the news, California's Department of Motor Vehicles isn't as clever as Six Flags when it comes to selling the right to cut the line.

In 2006, the California legislature authorized the state Department of Motor Vehicles to distribute 85,000 stickers to the owners of gasoline-electric hybrid cars. The stickers allow drivers to travel without passengers in all of the state's high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, which were formerly restricted to cars with two or more passengers. A report determined that California's HOV lanes were operating only at two-thirds of their capacity and not easing congestion as much as they could; the idea was to stimulate demand for hybrids and thus reduce the emissions of greenhouse pollutants.

The sticker distribution did exactly what it was supposed to do. People wanted to shave time off their commute, and the stickers drove up demand for hybrids for the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic hybrid (the only cars that qualified for stickers), so much so that the small Prius has been selling for over $30,000, and until recently had waiting lists. The Civic hybrid has carried a dealer "added premium" to the manufacturer's suggested list price of as much as $4,000 (with the hybrid Civic total price nearly $7,500 higher than the quoted price of a non-hybrid Civic).

But it seems that the hybrid HOV program, rather than suppressing automobile use, did the exact opposite: The program was wildly popular, and the HOV lanes became clogged. Californians began talking about "Prius backlash."

But unlike the reservations at the roller coaster, the stock of permits ran out before the stock of hybrids did.
Then at the end of January, the DMV ran out of stickers, leaving more than 800 new Prius and Civic hybrid owners, who may have been enticed to buy their hybrids at premium prices inflated by sticker advantage and who applied for the stickers, without the right to drive alone in the state's HOV lanes.
Because the permits accompany the cars, one could see a used Prius trading for a higher price than a new one, lemons principle be darned.

Since the HOV-lane stickers stay with the hybrids, the demand for used hybrids can be expected to rise, along with their prices, perhaps dramatically, especially since Honda and Toyota can no longer accommodate the demand for reduced commute times with more cars.

The growing number of drivers with long commutes and high opportunity hourly earnings can be lead bidders for used hybrids.

Other incentives remain at work. (Years ago I characterized President Reagan's decontrol of domestic crude oil prices as a better choice than strengthening the incentive to steal license plates.)
As a consequence of the used hybrid sales, we should expect the HOV lanes to become even more crowded (since the lanes will be dominated to a greater extent by people with longer commutes), which will, of course, undercut (albeit marginally) the value of the stickers and the price of used hybrids. Given the market value of stickers and the fact that the DMV appears to have distributed stickers that are far from counterfeit-proof, anecdotal evidence suggests a healthy black market for stickers, with the counterfeit stickers dampening the rise in the used prices of hybrids.
There has to be an efficient way of pricing a congestible facility in such a way that both the premium-price for no waiting and the low price wait your turn riders have no incentive to change their types. There appears to be a lot of type-switching going on. The sufficient conditions for efficiency, however, are very messy (although a pretty structure is emerging from my calculations.)
TIME FOR HOLLYWOOD TO STEP UP? The Northern Star discovers more deferred maintenance in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

"The CL is for closet, not computer lab," said Alex Gelman, NIU director of the School of Theatre and Dance, while he pointed to the door of a computer lab that was formerly a janitor's closet in the Stevens Building.

"We're making the best of the situation we have," said Anna Goller, scene shop supervisor at the Stevens Building.

First occupied in 1959, students and administrators feel the Stevens Building is long overdue for renovations.

"You can only polish a turd so much," Goller said.

The building houses three theaters and several offices and classrooms for anthropology and theater departments.

"It's pretty sad when the condition of your building makes it hard to learn," Adam Liston, a scenic design graduate student, said. "We have leaks that blow up our computers."

In the absence of funding to fix the building, Goller said students and staff invest their own time doing patch-up work.

That building is on the main campus, well to the west of the also-dilapidated sculpture studio. I'm not sure what it says about contemporary higher education that the theater program's reputation remains strong despite the conditions.

Despite the conditions described by those using the Stevens Building, NIU's theater program is considered by many to be one of the top in the country.

"They're here for the training; the teaching is superb," Gelman said. Liston said he had a class in the lab that was so overcrowded that two students had to sit out in the hall and rest their own laptops on TV trays.

"You have no idea how distracting it is when you've got people sitting on the floor with laptops," Liston said. "When the teacher has to walk up to talk about something on the projection he has to step over students."

That is, in times in which the head football coach meets with potential recruits anywhere but his current office. He will have an office more suited to making the proper impression on seventeen-year-olds with good times in the 40 yard dash once the new locker room opens.

At University Council on Jan. 24, President John Peters said renovations on the Stevens Building have been a top priority for the university for upwards of a decade. However, Peters said the lack of a capital bill to provide money delayed the necessary renovations. Even though NIU has not received a capital bill in four years, Peters said he still hopes to receive one from the state.

"The reputation of the school is strong because of the quality of its faculty and success of its alumni," Gelman said. "It's hard to imagine where we would be if we had an adequate facility."

The capital argument is incompletely convincing. On the one hand, the university did manage, by refinancing its existing construction bonds, to build a parking deck, some administrative buildings, and an extension to the physics and chemistry building, which was also crowded. On the other hand, the locker room, for all the misplaced emphasis it might represent, is the consequence of generosity large and small by satisfied alumni. The new building for the College of Business, for all the infringements on freedom of expression disguised as modeling business aesthetics, is also the consequence of such generosity. Where's Hollywood?
THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN. Airborne pigs, indeed.

The fans of a program that spawned Magic Johnson rushing the floor in squealing delight because they beat Wisconsin?

In basketball?

Well, it is East Lansing, Michigan, at the beginning of mud season. Simple pleasures and all that.

22.2.07

IMAGINE. (It's easy if you try.)



(Via Betsy's Page.)
REVEALED PREFERENCES. Don't you know there's a war on?


The events of the past few weeks prompt me to revisit a column Fourth Turning authors William Strauss and Neil Howe posted in October 2001, with commentary in green.

Within the next year, we'll know. Here's a checklist. If the following trends deepen, then America will be in the Fourth Turning, a new era of crisis.

  • Are leaders describing the problem in larger rather than smaller terms, proposing grand solutions, and seeking to destroy (and not just contain) enemies?
Buzz. Non-binding resolutions of disapproval, non-defeat defeat, and nation-building efforts no more effective with a Democratic Congress and a Republican President than they were with a Republican Congress and a Democratic President.
  • Is there a shift away from individualism (and civil liberties) toward community purpose (and national survival)?
Buzz. Resurrected "Fairness Doctrine" arguments and campus speech codes from the right to counteract those of the left neither unify nor revitalize.
  • Are the old "culture wars" arguments beginning to feel lame, ridiculous, even dangerous to national unity?
Buzz. Unity?
  • Is the celebrity culture feeling newly irrelevant? Is youth fare becoming less gross and less violent?
Buzz. Messrs. Strauss and Howe held Kato Kaelin forth as exemplar of the trashy mid-1990s "celebrity culture" and a former Mouseketeer named Britney was supposedly the leading edge of that more wholesome youth fare.
  • Is immigration reversing? Are mobility and openness declining? Is there more nativism in our culture and less "globalism" in our commerce?
In some circles, immigration is the source of lessened social mobility, but none dare raise nativist objections that can be construed as racist, and the objections to "globalization" remain on the fringe.
  • Is there a new willingness to pay a human price to achieve a national purpose? Will we harness technology only to reduce casualties and inconvenience, or also to achieve a total and lasting victory.
Buzz. The cosmic weight-and-balance scale on which military deaths correspond one-for-one to World Trade Center deaths appears to be more influential than any calculation of whether those deaths could either have been avoided or incurred in more forceful actions.
  • Is each generation entering its new phase of life with a new attitude? Are aging boomers overcoming narcissism? Are Gen-Xers on the edge of midlife, circling their wagons around family? Are Millennials emerging as a special and celebrated crop of youth?
Buzz. The Silent Generation's Watergate Caucus, continuing that cohort's string of unearned triumphs in securing a Democratic majority for not being Richard Nixon, now calls the shots for a new Democratic majority secured for not being George W. Bush. Baby Boomers? Look at the latest crop of pension advertisements: redefining retirement, pensions for people who serve the greater good, pensions that the ex can't mess up. Thirteeners? Family? Millenials? Hookups, binge drinking, I-pods?
SECURE THE RHUMB LINE. No posts Wednesday as I was occupied with a basketball game. The officials are conferring here to determine whether the game is over, or if Northern Illinois took a timeout with 0.7 seconds remaining.


The dramatics arose after the team took seriously the concept of staying between their opponent and the mark.
In a wacky final sequence, Jessie Wilcox blocked a three-pointer, the officials put seventh-tenths of a second back on the clock and the Northern Illinois women's basketball team hung on for a 73-70 victory over Toledo at the Convocation Center.
In victory, there can also be learning opportunities.

Just four days after losing a winnable Mid-American Conference game at Central Michigan, the Huskies nearly let another game slip away on Wednesday, but pulled out their 17th win of the season to match their highest win total since 2001-02.

After the Huskies, still battling for a first-round bye in the MAC tournament, took a 16-point lead four minutes into the second half, the Rockets battled back to within one point on four occassions, but never captured the lead.

That big lead, and a comparable big lead in the first half, established a seasonal best.

NIU wasn't done with the threes yet, as it hit five more in the second half, ending the game 13-28 from beyond the arc.

NIU's thirteen makes from 3-point range is a season high for the Huskies, breaking their previous best of 12 against Illinois State opening night.

Ultimately, the team's success followed from solid defense.

From the rest of the game, the two team battled with the largest lead for either team being six by NIU.

Yet in the end, one was the closest Toledo ever came to regaining the lead thanks [to] Toledo turning the ball over six of it's [c.q] last 11 possessions.

There is more work ahead.
BACK THE STRONG HORSE. Meet Col. Sean B. MacFarland, recently returned from Iraq.

“If you talk to these sheiks, they’ll tell you that they’re in no hurry to see the Americans leave al-Anbar,” he said.

“One thing Sheikh Sattar keeps saying is he wants al-Anbar to be like Germany and Japan and South Korea were after their respective wars, with a long-term American presence helping ... put them back together,” MacFarland said. “The negative example he cites is Vietnam. He says, yeah, so, Vietnam beat the Americans, and what did it get them? You know, 30 years later, they’re still living in poverty.”

(Via Jules Crittenden out of Alphabet City.)
YOU HAVE TO GIVE THE BLIGHTERS HELL ALL THE TIME. The dean at Anonymous Community makes a statement that calls for a protest flag.
If my blog has an underlying theme, it's that academics are employees and colleges are employers.
Academics, however, are supposed to be managers, and deans are supposed to be guided by the management. Facilitators and coordinators and other impedimenta are, well, impedimenta. To his credit, the dean (who is making two completely valid points about laying up funds for retirement and walking away from bad jobs) also notes,
Why is your college being so obtuse? I have no idea. It may be fear that anything that could be construed as 'advice' could come back to haunt them if it doesn't work. It may be that some key administrators simply aren't very bright.
Quite so, particularly when they perceive their mission as to bring in additional impedimenta and pretend it's motivation. (Hey, why not: in an environment where admitting the unprepared is "access" and non-challenging majors are "retention" and elastic non-standards for admission is "holistic," why not go completely Dilbert?) Fortunately, my colleagues at Southern Illinois are able to see through the wordnoise. The editors at the campus newspaper have some learning to do.

The administration paid $20,000 for this speaker. This is $20,000 that could have gone to deferred maintenance, technology or to the return of some of Morris Library's journals that had to be cancelled for lack of money.

But the university chose to spend this money to try to inspire those whose job it is to inspire, and re-instill a sense of pride. It was a noble gesture, and it disappoints us that it may not work out.

Let me revise and extend the Scathing Online Schoolmarm's eloquent characterization of these efforts briefly: the restoration of even $20,000 (have you priced institutional subscriptions recently?) in journals, without fanfare, or the purchase of $20,000 in equipment for smart classrooms, or even an ample supply of dry-erase markers, would do more for morale than getting a convex combination of Vince Lombardi and Robert Maynard Hutchins to make those motivational presentations.
THE BEAT GOES ON. Meet the Avalon String Quartet.
The quartet joins the NIU School of Music as artist faculty quartet-in-residence this fall. They have served in a similar role at Indiana University at South Bend since 2003. The Avalon String Quartet held graduate quartet residencies at the Juilliard School (2001-03), Hartt School (1998-2000) and NIU (1996-98).
The way to establish a long reputation for a quartet is to sign a young quartet.
But the Avalon's solidly Generation X musicians want audiences to know they aren't trying to replace the Vermeer Quartet: Indeed, none of the four musicians in their late 20s to mid-30s was alive when the Vermeer began its residency some 38 years ago.
The signing reflects one donor's commitment delivered on.
The Avalon Quartet, formed in 1995 at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, will come to NIU thanks to generous financial support from an anonymous donor.
Although it's not unknown for academic units to sell naming rights, the principle of making something possible without trumpeting it refreshes.

20.2.07

HAUPTMANN STANDISH IST KAPUT. Inside Higher Ed engages in conspicuous navel-gazing over the retirement of a University of Illinois exotic dancer.
REVIEWING THE WHEEL REPORT. A service called Eponym Blog Directory rates Cold Spring Shops at 77 overall, with a "hot" rating of 71, a "cool" rating of 74, and a "fresh" rating of 90 (and I haven't made a pass at ...) I'm not sure what the universe of discourse is or the metrics are. We're the second stop for "different kinds of paczkis" (pronounced poonch-kus), fittingly enough for Fasching Dienstag. And I'm waiting for The Torch to give me a reciprocal link: scroll down to "Referers" and see who their biggest individual traffic generator is! (Where's the Interstate Commerce Commission when I want it?)

19.2.07

WHERE THE PUDDLE-JUMPERS CANNOT LAND. There are economies of scale in running a corridor service.

Double-digit ridership gains on state-supported passenger trains held steady in the first three months that Amtrak ran additional service on a trio of downstate rail corridors, statistics from the Illinois Department of Transportation show.

Trains on the Chicago-to-St. Louis line tallied the biggest increases. The newly named "Lincoln Service" carried monthly passenger loads ranging from 22,460 in November, 23,088 in December and 18,730 in January. Those figures represented increases of 91 percent, 93 percent and 103 percent, respectively, compared with ridership levels during the same months a year before.

That's despite the service being subject to the tender mercies of Union Pacific dispatching.

Ridership on the Carbondale line increased an average of 68 percent from November through January, compared to the same period a year before, according to the IDOT numbers. The "Illini" and "Saluki" trains carried 19,406 riders in November, 20,314 riders in December and 15,996 in January.

The ridership increase on the Quincy route averaged about 40 percent during the last three months, compared with the same period the previous year. The "Illinois Zephyr" and "Carl Sandburg" trains carried 14,103 riders in November, 14,650 riders in December and 11,126 riders last month.

These are encouraging numbers. I'm going to repeat my call for better connectivity.

What matters is that policy makers are also encouraged by the numbers.

Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, an Evanston Democrat who pushed for the rail expansion, said continuing state support is warranted, based on the ridership numbers IDOT has reported. In fact, he said, the results justify additional rail expansion.

[Rick] Harnish said [the Midwest High Speed Rail Association] will urge lawmakers to support rail connections to large Illinois cities such as Rockford and Peoria. He said the advocacy group has proposed a roughly $1.25 billion capital plan to broaden the rail network and upgrade tracks and equipment over five years.

(Via Passenger Rail.)
BRACKET SOCIALISTS. Milwaukee's mayor proposes a state basketball tournament featuring the Badgers, Panthers, Phoenix, and Warriors Golden Porcupines as a way of someday attracting the Final Four. But check out the list of sweeteners the basketball cartel wants before it could award the tournament to Milwaukee: enough arriving planes to bring in 35,000 people (the Hiawatha service, which gets a lot closer to the stadium and downtown hotels, doesn't count); heating and basketball-friendly seating and press facilities at the stadium; and a lot more hotel rooms. But it's amateur athletics and it has nothing to do with money.
ON TIME? Not if you're attempting to fly during the winter. In particular, not on JetBlue.

Congressional leaders excoriated JetBlue Airways on Thursday [February 15] for forcing hundreds of passengers to sit aboard grounded airplanes for up to 10 hours because of weather-related delays in New York City, and they vowed to investigate airline customer service.

The delays Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport sparked renewed interest in a "passengers' bill of rights" that would allow air travelers to deplane if an aircraft is on the ground more than three hours.
The carrier has not yet resumed normal operations.

A schedule-busting siege at Kennedy Airport's JetBlue terminal that left many travelers dismayed, disheartened and distrusting seemed to ease on Monday.

A relative calm enveloped the JetBlue terminal as travelers whose flights weren't canceled managed to come and go uneventfully on Day Six of the carrier's weather-related woes.

The company said it was canceling almost a quarter of its flights on Monday but had hopes of getting back to full operations on Tuesday, almost a week after a Valentine's Day snowstorm created its travel meltdown.

Staff are discovering that you can't play tiddlywinks with aircraft.

David G. Neeleman, the company's founder and chief executive, told The New York Times in Monday's editions that he was "humiliated and mortified" by the breakdown in the airline's operations. He promised that the company would pay penalties if customers were stranded on a plane for too long.

He said the crises was the result of poor communications and reservation systems. He said the ice storm had left many of the airline's 11,000 pilots and flight attendants a great distance from where they could operate the planes. He also said JetBlue lacked trained staff to coordinate the flight crews. The reservation system had also been overwhelmed.

The airline had scheduled 600 flights for Presidents Day, even more than the 550 to 575 flights on a normal Monday. Of those, 139 flights have been canceled, JetBlue announced late Saturday night.

JetBlue Airways Corp. spokesman Sebastian White said headway was being made on Sunday, but that the cancellations on Monday were needed to make sure all flight crews had gotten the legally mandated amount of rest before taking to the skies again.

Winter storms can wreak havoc on the most meticulous of schedules, but commercial aviation is not terribly dependable as a fair-weather mode of transportation.

For December, 2006, this Bureau of Transportation Statistics piechart shows that about 71% of all flights arrived on time. The chart breaks out late-arriving inbound planes (9% of flights) from air carrier delays (8% of flights). The air traffic control system is the source of delays to another 8%, with weather delaying 1% of all flights. The Bureau has another site for additional tables.

On average, Amtrak has better on-time performance, and its on-time performance is substantially better in corridors.

The air carriers' poor on-time performance is leading to calls for a flier 'bill of rights'

Aviation delays are hardly unusual, but delays of planes that have been boarded and are sitting on runways generate unique frustration and bitterness.

And federal records show they're getting worse. In 1995, 72% of flights took off within 15 minutes of leaving an airport gate, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 2006, that figure was down to 63%.

Nearly 67,000 flights were delayed at least an hour last year after they left the gate, Transportation Department figures show. That's about 1% of total flights.

One would think that with three dimensions of mobility, one could get a plane airborne and pointed in the general direction of its destination. There are capacity constraints at work.
Weather typically delays flights that have been boarded. But a more complex set of issues leads airlines to keep boarded flights on runways instead of returning them to a gate so passengers can deplane.
But there is also a breakdown in procedures.

Most airlines follow a set of voluntary guidelines they wrote in 1999 to improve service at a time when delays were prompting Congress to consider a "passengers' bill of rights." The guidelines call for airlines to inform customers regularly about delays.

But a report in November by the Transportation Department's inspector general found that, in about 50% of cases, information provided about delays "was not timely or adequate." JetBlue, which was founded in 1999 and started flying in 2000, did not sign the guidelines, the report says.

The JetBlue incident renewed congressional interest in a bill of rights. "Combined with similar incidents over the holidays, the industry has two strikes against it," said House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello, D-Ill., who plans hearings on the issue. "The third strike will mean Congress considers legislation to create such a policy."

The delay that intensified pressure on airlines in 1999 involved the so-called "prisoners of Northwest" — thousands of passengers who sat grounded in airliners during a winter storm at Detroit Metro Airport. Some planes had no food or water and overflowing toilets.

On Jan. 2, 2002, passengers on dozens of planes at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta waited up to 10 hours during a snowstorm. Delta apologized for inconveniencing 50,000 passengers, saying it had underestimated the storm and the time it would take to de-ice planes before departure.

Two weeks ago, Bob Thompson sat on a Continental plane in Houston's Bush Intercontinental for five hours. "The real frustration was once we got onto the runway … we sat for an hour with nothing happening," Thompson said.

The pressure to reregulate is growing.
A group called the Coalition for an Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights wants a mandatory three-hour cap on wait times as part of an 11-point list of requirements, including adequate food and water and working toilets.

The group is led by a California-based passenger whose American Airlines flight was diverted from Dallas to Austin during December storms and sat on the ground for eight hours.
The editors at USA Today concur in part.
Granted, these are extreme situations spurred by bad weather. But the airlines' response exposes such a staggering disregard for their customers that it makes you wonder if deeper forces are at work. And, indeed, they may be. Last November, the Transportation Department's inspector general reported that many airlines were failing to live up to some commitments made in 1999 to improve basic customer service.
A spokesman for the carriers' trade association offers a somewhat lame rebuttal.

We appreciate that Congress, responding to public concerns, will want to know more about the airlines' plans. We look forward to substantive discussions. One thing we all want to avoid is the imposition of inflexible government standards, which could unintentionally result in greater customer inconvenience.

Finally, delays are a forewarning: America's antiquated air traffic control system must be modernized. We need to act now, before growth in demand results in even more unavoidable delays.

Catch that Divine Passive, "must be modernized?" By whom? [Blank-out.] I'm waiting for the air carriers to offer to buy the additional traffic control equipment. Oh, wait a minute, the legacy carriers are in bankruptcy and the startups are consolidating. You mean there's no private money to improve the control system that allows the carriers to make money? So does that mean Congress appropriates money, and the taxpayers pay money, to modernize the air traffic control system? Let's do some research first. Might some of those delays be ameliorated by, for example, appropriating money for Class Six track in the Offical Region and the Great Lakes, so that a rail passenger might be able to go Chicago to Detroit in three hours or Chicago to the Cities in five or Cleveland to Indianapolis or Cincinnati at all? There's the potential to relieve a lot of pressure on the mid-continental hub airports. (Might there be a way to use some of that money as well to restore some rail-banked and abandoned freight lines so as to ease the passage of containers and reduce the call for maintenance of the Interstates for the transcontinental truckers?) Hmm, how many paper topics have I just identified?
QUOTE OF THE DAY. Rate Your Students.
Teachers in higher education may be many things, but we aren't the hired help.
Read the rest.
DOWNSIZING. More evidence of flight from Milwaukee's government schools.

Edison Middle School on North 37th Street would close its doors and send students to Muir Middle School on North 72nd.

[The system] would also take students at Walker Middle School on South 32nd Street, and ship them to Bell Middle School on West Warnimont Avenue.

It has been a while since I looked at the geography of Milwaukee's junior highs. There used to be a James J. Audubon on 39th Street south of Oklahoma, which would be closer to Walker.
STRATEGIES OF CONFLICT. A. Michael Spence, an Economics Nobelist for 2001, interviews his advisor Thomas Schelling, who won the prize in 2005.

Condoleezza Rice went to East Asia to organize a punitive response to the North Koreans. In [Professor Schelling's] view that should have been the second priority.

"The first mission should have been to encourage the three countries most threatened, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan--all of whom have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons--to reaffirm their commitment to the NPT and non-nuclear status with support from the U.S. and the leading nuclear powers, signaling that they had no intention of using North Korea as an excuse to start building weapons. I view this as a significant missed opportunity on the part of the international community and the U.S. to reaffirm the deep importance of the non-proliferation regime."

Tom Schelling expects Iran to get nuclear weapons. "Once a country becomes the owner of nuclear weapons, it is imperative that they learn to deal with them responsibly." He pointed out that it took the U.S. 15 years after World War II to learn to think seriously about the security of its weapons. Before that, weapons did not have combination locks, let alone complex electronic security codes. Now, most weapons will not detonate even if given the codes unless they are at their designated targets.

Read the rest.
THE RIGHT WAY AND THE WRONG WAY TO TEST HYPOTHESES. Although evidence consistent with anthropogenic global warming is sometimes evidence consistent with other hypotheses, polemical amateurs ought tread carefully in interpreting that evidence. A journalist asks a climate scientist a number of loaded and polemical questions (is that a redundancy) and a Northern Illinois colleague fires back.

Ultimately, it's about understanding the processes and mechanisms by which global climate is maintained. It's not about politics or about squabbling over different people's views of temperature records. The scientists involved in the IPCC study are speaking from the analysis of how the climate system works’ and what models of climate process fit with observation.

There certainly was a Little Ice Age’ in the 1400s to 1600s, that resulted in cooling of particular regions of the earth. This affected the northern hemisphere, especially in the Atlantic sector, most significantly. Other parts of the globe registered less cooling, and the cooling at any location was small on the scale of climate change involved past glacial epochs, or compared to the temperature changes likely with greenhouse warming. Global-warming deniers bring up the Little Ice Age constantly as a full explanation of the climate changes over the past few centuries. What is missed here is that it is truly unfortunate that human-driven warming is superimposed on a natural warming cycle. That only increases the potential for adverse results as the natural and the human-caused processes combine. It is ironic that warming deniers make such a case of the Little Ice Age.

And at the same time, researchers face the difficulty of specifying a model capable of disentangling the solar from the anthropogenic effects. There's a lot of multicollinearity in the observations.
There is little doubt that solar activity played a role in the Little Ice Age. But records of solar activity cannot explain the climate change we have experienced over the past 200 years. The topic has been examined in detail, and certainly not ignored or denied by climate scientists.
Left as an open question: how much of that residual is attributable to human activity? Within that human activity, what is the partial effect of increasing CO2 as distinct from the partial effect of cutting (or regrowing) forests or from building permanent settlements?
HIRE THE VET. More employers recruit the military work ethic.
Employers looking to hire workers with strong work ethic, leadership skills and diverse backgrounds are increasingly turning to a select group of recruits: members of the military.
All four of the big U. S. railroads are among the top 50 "military-friendly employers."

The article goes on to note that returning veterans are weighing their job offers carefully. Equilibrium unemployment as an employer discipline device, anyone?
THE BIG TWO AND THE LITTLE NINE? Wisconsin and Ohio State, sharing 1/2 in the basketball poll!!!
The split vote sets up a rare 1 vs. 1 match up when the teams play Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock in Columbus, Ohio.
That's unusual. It's also unusual to have the hockey team flirting with .500, although recent developments are encouraging.

Despite having to settle for a 2-2 Western Collegiate Hockey Association tie Saturday night at the Kohl Center, UW showed again it is a better team than its sub-.500 record.

But for a team fighting to secure home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs, any missed opportunity can prove to be costly.

It's often the case in sports that on any given day, any team can show up.
Where has this hockey team been hiding for most of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association season?
Learning a few things? SIEVE!

18.2.07

PLAYING WITH ICE. In one of last year's book reviews, I learned about the Medieval Warm Period.

Better ships, better nets, and better navigational methods expanded the cod fishery, although keeping the monasteries and the masses provisioned with sufficient fish was still a struggle. Global climate changes affected both the location and the access to the fishing grounds as the Medieval Warm Period gave way to the Little Ice Age (global warming and cooling without SUVs or nuclear weapons?)
Some people are thinking more systematically about that question. I'll start with a few questions Charlie Sykes asked. What he's doing here is identifying the anomalies in the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. Science progresses by making sense of the anomalies. A recent Ohio State university project (via Milt Rosenberg) identifies Antarctic anomalies if the current generation of anthropogenic global warming models are correct.

David Bromwich, professor of professor of atmospheric sciences in the Department of Geography, and researcher with the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University, reported on this work at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at San Francisco.

"It's hard to see a global warming signal from the mainland of Antarctica right now," he said. "Part of the reason is that there is a lot of variability there. It's very hard in these polar latitudes to demonstrate a global warming signal. This is in marked contrast to the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula that is one of the most rapidly warming parts of the Earth."

Bromwich says that the problem rises from several complications. The continent is vast, as large as the United States and Mexico combined. Only a small amount of detailed data is available – there are perhaps only 100 weather stations on that continent compared to the thousands spread across the U.S. and Europe . And the records that we have only date back a half-century.

"The best we can say right now is that the climate models are somewhat inconsistent with the evidence that we have for the last 50 years from continental Antarctica .

"We're looking for a small signal that represents the impact of human activity and it is hard to find it at the moment," he said.

"Hard to find it" is not the same thing as "not there." I suspect that's the point Donald Sensing is raising on Winds of Change.
What the media have generally failed to distinguish in their coverage of global warming issues is the difference between the consensus that the earth is warming overall, and the lack of consensus about the causes of the warming, especially the degree of warming attributable to human activities.
Teasing out those causes is difficult. Here's how I once phrased the problem (JSTOR).
Since the decision ... may depend on one or more of the four influences, I specify an econometric model which tests for the partial effect of each.
The problem climate scientists face is similar, disentangling the incremental effect of increased CO2 content on earth temperature from other incremental effects including solar activity. But in doing so, it misleads, as a commenter at ShrinkWrapped suggests, to look for confirmations. The comment is an instructive methodological error.
What you do is try to rule out the positive by experiment and observation. Science operates by ruling things out. I'm mystified as to why so many people in public fora of this debate fail to remember this very basic fact. Karl Popper's famous thought experiment regarding the white swan hypothesis is apposite in this regard: He began by stating the hypothesis that all swans are white. He then pointed out that you don't prove the hypothesis by looking around and counting white swans. You look, instead, for a single non-white swan. In similar fashion, the proper way to approach the global warming debate would be to postulate a cause and then try, by experiment or observation of real-world data, to rule it out. That which is not disproven remains possible. Enthusiasts of anthropogenic global warming ignore this single step. Instead, they amass large amounts of data that support their argument (counting white swans) and ignore or fail to search for a single thing that might rule it out (a single black swan). They even (oh, the horror!) cherry-pick their data--the famous, and now-discredited, hockey-stick graph is a case in point. Further, they fail--indeed, they refuse--to consider and test for any of the other possibilities, of which there are at least a few: Solar cycles, orbital peculiarities, and on and on.

Another problem with the global warming enthusiast position is that it purports to explain everything. Many times I've asked friends who accept the global warming ideas things like, "What about the record snowfalls, the near-record low temperatures lately, the very quiet tropical storm season last summer?" The answer always is, well, global warming explains that, too. Two comments: (1) a theory that explains everything explains nothing. (2) If it predicts and explains everything that might happen, it can't be tested--that is, it must be falsifiable to be scientifically useful, or to even be scientific at all (refer to the white swan hypothesis above).
Not quite. If you do see rapid warming of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, you cannot immediately exploit it as the "Aha!" moment. But you can ask whether that warming is best explained by solar activity or by increased CO2 or transitory effects of the ozone hole. Falsifiability proceeds by asking whether the other Antarctic anomalies prove fatal to the anthropogenic climate change argument, or whether the argument as currently posed is mis-specified. David Tufte has a more succinct statement.
I'm not unsympathetic to the arguments for anthropogenic global warming, but there are real problems in the correlations (or lack thereof) that they've found. They don't seem to have figured out that prima facie causality isn't sufficient to conclude that there is causality.
Read the post and the other comments.

Whether or not anthropogenic climate change is meaningful and in progress, there is another debate, over what to do about it. Now the tools of economics are relevant. Harvard's Martin Weitzman (yes, that Martin Weitzman) has been commissioned by the Journal of Economic Literature to comment on The Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change (the lead author is economist Nicholas Stern, the title is not implicit editorial content) and Arnold Kling summarizes his conclusions thus:
For the policy objective of mitigating climate change within the usual range of forecasts, the costs exceed the benefits for any sensible set of discount rates.
In a longer essay, Mr Kling notes,

Two facts are known. One is that the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide has been climbing exponentially. In fact, the overall level of human activity, as measured by total Gross Domestic Product, is perhaps 50 times higher than it was one hundred years ago.

Another fact is that over the past 30 years, the average global temperature has increased in total by between 0.5 degrees and one degree centigrade. That means that the average annual rate of increase has been less than one-tenth of one degree per year.

The global warming that has taken place so far is minor. The improvement in living standards that has taken place in the past one hundred years is enormous.

In yet another post, he compares and contrasts the gains and losses from dealing with anthropogenic climate change, if in fact there is any, with the gains and losses from changing Social Security's funding methods.
PLAYING WITH FIRE. The House of Representatives has passed what many news sources characterize as a rebuke of President Bush's dispatch of reinforcements to Iraq.
The resolution, though non-binding, is the strongest congressional rebuke of Bush since the war began nearly four years ago.
The resolution has provoked strong reaction from troops in Iraq. Friday night's Hannity and Colmes included a report from Iraq in which Geraldo Rivera elicited a critical reaction from the unit he was visiting. That's unusual. The Constitutional principle of civilian control of the military is strong enough that the usual reaction from the field is a "no comment" or an "outside my pay grade." The title I chose for my post is deliberate. Neither the military nor the Democratic majority in Congress will be well-served if "stab in the back" arguments gain traction among disgruntled troops or among critics of Congress. Although that argument has not yet surfaced, there are disgruntled rumblings among weblogs with military connections.

First, an observation from Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette.
Democrats in congress and al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq, while not officially allied in this cause, do share a certain sense of urgency, recognizing that their best opportunity to stop this plan is now - before the remaining three brigades deploy and full implementation has occurred. But thus far al Qaeda appears to be laying low, and while the Democrats have passed a "non-binding resolution" opposing General Petraeus' plan, their talk of cutting off funding remains just that - perhaps until the weekend poll results are in from Americans who know little of the conflict beyond what they see in headlines and soundbites.
Interspersed with his roundup of recent achievements in theater is this assessment of the correlation of forces.
The greatest threat may be from the U.S. Congress, as al Qaeda can at least be confronted.
At Blackfive, Uncle Jimbo's evaluation of Iranian provocations includes both a realistic assessment of the situation and additional discontent with Congress.
We are not going to invade Iran, although not for the reason often given that their Army is too large and advanced for us to defeat. That is silly; actually a straight up fight against a traditional opponent would show just how bad our military really is. We could destroy the Iranian military like child's play; it's that occupation thing that makes invasion a very bad idea. But what about the training camps near the Iraqi border, what about the factories where the IEDs are manufactured, or what about a military facility chosen just as an example? A reminder that actions have consequences seems to be in order, as the Mullahs seem to be acting with impunity in ways we should not tolerate.

I think a few unexplained, uncredited explosions inside Iran would go a long way toward reminding that regime that the press and Nancy Pelosi do not command the US military or protect US national security, that would be W's job. They can snipe from the sidelines, but they have shown they don't want the accountability that comes with taking concrete steps to stop the President from doing his job. If we do nothing to stop Iran from actively warring on us in Iraq, we can hardly expect to prevail. Initial reports from Iraq suggest that this whole surge thing might just not be so crazy after all. Mookie and many of his leaders have hightailed it to Iran and we should make sure he stays there, his thugs are now leaderless and about to spend some quality time with US combat forces, we are capturing and killing goodly numbers of those foolish enough to engage us and the populace in areas we clear welcomes the fact that our troops are hanging around to keep things safe.
Austin Bay's assessment of the Senate non-vote on the non-binding resolution includes a similarly harsh evaluation of the House.
Remember, we are in the wonderland of “non-binding” resolutions. Why? I suspect the defeat caucus is hedging its bets. GEN David Petraeus has a six-month window to help the Iraqi government stabilize itself. The so-called surge is proving to be a welcome change in ROE (see this from last month). GEN David Petraeus (I am given to understand) is a Democrat. He could prove to be the biggest political winner.
The reference to "defeat caucus" is a deliberate parallel construction. Here's Cassandra at Villainous Company introducing the parallel.
The recent uptick in violence in Baghdad is directly related to the dissent and division here at home. Our enemies depend on the fact that we remain unable to pull together as a nation, and some among us seem determined to give them every assurance that we are on their side. Please join The Victory Caucus.
That parallel is an insurgency in progress in the United States, complete with artwork.


And in the civilian commentary, Jules Crittenden comments,
While Congress Was Voting …

… for defeat and surrender, other people were taking care of business in Iraq. Mudville rounds up the door-kicking, head-breaking, name-taking fun here.
There are some cooler heads at work. Armed Liberal at Winds of Change wants to have a civil conversation.
Well, given that it's an insurgency, and that public stances matter because in part it's a matter of convincing a population at risk that we're serious about protecting them, so yes there is some cost to be borne in the perception of our seriousness because powerful interests are tugging at our sleeve and trying to pull us back from the table. So no, I reject the notion that calling for withdrawal or redeployment or whatever is treasonous or a betrayal - but I also reject the notion that it has no consequences in the conduct of the war.
Democratic Senators Biden of Delaware and Levin of Michigan appeared on some of the morning's talk shows, with what might be a way forward. Their suggestion recognizes that the objectives of the Iraq Liberation Act have been achieved, and the remaining mission for the U.S. military is one of dealing with al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, and only of dealing with al-Qaeda elements, rather than continuing to police a sectarian war. Whether that is possible remains to be seen.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE. Streetcars again to bend the corner around in Milwaukee?
Modern streetcars would link downtown attractions and express buses would connect workers to jobs in a new Milwaukee transportation plan advanced by Mayor Tom Barrett.
The plan will not be a reprise of the historic car lines (many of which provided the route numbers for the buses.)
A 3-mile streetcar loop would run along St. Paul Ave., N. 4th St., Juneau Ave. and the combination of N. Jackson St. and N. Van Buren St., linking the Amtrak station, Summerfest, the Shops of Grand Avenue, the Midwest Airlines Center, the Bradley Center and other downtown destinations with service every eight to 10 minutes.

Modern streetcars are a hybrid between the vintage streetcars that run in Kenosha - and once ran in Milwaukee - and the full-scale light rail systems found in Minneapolis, St. Louis and other cities. Like light rail, streetcars run on tracks in streets and are powered by overhead electric wires. But compared with light rail, streetcars cost far less, don't require tearing up streets as much and can run in traffic without a reserved lane, according to streetcar studies in Albuquerque, N.M., and Tucson, Ariz.
That distinction seems extremely fine. To a large extent, what we understand by "light rail" transit often involves investment in electric wire infrastructure and on-car collection devices worthy of the German ICE trains. The Electroliners did well enough, thank you, with trolley poles.

The plan does not envision returning streetcars to Wisconsin Avenue. The photo shows the Plankinton Building, which was an enclosed mall (in those days a "shopping arcade") long before that became The Rage in Downtown Redevelopment.


EXPECT THE RED BARON. That's a piece of advice I heard on some television documentary about the Battle of Britain. It was given to British fighter pilots as part of their preparation. Put simply, it means "Your opponent is not a patsy." The grade for failing the lesson is death.

In chess, a move that has among the ensuing variations a refutation must be annotated ?!, and if the player who makes the move goes on to win, somewhere the opponent has made a move that rates at least a ?

In game theory, the advice to expect the Red Baron is one way to motivate the concept of subgame perfection (each player picks the best available response at each decision node, whether that node is on the equilibrium path of play or not.)

Although the advice sounds logical, it's not necessarily easily followed. Thus a weaker team defeats a stronger team.
"Our seniors had a tough game," [Northern Illinois] head coach Carol Owens said. "We just didn't show up to play. There's no explanation for it. We played down to the level of our opponent and that's not acceptable."
Expect the Red Baron. Vince Lombardi struggled with the way to get the message out. Here he is (from Instant Replay) getting the Packers ready to play an expansion team in late September 1967.
"I've never had to talk to a team like this. I never had to holler at them before a game. They were always ready. But you people aren't ready. You've got a lackadaisical attitude. You're just gonna go out there tomorrow and get the hell kicked out of you. I tell you, it's going to be a hell of a game. Those Falcons aren't going to lie down for you."
Author Jerry Kramer summed up the game.
Everybody seemed to feel it was one of those situations where you have to show up, you have to play, and you have to win. If you lose, you look like a dummy. We showed up, we played, and we won, 23-0, but it was a real mediocre effort.
There is a corollary to Expect the Red Baron that professors and teachers neglect at their peril. Never describe a concept as "easy." That's the quickest way to lose students, simply because the characterization will lead some people not to bother with the subtleties, while others, upon confronting the subtleties, will interpret their frustration as evidence of their own lack of ability. Sure, some concepts are easier than others, but the prudent course is to introduce each one as if it were the Principle of Comparative Advantage or the General Theory of Relativity.