31.3.11

FREE REIN TO 110, IN MY LIFETIME?  Wisconsin's governor wasn't interested in speeding up access to Madison from Chicago's northern suburbs, or to Chicago from Oconomowoc, but he's happy to take federal money to achieve the fastest running time ever for Milwaukee trains.
Gov. Scott Walker's administration announced Tuesday that the state will seek at least $150 million to add equipment and facilities for Amtrak's Hiawatha line.

Walker said the money would be used to upgrade service on the Hiawatha line, as a step toward increasing the speed of the trains to nearly 110 mph and reducing the trip time from 90 minutes to one hour. If the improved service draws more riders, the number of round trips could be increased, he said during a news conference in the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

The governor said he expected Illinois, Michigan and Missouri would join in the application for the federal dollars, part of the $8 billion rail element of President Barack Obama's administration's stimulus package.

In a bizarre twist, some of the money that Walker now seeks originally was allocated for the Milwaukee-to-Madison route he previously turned down. That money is available because a fellow Republican governor rejected it as well.

Walker said the money would allow Wisconsin to buy two more train sets and eight locomotives and to build a maintenance facility for that equipment and two train sets now under construction.

But speeding up the trains would require additional track improvements in future years, said Reggie Newson, executive assistant to state Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb.

The locomotives, train sets and maintenance base would have been covered by the earlier $810 million grant. But the maintenance base, originally envisioned as a $52 million facility in Madison, now would be a $60 million facility at the Talgo Inc. train plant in the Century City complex on Milwaukee's north side.
Cold Spring Shops endorses the faster running times, and the enhanced frequency.




The newspaper, no fan of the new governor, notes that his decision to seek federal money for the Hiawathas creates a political controversy.
Asked about the apparent reversal in his position on rail initiatives, Walker said he always had supported improvements to the Hiawatha. It's a popular and established service, without the local opposition that complicated the Milwaukee-to-Madison link he campaigned against.

"This is not inconsistent with the position I took in the past," he said.

Milwaukee Ald. Robert Bauman called the governor's pursuit of federal stimulus money for the Hiawatha "rank hypocrisy."

Walker criticized federal stimulus spending during his campaign and rejected federal money that could have been used for the maintenance building on the city's north side. The state will pay more for that facility than if it had accepted the initial $810 million, Bauman said.

The Hiawatha provides the Midwest's most frequent and heavily used Amtrak service. It's one of the top 10 routes nationwide, nearly doubling ridership in the past eight years, to a record 792,848 last year. Ridership has continued to rise, notching gains of almost 8% each in January and February, on a pace to exceed 850,000 this year.
The choice of a fixed-formation train, the Talgo, that cannot easily be strengthened by adding cars, seems unwise in light of the increasing ridership, and the likely further increases induced by more frequent trains, later into the evening, and by rising fuel prices.  The current Hiawathas are six-car rakes, up from the four cars that protected each trip in 2004.

The 75 minute trains of 1951 frequently ran with up to a dozen cars, inclusive of parlor cars and tap-lounges or dining cars.


The Alco diesel set at the right would have been capable of protecting a 60 minute schedule, something that was envisioned for the 1938 steam Hiawathas.


THIS TRAIN REACHED CHICAGO 75 MINUTES AFTER LEAVING MILWAUKEE.
IT WAS CAPABLE OF GETTING THERE IN 60 MINUTES.

Faster, please.

SET UP TO FAIL.  Russell K. Nieli identifies the seamy side of affirmative action.
What our current racial preference policies do is ratchet upward the better-scoring black (and to a lesser extent Hispanic) college applicants into institutions higher on the selectivity scale than those they would have gotten into had they been white or Asian. The difference is always a question of which college a black or Hispanic high school graduate gets accepted to, not whether the high school grad gets accepted to college. It's never "Yale or Jail" -- there are colleges for high school graduates of every achievement level.
Read the whole thing, but note the Trenchant Observation of the Day.
 Many years ago Harvard psychologist Gordon Allport wrote an influential book on prejudice in which he described under what circumstances racial prejudice is enhanced or reduced.  A key ingredient for reducing racial prejudice, Allport's studies showed, was the commingling of people of a majority race who might harbor prejudices against a minority group with people of that minority group who are of equal or superior social status and achievement compared to the typical member of the majority group. 
And yet defenders of preferential policies prefer not to engage the tradeoff between inclusion and merit.  Regular readers know we've been raising that tradeoff for years.

28.3.11

THE 24/7 TREADMILL IS UNSUSTAINABLE.  During a recession, any job is better than no job at all, but, come the recovery, people who have options will exercise them.
For the past three years, companies have been learning to do more with less — a good way for employers to weather the economic storm, but not necessarily the best move for employee morale. Smaller workforces and budgets have meant added pressure on employees, as many have been forced to work longer hours and/or take pay cuts.

Chances are though, had you spoken to any of these overworked/underpaid employees in the past few years, while they might have expressed disdain over the greater pressure they faced at work, many of them would have also said that they were happy with their job, because they were just grateful to have one.

But now, with a better economy on the horizon, many workers are re-evaluating their company loyalty. According to a new study from MetLife, 47 percent of employees report feeling a very strong loyalty to their employers, down from 59 percent in 2008 (and a three-year low point).

Though employers will admit that they’ve expected a lot out of their employees — 43 percent of large companies and 38 percent of small companies say they’ve increased productivity in the last year — the decline in employee loyalty was an unforeseen consequence. Fifty-one percent of employers surveyed said they felt employees were very loyal, roughly the same percentage as in 2008.
We speak of labor demand and of labor supply for a reason.  Johnny Paycheck has a song about an adverse supply response.
“Worker loyalty has been slowly ebbing over the last several years, and it is important that employers take action to turn the tide around. The short-term gains employers realized from greater productivity appear to be short-lived and now pose bottom-line challenges as key talent considers other employment opportunities that have arisen as a result of the improving economy,” Anthony J. Nugent, an executive vice president at MetLife, said in a statement. “There is no doubt that the rebounding economy will bring more opportunities for employees, especially the high performers.”

According to the survey, more than one-third (36 percent) of employees plan to look for work at a new company this year, and according to a CareerBuilder poll from earlier this year, 76 percent of employees would change jobs if the right opportunity came along.
It's been a maintained hypothesis at Cold Spring Shops that income inequality is generally, if not exclusively, a skill premium.  If the skill premium manifests itself in a less burdensome job description, well, that's one more margin along which employers have to optimize.
WITHOUT COMMENT.  John Bridgeland offers an instructive column at Huffpost College.
How can it be that today, in the midst of the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression and millions of Americans seeking work, that 53 percent of employers -- and 67 percent of small business employers that create most new jobs -- find it difficult to find qualified workers? How can a workforce desperate for new jobs appear so helpless amid so many businesses desperate to hire?

The answers to those questions lie at the heart of a new divide that has developed within the American economy. Over the last several decades, a chasm has emerged to divide the skills of the nation's workforce, as they exist, and the demands of the nation's job market. Today, America has only 45 million workers who have the training and skills to fill 97 million jobs that require some post-secondary education. U.S. companies have to choose among importing skilled workers, outsourcing jobs, or relocating operations in markets overseas with a rising supply of skilled and affordable workers. At the same time, the nation has more than 100 million candidates for only 61 million low-skill, low-wage positions. If America wants to remain competitive, we will have to expand our supply of high- and middle-skill workers.

But that will require more than just pointing high school graduates in the direction of their nearest college campus. The national spotlight on "access" to college has shrouded another priority: ensuring that those who enter college programs graduate with the skills and credentials they will need to succeed in the workforce and help America remain competitive around the world. Today, more than 70 percent of high school graduates enroll in some kind of advanced education within two years. Yet, just over one-half of bachelor's degree candidates complete their degree within six years, and less than one-third of associate's degree candidates earn their degree within three years. America has a serious college completion crisis.
(Via Minding the Campus.)

Go, read, and understand.
NEW HEIGHTS FOR THE NORTH STAR CONFERENCE.  Wisconsin-Green Bay earned a trip to the round of sixteen with home-grown players overlooked by the better-known programs in their neighborhood.
"I think it comes down to the heart all these players have," senior forward Kayla Tetschlag said. "We have been undersized at almost every position all season long, especially up against the bigger teams in the NCAA tournament so far. Our athleticism has been matched and even beaten.

"It just comes down to the heart that this team has. No matter who the opponent, we are going to come out and play hard. That's what has made us so successful this year."

 It's also what BCS schools apparently didn't notice about UWGB players while recruiting.

Tetschlag was interested in Wisconsin, but it wasn't interested in her. Senior guard Celeste Hoewisch couldn't even get UWGB to offer a full ride initially let alone a BCS school. None of the other starting five, which is rounded out by guards Hannah Quilling and Sarah Eichler and forward Julie Wojta, received an offer from a Big Ten school.

The cast of those five Wisconsin girls, along with a reserve unit that includes former De Pere standout Adrian Ritchie, not only continues to prove it can hang with big schools, but also beat them.

After its nine-point win over Michigan State on Sunday, the Phoenix improved to 4-0 against Big Ten schools this season.
The broadcasters of Sunday's game with Baylor noted that Green Bay defeated Wisconsin at Madison, setting in motion a season that ended with Wisconsin's coach being dismissed.  In basketball broadcasting, that nugget counts as equal time, one mention of the underdog team per ten mentions of Baylor's post player.  Baylor did win the game, and those announcers mostly mentioned the efforts of that post player, but Green Bay's problem was at the perimeter.
"Their guard defense was the best we have seen all year," [coach Matt] Bollant said. "We really struggled to try to get by. We are a very good passing team, and honestly, going in I didn't know if that would work with [Brittany] Griner inside. We made her have to guard the perimeter.

"We got great looks."
For the most part, they did. But whenever Green Bay got to within three or four points, Baylor would provoke, or Green Bay's players would commit, a turnover on the perimeter allowing Baylor to break the overlap.
STEAM TRAIN A-COMING.  Steam trains are bound for Rock Island, July 21-24.

27.3.11

DON'T WRITE US OF.  AIN'T NO STOPPIN' US NOW.  Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story is ostensibly about the final collapse of the United States.  Book Review No. 7 suggests that the collapse is already well under way, or has already actually happened.  The post title quotes a sign posted by something called the American Restoration Authority.  It's difficult to speak of restoration without something being broken.  The more prosperous characters have the opportunity to travel, and the world they inhabit is one in which the antitrust laws have been broken or perhaps abolished as part of the transactions by which formerly sovereign nations sold naming rights to corporations, to obtain debt forgiveness perhaps?

The world of Super Sad True Love Story is in some ways more believable than that of 1984 or Brave New World, in that one can conceive of a technology-intensive dystopia (at least for individuals with some net worth left) emerging organically.  Consumer electronics have progressed to such an extent that the successor to the smart phone is small enough to be worn as a necklace, yet powerful enough to share information with all the other smart phones in a bar, or along a street.  Thus can high net worth individuals have their creditworthiness displayed for all to see, and all the pretty and predatory people have their hotness evaluated, and yet be able to arrange their one-hour stands relatively discreetly.  It's not much of a stretch to see contemporary search engines and social networks evolving in precisely that direction.
Facebook became a trusted brand by presenting itself as a private club of peers. Meanwhile, the site was changing settings and revealing more personal information to more people.

Google used to tout its search engine advertising as privacy friendly, because it focused upon users' interests per-transaction, rather than through an analysis of past searches and browsing. But in 2007, Google quietly began behavioral profiling, tracking searches, and, with the acquisition of DoubleClick, nearly all browsing behavior.
The society that emerges says more about Mr Shteyngart's prejudices than it does about his understanding of the underlying social science.  For instance, those one-hour stands appear to be the new norm for sexual congress.  Juicy Couture has become a more explicit, yet relatively restrained, brand name (read the book and judge for yourself), and the young ladies (who tend to work in Retail or Communication) who seek the attention of the highest net worth men (who tend to work in Finance or Technology) can campaign for their attention by leaving very little, even in business attire, to their imagination.

There are dissenters, but Mr Shteyngart gives us an ethnic evangelist rather than a phesbian leminist with an institutional haircut as the behind-the-times critic to be pitied rather than emulated.  On occasion, he does suggest a lament for the life lost, as when one character encounters a book and discovers she only knows how to scan data streams for information, not to read for content.  (That might be one difficulty today's students already have, particularly to the extent that high-stakes testing deemphasizes conceptual understanding.)

Mr Shteyngart's political economy is unusual for a native of the Soviet Union who emigrated at the age of nine.  He apparently learned just enough of the principles of capitalist accumulation to be dangerous.  The reason people say they work in Retail or Finance is that businesses have merged and concentrated to such an extent that a specific corporate identity conveys no information.  But if such concentration were possible, the conglomerate corporations of the 1960s and the Soviet Union itself would not have come to grief.

As, apparently, did the United States, and with it, much of the rest of the developed world, although not with an environmental or military bang.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

WHEN THE INCOME EFFECT SWAMPS THE SUBSTITUTION EFFECT.

Cold Spring Shops has long been your one-stop shop for questioning what a lot of people perceive as Corporate America's standard contract.
I welcome serious efforts (as opposed to airport-book infomercials) by employers to offer a variety of job descriptions rather than the one-size-fits-all we'll pay you a lot of money but you don't get to have a life that seems to be the working professional's reality: it matters not whether you call it Millennial-adapted or family-friendly or responding to the backward bending supply curve.
There have been sightings of adaptations previously, including corporate equivalents of sabbaticals and reductions in working hours without union or labor legislation at work.  We've previously anticipated managements seeking to harvest gains from trade with workers who might be receptive to more flexible job descriptions.
The market incentive I'm thinking about is my old friend thebackward-bending labor supply curve. Businesses that discover resistance to terms of employment that involve open-ended time commitments where the resistance increases at higher salary offers are more likely to consider other terms, particularly if they're forever attempting to replace their best people.
Virginia Postrel suggests that the logic of income and substitution effects is at work, precisely among those workers for whom the substitution effect might be less strong.
American women have actually established a modus vivendi. Most continue to have and raise children and, in greater numbers than ever before, to combine motherhood not just with jobs but careers—vocations in which they make long-term investments and from which they derive not only income but personal satisfaction and identity.

Irony of ironies, they do so largely by following the advice of Felice Schwartz, who ignited the first great conflagration of the modern mommy wars with her 1989 Harvard Business Review article "Management Women and the New Facts of Life," or, as it was immediately and derisively labeled, "The Mommy Track."

Ms. Schwartz, who died in 1996, began with the idea that not all professional women are alike. Some focus primarily on careers, making "the same trade-offs traditionally made by the men who seek leadership positions." But most want children, and once they have kids, these "talented and creative" women, "are willing to trade some career growth and compensation for freedom from the constant pressure to work long hours and weekends."

Instead of treating such women as pathetic losers to be jettisoned for a new crop of recruits, she argued, companies should recognize them as a "precious resource." Such women could bring experience, continuity and talent to middle-management jobs traditionally occupied by short-termers on their way up or "mediocre" men whose ambitions outstripped their ability.

To retain these productive women, wise employers should offer more flexibility, including part-time arrangements. This accommodation would, in most cases, mean slower promotions and lower pay. But, Ms. Schwartz maintained, "most career-and-family women are entirely willing to make that trade-off."

You just couldn't say so in public. Lower pay for less work offended the reigning idea of a serious career. Ms. Schwartz, critics charged, wanted to consign women to "dead-end jobs."

By the late 1980s, however, younger women—those in college—had already begun talking about their futures in new ways. Harvard economist Claudia Goldin recalls that, unlike her own cohort of early baby boomers, these younger women didn't plan to postpone family life while pursuing career goals. They wanted "'CAREERANDFAMILY' or 'FAMILYANDCAREER,' as if the words were not three but one and as if the timing of the two goals would not be an issue," she recounts in a 2004 article.

Those ambitions produced the angst and absolutism of the mommy wars. But, Prof. Goldin concludes from survey data, women who graduated in the 1980s were much more likely than their predecessors to achieve that once-elusive combination. By the time they turned 40, between 21% and 27% had both careers and children—up from 13% to 18% among women who graduated between 1966 and 1979. (About three-quarters of both groups had kids.)

Most of the gains came from new work patterns that no longer forced women to make an all-or-nothing choice. Sixty percent of pharmacists are now female, for example, a sharp increase that coincides with the rise of chain pharmacies offering flexible hours.

Nor are highly educated women "opting out." In a study of Harvard graduates co-written with Lawrence F. Katz, Prof. Goldin found that women with children left the labor force for no more than two years altogether, with younger women (graduating from 1989 to 1992) taking less time than their elders. A third of all female graduates worked part-time, however, compared to less than 10% of men.

Similarly, a study of University of Chicago MBAs, with Marianne Bertrand, found that, a decade after graduation, women with children work on average 24% fewer weekly hours than men. (Women without children work about 3% fewer hours.) Only half of them work full-time. Many strike out on their own, establishing consulting practices that permit flexible, project-based work. "MBA mothers," the economists write, "seem to actively choose jobs that are family-friendly, and avoid jobs with long hours and greater career-advancement possibilities."

Just as Felice Schwartz suggested.
That remark about mediocre men whose ambitions outstrip their ability is gratuitous. There's no intellectual basis for criticizing the individual who is willing to outwork others in order to secure income, or promotions.

On the other hand, there's no reason for a corporation to restrict its promotion opportunities to the most conspicuous time-servers, or to restrict its flexible job descriptions to mothers.

Just as Cold Spring Shops has been suggesting for years.
SOME OBSERVATIONS TRANSCEND POLITICS.  Rebelpleb cross-posted to Common Dreams some observations about what makes for a successful school.
To be sure, teachers deserve higher salaries – on the order of 1000% raises – but if you asked teachers what they wish for, higher salaries would be the last thing they would mention. They would tell you that they want: 
• smaller class sizes, so that they can give more individual attention to their students and have fewer papers to grade, so that they can devote enough time to give students thorough feedback and assistance to help them learn
• more preparation time, so that they can devise creative and interesting lessons to enable students to learn and be engaged
• more autonomy, so that they can help students think critically instead of forcing the students to engage in rote memorization for standardized tests
• more support from school staff, so they can teach rather than having to do much administrative and bureaucratic work that is not connected to educating their students
• more social supports for students so they can devote their time to learning more effectively
• more time for their students to engage in art, music, and physical education
• and did I mention smaller class sizes?

Everything on this wish list relates directly to better education. While we spend money on new technologies and gadgets for classrooms, new books and learning programs which enrich the pocketbooks of corporations, we do nothing to enrich classrooms in the ways that teachers and students need most.
These observations generalize to the universities as well, where technology fads and administrative interference get in the way of teaching and scholarship.  The proper social supports might be subject to debate, and the nature of unproductive assessment and testing might be different.  But the misplaced enthusiasm of observers who see increased student credit hours per faculty member as enhanced productivity is the nub of the problem.
One quarter of our children live in poverty. We have a crisis of unemployment, joblessness, hunger, and homelessness that worsens by the day and deeply affects all of our school-age children. In addition, we have a cultural crisis in which superficiality and the spectacle of entertainment are revered beyond any moral and civic responsibilities to each other and to our communities. We have a crisis of technophilia, in which we are addicted to television, computers, iPads, iPhones, smartphones, etc., and lack important engagements in interpersonal conversation and true emotional attachment. And we have a crisis of society, in which the corporation has taken over all aspects of our lives, including our educational systems. Our schools have been reconstructed to train mind-numbed automaton serfs for the benefit of their corporate overseers.
Those mind-numbed serfs will be the undoing of those corporate overseers (what good is an employee who can't find the bathroom without a study guide?)  The preceding sentences, however, focus on the inability, whatever the cause might be, of the schools to develop the habits of industry; habits that are, in any event, rendered anachronistic by the superficial vulgar culture.  (Never mind the insurrections across North Africa or the breakdown of Japan, Inc.; a new Survivor is to make its premiere.)
Many poor students have obligations and burdens beyond their control which impede their abilities to devote themselves to their educations. To address the educational needs of these children, their social and economic needs must be dealt with first, and this larger, societal issue cannot be adequately addressed by teachers, though many try to do so.

But there is also another fact that most teachers will never speak of publicly – students are not all perfect angels, not by a long shot. Though I hate to rely on TV as a model, the show “Supernanny” depicts how poorly some children are parented and how spoiled and entitled so many children are now more than ever. These same children who throw endless temper tantrums, speak back to adults, and obtain everything they want in every way they want it are the children that teachers are supposed to manage and educate every day. Rather than support the authority of the teacher when problems arise, parents of these children back up their offspring and complain to administrators about teachers, rather than confront the control their own children exert over them.
The essayist suggests that the perceived advantages of charter and private schools in educating youngsters is an artifact of three things: smaller class sizes, fewer classes per faculty member, and students with more cultural capital. The generalizations to higher education are straightforward.
HOW LEGENDS BEGIN.  Voluntary Xchange finds an anticipated Beatles Mockumentary. "I didn’t know Scottie Pippen and his homies won the Super Bowl at Shea Stadium in 1965."   Lose enough of the content, and put the information you do have together incorrectly, and that's what you get.

Something similar appears to have happened under Grand Central Terminal, where the Daily Mail foreign service claims to have found President Roosevelt's private train.  A closer inspection of the picture suggests a New York Central baggage car that got pushed out of the way under the Waldorf-Astoria and subsequently proved to be too expensive to haul away for scrap.  But don't let that get in the way of a good story.
His presidency began in 1932 at the height of the depression with nearly a quarter of the working population jobless and two million homeless.

In such difficult times, Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not want anybody to know of his own problems and arranged to journey in and out of New York via Grand Central in a personal armoured train.

'The platform is directly under the Waldorf Astoria and after Roosevelt's 6000 horse powered diesel train would pull up on the tracks it would let his personal car out of the side,' said Dan Brucker, 52, spokesperson for Metro North, the company that runs Grand Central Terminal.

'The car would then drive off the dark and secret platform into an elevator which would take it directly into the Waldorf Astoria garage.

'This served to protect Roosevelt's safety and protect his disability through polio from the public at large.'

The train is still visible in the poorly light disused platform, a remnant of a different time in American history, when industrial icons like locomotives ruled the land.
Mr Brucker once showed a number of O Scalers through Grand Central Terminal, and he's too well informed about his terminal to be spreading disinformation, although he might have given his British guests too much information in too big a hurry for them to digest it all.

First, Mr Roosevelt would not have had a 6,000 horsepower diesel train.  It is true that a three-unit, 6,000 horsepower diesel locomotive, the first Alco PA-1, did make its debut on the Waldorf-Astoria siding (not in the ballroom, is there no end to some train nuts' imagination?), but that was in 1946, after the war.  The Presidential train might have used the Waldorf-Astoria siding, and the special Presidential car with hand controls might have been brought along.  But the special armored official car Ferdinand Magellan, used by Mr Roosevelt after 1942 and more famously by President Truman (and President Reagan had it restored to service for a 1984 whistle stop campaign), is in preservation (but not open to the public) in Florida.

The abandoned presidential train is the less titillating legend about the Grand Central Terminal plant.  There's also the battery room in the sub-basement.
During the war, it was not Roosevelt's train which concerned Hitler but the immense power grid under Grand Central, which to this day powers the transportation of more than one million people per week up and down American's East Coast.

Constructed as part of the redesigned terminal in 1913, this colossal top-secret area ten storeys deep - known as M42 - was left off all blueprints for the station and its existence was only officially acknowledged by the station owners in the late 1980's

Accessible via a lift that is almost 100 years old, M42 is still one of the most closely guarded areas.

'The exact location of M42 is still classified information,' said Mr Brucker.
It's so classified that a Mail reporter visited it, and, in July of 2001, Mr Brucker showed it to the visiting O Scalers.


Knife switches for the old batteries and rotary converters.
The converters have since been replaced with solid-state rectifiers.



An early twentieth-century control panel.

It's possible that Hitler wanted this substation put out of business, although a news report that suggests he wanted to learn about the Manhattan Project (an extremely closely held codeword) as well as about disrupting U.S. railroads is doubtful. Some German spies did land at Bar Harbor.  The target most ferroequinologists recognize is The Pennsylvania Railroad's crossing of the Alleghenies, a complex more difficult to conceal.

The sub-basement of Grand Central might have been a closely guarded secret (apart from railroad employees and ferroequinologists.)  Hollywood knew about it all the same.


Lex Luthor's hideout is behind that door.
BARBARIANS IN THE BRACKETS.  Capitol One confirms that its plundering hordes set loose at various tourist destinations are Visigoths, and their latest quest is to make fun of sports reporting.

Perhaps they can teach the fans some better chants.  Fans at some basketball games are prone to yell Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooh for the duration of a possession, or sometimes for the entire series between television stoppages.  At other games, it's more of an Oh-uh-uh-uh-Oh-oh, doesn't sound like a rain dance or like a prayer for deliverance, but it doesn't sound particularly informed either.
I MUST BE COMPLICIT IN OPPRESSING THE MASSES.  If time permits, I treat my last full day in London as a shopping trip:  Ian Allan near Waterloo, Fortnum and Mason for tea, Davidoff for cigars, perhaps a quick train ride to Oxford for Blackwells and an early dinner.

Britain's left would prefer I not shop in Piccadilly.



In the Colonies, a tea merchant collecting taxes inspires a revolution. In the Old Country, a tea merchant avoiding taxes becomes an excuse to abuse shoppers for eating salmon sandwiches. Progress of two centuries?
POSITIVE ECONOMICS.  The Law of Demand predicts that people will substitute toward cheaper goods.  It's not a prescription, but it works well as an hypothesis.  (Via Instapundit.)

Question: can a city make itself less a terrorist target by lobbying for higher air fares?

25.3.11

FAKE EDUCATION.  A professor at Adirondack Community challenges the austerity measures, or faddishness, or what have you, at the Albany campus of the State University of New York.
How can UAlbany justify "educational" priorities that put working- and middle-class students at a clear disadvantage in relation to the affluent who attend private universities?
The article provokes a wisecrack from University Diaries, who has covered Albany's descent into madness, in the form of a rewritten headline.  EDUCATING DRUNK, UNCRITICAL HALF-LITERATES BY DESIGN.

Perhaps Albany's model is ZooConn or ZooMass, and becoming a sub-prime party school before the championship basketball team takes shape is a tweak to the model.  That model, however, makes University Diaries base at George Washington a more secure place of employment.  George Washington have had some success emulating the price structure and admissions profile of the Ivies; and as long as the Ivies choose not to increase the sizes of their entering classes and faculties, and as long as the land-grants and mid-majors starve the academic units to fight the athletic arms races, the young people with less by way of money or connections or on occasion test scores are consigned to the academic gulags.

Or not, if the reaction of some test-prep students to a thought question has any extrapolative value.
Last Saturday, the College Board served up a mega-curveball for high school students across America: it asked them to write an essay about reality television.
Chortle.
[Do] "people benefit from forms of entertainment that show so-called reality, or are such forms of entertainment harmful?"

Definitely not what kids who have spent countless hours brushing up on their Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Dickens had expected.

These are the kids that are too busy studying, playing soccer, or taking piano lessons in the hopes of receiving an acceptance letter to a great college — they don’t have the time to watch or interest in the comings-and-goings of Jersey Shore’s Snooki and The Situation. These are, not surprisingly, the same kids who are complaining of the question’s ‘unfairness’ – many of whom have lamented on online forums such as College Confidential that they don’t watch any television, let alone reality shows.
One could ask whether Shakespeare's writing for the groundlings, or the Tabard Inn's enjoyment of bawdy content, or Dickens exaggerating the social contrasts, was beneficial or harmful.  The question isn't about the content of Jersey Shore at all.  As Professor Newmark observes"Consistent with what I see in my teaching: too many kids today equate education solely with memorization."

The Forbes essayist offers the trenchant observation for the day: working life is often an open-book essay exam, with no study guide and no assigned book.
My bosses have never asked, nor have they cared, about my SAT scores. In my limited experience of the working world, you get things done well or you don’t. You aren’t always served up a fastball down the pike, and you don’t always knock it out of the park. Things aren’t black and white, right or wrong. You get an assignment and you often stumble through it, feeling ill-prepared at best, incompetent at worst – even with a degree from a prestigious university. There’s no quantitative measurement of your success; success is defined as your ability to perform the task at hand to the best of your ability. For some, this lack of structure is exhilarating. For others, terrifying.

The question asks rigid test-takers to simply adjust, a skill that’s necessary, I’ve found, for post-grad life. What are you going to do when your boss tells you that you need to do something that’s completely out of your comfort zone? Something you’ve never done before and haven’t learned in a classroom? The real world comes without an instruction manual, without a step-by-step guidebook like the illustrated directions that come with Ikea furniture. 
The default-by-test-prep protest offers students at Albany, and the land-grants, mid-majors, and party schools more generally, an opportunity for their opportunity to perform at that task.  It's up to the administrators and faculty at those institutions to so equip their students.
BUDGETS BUSTED, BRACKETS NOT SO MUCH.  Phil Miller at The Sports Economist recommends an ESPN database that allows readers to determine the level of internal subsidy by universities to intercollegiate sports.

The Hall of Shame, or Bottom Ten, or Champion Rent-Seekers come, overwhelmingly, from the mid-major programs.  Four institutions (Eastern, Central, and Western Michigan; and Buffalo) represent the Mid-American.  Conference USA provides another three.  I don't follow the basketball tournament closely enough to speak to the other conferences; in both national basketball tournaments the Mid-American representative has been one-and-done, bay-bee, while Butler, once Northern Illinois's rival in the Mid-Continent Conference, is once again making a final four run in the men's tournament.  Northern Illinois just committed $1.5 million to hire Tom Izzo's senior assistant to fix the basketball program.
Rebuilding NIU’s men’s basketball program will require extensive work. The Huskies are coming off five consecutive 20-loss seasons. They haven’t been in the NCAA tournament since 1996.

He can’t do anything about that yet. The season doesn’t start for another seven months. Until then, [Mark] Montgomery said one of his top priorities is reconnecting with the Huskies’ fan base, many of whom grew discontent [c.q.] with the program before former coach Ricardo Patton was fired March 9.

To do that, Montgomery, who signed a five-year, $1.5 million ($300,000-a-year) contract with NIU, said he will speak at town halls and conduct summer camps. He said he will reach out to university fraternities, sororities and other campus clubs. His goal is to be as visible as possible.
The students are currently paying for the right not to attend the basketball and football games, and they'll pay more for that right next year; perhaps a stronger basketball program or football's efforts to become the next Boise State might provide the proper play value.  (Or not.)  The same day that headquarters announced its latest attempt to strengthen basketball, the Board of Trustees contemplated another year of doing more with less.  Deep in the report is a remark by university president John Peters, who notes that state employees have had their salaries docked for their contributions to the state pension system lockbox; the legislators, however, have opted not to appropriate the matching funds for their part of the bargain.  Makes those paternalistic arguments against private retirement accounts less compelling, doesn't it?

23.3.11

FASTER, PLEASE.  The restoration of the Alton Route continues.
Illinois has reached an agreement with Union Pacific for the next phase of upgrades to the Chicago-St. Louis rail corridor used by Amtrak Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle. This phase includes $685 million of work between Lincoln and Dwight, Ill., and between Alton, Ill., and the Mississippi River near St. Louis.


Upgrades for faster speeds between Chicago and St. Louis began a decade ago, but the pace sped up last fall with the acquisition of a federal grant through the high speed rail program. Last year’s work focused on the line between Alton and Lincoln, Ill. The work lined up for this year extends the upgrades in both directions. The work will eventually enable 110-mph passenger train speeds, in an effort to reduce city-to-city travel times to around 4 hours.


In an effort to give track workers unimpeded access to the line, Amtrak is diverting trains 21 and 22, the Texas Eagle, during three periods this spring. The trains will run over Union Pacific’s ex-Chicago & Eastern Illinois trackage via Findlay, Ill., April 2-9, April 16-24, and May 1-9.
Those reroutes suggest the Lincoln Service trains connecting Chicago, Bloomington, Springfield, and St. Louis will be annulled or replaced in part by buses. Such a development wiped out a planned spring break trip to the Lincoln Presidential Library. Fortunately, the special exhibit dealing with Mr Lincoln's Cabinet will remain until August.

Some Illinois officials are enthusiastic, others less so.
"The governors of these other states that have given up their money can stand by and wave at our trains when they go by. We’re going to move people, we’re going to freight, we’re going to set a standard for America. It starts right here in Chicago," [Democratic Senator Richard] Durbin said.


But not everybody in Illinois is gung-ho about fast trains. Freshman Congressman Joe Walsh said the government can’t afford to spend the money and he doubted their cost effectiveness because Americans love their cars. He said governors like Scott in Florida had the right idea by giving up federal money for rail projects.


"I respect the governors who have done that, that clearly is not what Pat Quinn is about," Walsh, whose district is in northern Illinois.


Illinois’ other senator, Republican U.S. Mark Kirk, supports high speed rail including federal funding and believes it should be a private-public partnership so that trains move with the speed and reliability to serve consumers who would otherwise would fly, Kirk spokesman Lance Trover said.


When high-speed trains are eventually traveling up to 110 mph, the trip between St. Louis and Chicago could be cut by 90minutes to less than four hours.
That car-love the right honorable gentleman refers to might not be so attractive in the face of five bucks a gallon to fuel up the land-yacht.  You'll pay more for the privilege of being fondled by airport security and waiting half an hour to be seated in your aluminum sardine can, which you'll then have to wait for half an hour to disembark through one door.  Even a conventional train looks good compared to that.
U.S. airlines have raised fares at least six times this year as they try to offset rising jet fuel costs. The last attempt failed when other airlines decided not to follow American Airlines when it raised prices earlier this month, also by $10 per round trip. Cheap seats will be harder to find this year, said Rick Seaney, chief executive officer of travel website FareCompare.com.
That's the same American Airlines that once, famously, attempted to entice Braniff to match its price increases in Texas. Good old dominant strategy strikes again!
CUTTING CORNERS.  Once upon a time, Bruce Pearl took a Wisconsin-Milwaukee basketball team to the national tournament, then parlayed it (despite denials at the time) into an appointment at Tennessee, where the men's team is not the best winter ticket on campus, that has now ended badly.  The separation bonus (golden parachute, if you will) he took might be a performance-bond-in-advance to the next basketball coach.
Labor Attorney David Burkhalter says a financial agreement like this one is not uncommon, and likely included several stipulations.  He speculated it might free both sides from being sued, and require Bruce Pearl to reveal any further NCAA violations and cooperate with any investigation.

"A prudent employer typically would want to have peace with the separating employee. You have to pay to get that, you have to pay consideration. You do not want to run the risk of being involved in litigation down the road, you want to have a smooth transition, you want to make sure that Coach Pearl fully cooperates with the university going forward. You want to make sure, again, that there's been a full disclosure of any and all violations, and that will be spelled out in the document," said Burkhalter.

Burkhalter also says what happens now could affect the basketball program in the future.   The next potential coach may look at how the university treated Pearl when he was let go before deciding to take the job.

Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports suggests that Bruce Pearl is collateral damage of Ohio State's tchotchkes for tattoos scandal, but the secondary explosions might yet take out Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel.
It took the Tressel fiasco for Tennessee to realize the NCAA was going to devastate its basketball program if Bruce Pearl were still the coach. Even with blindly loyal Volunteers fans gathering in support of their ethically bankrupt coach, Tennessee did the right thing on Monday by firing Pearl -- but don't give the school much credit. It did everything wrong, from start to finish, until stumbling onto the only resolution acceptable: firing a coach who would dare try to cover up NCAA violations.

Now the focus falls to Ohio State, and public perception will weigh heavily on the Buckeyes. For the second time, Tennessee has set the bar for responding to an ethically empty coach. The first time, Tennessee went for the in-season suspension. The SEC sat down Pearl for eight games, and that was good enough for Tennessee. And so it was good enough for Ohio State, which sat down its own ethically empty coach, Jim Tressel, for the first two games of the 2011 season.

Two games became five games after the Buckeyes gauged public perception, which bordered on ridicule, and accepted Tressel's offer to increase his own suspension. Which I don't believe for a second, by the way. Tressel lied to his own boss, but I'm supposed to believe he's telling the truth about his five-game suspension? Not gonna happen.

But now, here's what happened: Tennessee raised the bar from suspension to dismissal. Tennessee learned from Jim Tressel that its coach had to be fired.
To be continued ...  (There is a face-saving out for Ohio State.  A previous football coach was dismissed for failure to beat Wisconsin.)

22.3.11

WHEN ACCESS AND RETENTION BECOME ENDS IN THEMSELVES.  A York University graduate assistant posted too much information on Facebook.
The comments, now removed, said: “My student’s papers are making me dumber, so very stupid; by the minute. Please, make them, stop. They are infecting me with there huge and apparent stupidity, and I fear they will start to effect in my opinion the way I myself right papers (sic).”
That says more about the poster than it does about the students.

The university's response says more about the university.
"It’s a much wider and more systemic problem of respect on campus, and in many ways it just reflects the same attitude and comments many tenured faculty and senior administrators encourage," says [Hans] Rollmann, a PhD student in women’s studies who is in his second year of being a tutorial assistant in social science.

"That’s the exact thing we hear from tenured faculty, from department heads, from deans, from senior administrators, it’s this … continuous disparaging attitude toward undergraduates on campus," says Rollmann.
Perhaps that's Canada, and perhaps York exists primarily as a graduate and research department. If so, that's a tremendous waste, as there ought to be some spark in each undergraduate, whether or not that spark is an interest in the professor's or graduate assistant's field of study.  Division of labor is a source of prosperity, and the point of group requirements, or of a core curriculum, is to allow each student an opportunity to discover a comparative advantage, whether that's in culture studies or herpetology or complex analysis.  (Bracketology and ferroequinology are probably better left to recreation time.)

On the other hand, perhaps we're seeing frustration with the fruit of access for its own sake; with doing the work the high schools, nay, the middle schools, should be doing;  with the disengaged and uninterested students dragging everybody else down.  The original poster might have, in a clumsy way, been venting about the very spelling errors that provoked the post.
FROM THE RUINS OF THE NORTH STAR CONFERENCE.  Years ago, DePaul, Northern Illinois, and Wisconsin-Green Bay sparred for the women's basketball title in the North Star Conference, which for a while included Marquette and Notre Dame.  DePaul, Marquette, and Notre Dame left, ultimately to play in the Holy Roman Empire, er, Big East.  The North Star reorganized as the Mid-Continent Conference (legally, I think it was the Association of Mid-Continental Universities) and Northern Illinois and Green Bay took turns hosting the conference championship (and in one year, both teams received a national tournament bid.)  Northern Illinois, primarily for its football program, rejoined the Mid-American Conference, while Green Bay and much of the rest of the Mid-Continent became the Horizon League, so called because Green Bay is over the horizon from the rest of that conference, something that makes a tight tournament game a pleasurable challenge.
Finally the Phoenix, which has defeated opponents by an average of 23 points this season, turned back Little Rock, 59-55, to advance to Tuesday's second-round game against Michigan State.
It's not quite "we play Horizon games just for practice" but read on.
"After the first five minutes, when we were a little tight and not used to playing, we realized we were in a fight and wanted to enjoy the fight," Green Bay sophomore guard Adrian Ritchie said.

Added coach Matt Bollant: "You want other teams to step up and make plays and have to earn it. The heart is what makes it great, so as a coaching staff, you can't tell your players that and then shy away from the competition or not enjoy the competition."
Green Bay is in another tight one with Michigan State this evening, which ESPN are unaccountably not sending me, in order that I can see putative favorite Baylor beating up on West Virginia.

A Mid-Con legacy team making the round of sixteen against a Big 12 Ten team appeals.

SECOND SECTION.  Green Bay hang on against Michigan State, face Baylor next.  Tough night for former Northern Illinois assistant Sue Semrau and Florida State, with Georgia coming from behind with three seconds remaining, in a nearly empty Auburn gym.  Topic drift: what's Georgia doing using The Battle Hymn of the Republic as pep song, and as alma mater?

21.3.11

JUST SLIGHTLY AHEAD OF ITS TIME?  Destination: Freedom discovers a new high speed rail initiative.
Two enterprising Chicago high-speed rail advocates are announcing formation of a project to build a 220 mph line connecting Chicago to New York, and other cities located on the Northeast Corridor.

Long-time rail advocates Mike Lee and Charles Paidock are recruiting individuals from across the transportation community to develop plans, specifications, and secure private/public funding for this project.  While they are supportive of associations that foster passenger train travel, or short local high-speed lines within a state, the two prefer to focus instead on getting down to building a real railroad in the way that hasn’t been seen in a over a hundred years.

Charles Paidock said:  “Putting little high-speed lines here and there is ok, but all you’re actually doing is just putting in another commuter line, and improving public transit.  And I’ve seen all sorts of plans for regional networks, but nobody except us apparently has a map of the United States.  It only makes sense to have a route connecting these two major metropolitan areas.”

The construction of a railroad from New York, to Pittsburgh, and then on to Chicago was actually proposed in 1907.  Approval was granted for construction, but there was an economic panic later that year, and the start of World War I made financing the project doubtful, so it never was built.  The two largest railroads in the United States at the time, the Pennsylvania and the New York Central, later ran competing passenger trains along different routes between New York and Chicago, attracting sizeable numbers of passengers, until the advent of superhighways and airlines.
The New York and Chicago Railroad appears to be a legitimate suggestion (a legitimate business enterprise would be another matter), and its organizers recognize that the idea is, oh, 100 years old.


Chicago-New York Electric Air Line.
Image from New York and Chicago history page.

We've seen the Air Line before. The current plan envisions a railroad that calls at Cleveland and Pittsburgh along the way, rather than seeking the most direct course.


The organizers will have a table at Chicago Union Station on National Train Day, May 7.
CONNECTICUT?  TENNESSEE?  Pretenders.


University of Wisconsin photograph.

Four national titles in the past six years, and in the eleven years of the women's hockey tournament, the champion has always come from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

The best in the West, the hell with the East indeed.

SIEVE!

18.3.11

NEITHER SCRAPPING NOR PRESERVATION IS COST EFFECTIVE.  Watercrunch goes canoeing in the backwoods of Maine and comes across the remains of the Eagle Lake and West Branch logging railroad.


These locomotives have long been known to ferroequinologists.  Getting there is not easy, particularly in winter, and scrappers salvaged the rails long ago, but not the locomotives (perhaps the locomotives had to be floated upriver?)  They were parked in the engine shed and left.



The engine shed burned down sometime after 1967.
THE INSTITUTIONS WE'VE DESTROYED.  Five college dropouts recently observed a twenty-year milestone.  Because these five dropped out of the University of Michigan after failing to deliver a basketball title, yet made a documentary that trash-talked other college basketball programs, timed to be released before Michigan, yet again, failed to qualify for benefitted from the power-conference favoritism of the national tournament, and antagonized Duke fans, they got another five minutes of fame.  Betsy's Page has the details, should you be interested. Sports pundit Jason Whitlock has the proper epitaph for the propaganda film.
The legacy of the Fab Five is that they were on the cutting edge of America’s unashamed embrace of style over substance.
He's unsparing. Read the whole thing. His conclusion comes only after he's laid out a strong case.
[Duke's] Coach K[rzyzewski] probably thought the same thing I thought watching the Fab Five play: They’re immature, arrogant, interested in playing for a coach they could ignore and incapable of putting together the consistent focus and effort necessary to win a conference championship.

Two teams consistently beat the Fab Five — Duke (4-0) and Indiana (4-2).

Let me translate that for you: Structured, disciplined, well-coached teams beat Michigan.
Yes, but the prison-yard game in which defensive inattention leads to highlight film material continues to get the teevee ratings, although it doesn't necessarily win titles.
THERE'S NO MONEY IN POVERTY.  Wal-Mart goes into the convenience store business, or not?
At last, Walmart is trying to find a solution for its horrendous shopping experience.

Bloomberg Businessweek says Walmart is coming out with smaller, "express" stores that are one-tenth the size of current warehouses.

Now that companies like Amazon and Overstock are making online shopping quick and painless, it makes sense for Walmart to revisit its notoriously overwhelming stores if they want to remain competitive.
Read between the lines: the article suggests even Wal-Mart's usual clientele recognizes the opportunity cost of time.
Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners in Connecticut says, “Walmart’s U.S. store fleet is designed for yesterday’s retail wars. If it wants to capture their rightful share of today’s shopping trips they have to have a smaller format. God bless supercenters, but they are not designed to get in and out of within five minutes.”
Neither are convenience stores, which suggests that getting a gallon of milk or a bag of potato chips will still be a pain, but dry goods and consumer durables, which are less-time-sensitive purchases, don't have to require a trip to a store.

Professor Newmark comments, "Adapt or die."
THE OVERSCHEDULED TEENAGER.  In a small high school, in this instance Port Wing, Wisconsin South Shore, multi-tasking can only go so far.
In a high school located on the shore of Lake Superior, where 20 of the 42 students are girls, more than half of the female student population plays basketball. Of the 11 girls on the team, nine also happen to play in the 14-piece band.

Nothing unusual about that, especially in a small school. However, last year when the school made arrangements for a band trip to Seattle, no one thought about the girls basketball championships.

The day of the regional championship - Saturday - was also the day the band left on an Amtrak train for its Seattle trip. Band members had spent much of the school year raising $900 each through spaghetti dinners, cookie sales and silent auctions. The South Shore band joined high school bands from Ely, Minn., and International Falls, Minn., to play at a university in Seattle as well as sightsee this week before returning home over the weekend.
There were enough players to win the regional, but not enough players to dress for the sectional.  The team keeps the regional trophy.  The band members made their trip.  Everything has an opportunity cost.

16.3.11

TEPLOPAROVOZ.  Here's a clip from what appears to be an original Soviet documentary illustrating locomotive development during the Stalin era.  It suggests that one of the early diesel locomotives, a boxcab on what looks like the running gear of a Milwaukee bi-polar, made it into preservation.


There's also footage of a test of the Stalinets TP-1 teploparovoz, no. 8000, that might illustrate the uneven power output of the steam and diesel strokes of the opposed pistons.
SUMMARIZE IN ONE SENTENCE.  Victor Davis Hanson sees disorder winning, by default.
The original architects of such systems are now mostly dead, and we, their replacements, often lack their education and respect for civilization’s protocols. The result is that millions of Americans are simply enjoying a system built for them by others which they are not quite able to use, repair, expand — or understand.
Read the entire column.
THINK IT THROUGH.  Raise the minimum wage with the hope of reducing income inequality.
The increase in the minimum wage made it less lucrative for firms to hire low skilled people and the recession piled on.
  The timing is all wrong: produce more income inequality.
It may well be that the minimum wage hike of 2007, with its corresponding job losses and employer cutbacks in hours worked, was sufficient to cause the level of payroll employment to erode enough so that the start date of recession was pushed up to November-December 2007, some four to five months sooner than it might have done otherwise as the outcome of the oil shock.

And should that be the case, the increase of the federal minimum wage in 2007 would join with the bursting of the housing bubble and the fallout from the oil shock as the third leg forming the current recession.
But it feels so good to pass the legislation.
BARACK HUSSEIN BUCHANAN.  John Podhoretz (via Betsy's Page) suggests that he's Bartleby.
He began his presidency as a potential colossus -- but if he doesn't change, he will finish it as a pipsqueak. Pipsqueaks don't win second terms.
But his bracketology is sound.

14.3.11

3.14159  Apparently Pi Day began with a ritual in San Francisco.
The first Pi Day was celebrated in 1989 at the San Francisco Exploratorium, whose staff celebrates most years by walking in a circle around a "Pi shrine" a little more than 3 times.
In light of the release of the basketball tournament brackets, perhaps one can obtain some good luck by walking from one end of the free-throw line to the other along the arc of the free-throw circle, thus subtending an angle of p radians.

13.3.11

ECONOMICS IS NOT BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION.  Dilbert's site does not present the Sunday strip.  I have taken the liberty of scanning today's.


Scanned from the Sunday Funnies, 13 March 2011.

Perhaps opportunity cost gets lost in the onslaught of formulas and diagrams that make up far too much of the principles course. Or perhaps success in business is the willing suspension of belief.
THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE ECONOMIST AS ADVOCATE.  What's the point of developing an intellectual apparatus that helps you understand the world if you can't play with designing a better world?  But don't let your preconceptions overinfluence your modelling.  Tyler Cowen offers his impression of blind spots, on the left and on the right.  Arnold Kling revises and extends in both directions, and David Leonhardt offers additional suggestions, this time to readers of the legacy press. Ezra Klein weighs in with observations more practical and less theoretical, provoking further thoughts from Tyler Cowen.  Kevin Drum offers rebuttal and clarification from the left.

It's Spring Break at Northern Illinois University, but there might be a quiz on this later.
PAYING TO CUT THE LINE.  Some amusement parks let you do it.  Some toll road authorities let you do it.  Grocery stores don't let you do it.
A few days ago I happened to stop by the local supermarket during the post-work rush. When I was ready to check out all the regular lanes had long lines. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t mind waiting a few minutes, but on this particular evening I had dinner plans I couldn’t be late for. So I shelled out the extra $6 for the express lane so I could skip the lines.
There's a variant of this story, which once appeared in Journal of Economic Perspectives, in which some economists, in a hurry to get some steaks and get them grilled, attempted to bribe the holder of the next number to be served at the butcher's counter, only to make the entire store sufficiently angry with them that they left without purchasing any steaks.
I think there are two reasons that people hate congestion pricing. First, we have strong and sophisticated social norms, cultivated since we were young children, for waiting in lines. This bit of self-organization is extremely important for the smooth functioning of civil society. We see waiting your turn as an obligation we have to one another, and therefore not as an obligation that a supermarket or transportation agency can waive in exchange for a cash payment. I suspect customers would see people using a tolled checkout lane as breaking an implicit social contract.
Social contracts, like other institutions, evolve to conserve on transaction costs. A colleague with whom I talked about the butcher shop story suggested that the economists really had to offer to compensate all the other holders of numbers waiting to be served, as the right to be served goes with the position, not the person. Throw in the marginal delay cost and watch the complications cumulate.

(Via The Transportationist, who notes the presence of peak-load pricing and public suspicion of priority pricing.)

12.3.11

SPELL OUT THE TRADEOFFS.  Advocates of inclusion will engage in all sorts of logic-chopping to avoid confronting the possibility that different academic standards can mean lower academic standards.   Minding the Campus reports that at Syracuse University, the students see the adverse consequences of neglecting that tradeoff in order to assuage the consciences of faddish administrators.
Donald A. Saleh, vice president for enrollment management at Syracuse, pooh-poohed the student and faculty critics of the new recruitment strategy as fuddy-duddies who don't understand that times have changed. "There is this tension in higher education between the old ways in which colleges described the quality of their class—test scores and G.P.A. and rank in class, and the new metric, which will be much more along the lines of what we are talking about—the socioeconomic diversity, the percentage of students who are first-generation in college, and for students from the Northeast in particular, the geographic diversity of their class," he told Inside Higher Ed. "Some of our faculty members are locked into the old metrics. Our president, our provost and the deans and my area of enrollment management are focused on the new metrics."
That noted, the U. S. News rankings continue to sell well, even though there is no longer a print edition of U. S. News and World Report.  The usual suspects continue to occupy the top of the league tables, and they continue to be seriously oversubscribed.  That oversubscription might lead some of Harvard's rejects to consider Syracuse, and Harvard's rejects don't want to be fobbed off with a diluted degree.
For all the administrative happy talk at Syracuse, it seems clear that the university embarked on a perhaps not carefully thought-out experiment in admissions policy that has backfired, at least in terms of public relations. Although a venerable academic institution with several top-rated programs, Syracuse has struggled for decades with the realities of its unappealing geographic location in economically depressed upstate New York and its second-rate reputation compared to, say, the Ivy League. Although a national research university, it has historically drawn most of its students from the Northeast, a demographically declining region with a diminishing population of young people that has meant, at least in the recent past, a diminishing number of applications for freshman places at Syracuse. 
Note what is unseen: whatever cachet membership in the Big East athletic conference might confer when the office pools get organized, there's no mention of the athletic program providing an attractive front porch for the remaining applicants.

The current students, on the other hand, fear that less-prepared and less-motivated students will be a drag their classes.
What the critics among Syracuse's faculty and students fear is that this trend will continue: lower-income, marginally qualified students signing up at Syracuse in droves, while their better-prepared counterparts take a look at the situation and decide to spend their $200,000 elsewhere. The problem is that Syracuse isn't Harvard. Harvard and the other Ivies can afford to indulge in diversity admissions because, with their towering reputations, they are virtually guaranteed thousands of applicants of the highest academic caliber (Harvard turns down nine out of every ten who apply). Furthermore, neither U.S. News nor the consumer base of parents and perspective students who regard the magazine's college rankings as holy writ, have bought into that "new metric" of Saleh's that measures a school's greatness by its percentage of first-generation students who are high dropout risks. They still go by the old metric, in which SAT scores and GPA's count more. The question now is to what extent Syracuse's administrators actually believe their own Orwellian rhetoric, and to what extent the justified alarm of Syracuse's students, faculty, and perhaps alumni persuades those administrators to take a different tack in their recruiting efforts.
Cold Spring Shops does not encourage the use of the pejorative "Orwellian rhetoric" to describe what might be more accurately described as a misguided, faddish, show of conscience.  There is an Inside Higher Ed report titled "Is There a Price for Inclusiveness?" that features a reasoned bull session on the various dimensions of Syracuse's policy shift.

Minding the Campus quoted from a letter to the Daily Orange from anthropologist Robert Rubenstein, who suggested the editorial board identified "a false choice" between academic quality and inclusiveness.  His concluding paragraph received the most play at Minding the Campus.
The choice is not between quality and value on the one hand and diversity on the other in the SU experience. Indeed, when selectivity and exclusivity become ends in themselves, they easily become another way of saying that a school should only admit students who look and think like those already on the student body. By valorizing selectivity based on relatively superficial aspects of a student's achievement in high school, rankings such as the U.S. News and World Report do a real disservice to all of us. I hope the SU community continues to admit students based on an appreciation of who they are and who they show they might become. This makes the university a better place at which to live, to work and to learn.
The student columnists are unlikely to be impressed, as their editorial suggests that inclusion has been conflated with productivity, to the enhancement of neither.
The administration justifies the rising acceptance rate with the idealistic goal of increasing student diversity and socioeconomic inclusiveness. The new recruitment strategy has paid off, as the number of students eligible for the Pell Grant, intended to aid lower-income students, increased by 16 percent last year.

But putting the value of campus diversity aside, the administration has chosen to change SU's recruitment strategy to one largely untested and one that reverses three decades of working to make SU's a more exclusive education.

SU already feels some of the negative consequences of a now 60 percent acceptance rate. 2010's freshman class was unintentionally large, causing overcrowding in classes and especially in campus housing. If SU wants to increase diversity by accepting and potentially enrolling larger numbers, then the infrastructure — enough dorm rooms, classrooms, staff and faculty — must be in place beforehand. Likewise, the quality of education could decline if class sizes continue to increase.

Faculty know best how larger class sizes may affect their ability to teach. Declining prestige may also lessen professors' desire to work at SU. The administration must listen to faculty concerns and input, as they have much at stake in the change to recruitment.

The acceptance rate has increased so dramatically students are watching their diploma lose value even before graduating. We should likewise have a say in the change to recruitment and rising acceptance rate, as this directly affects us and our hireability in an ailing economy.
Left unsaid: whether increased enrollment is a device to bear the debt service on the Carrier Dome, with the taxpayers picking up the tab, at the same time that the columnists fear the new-profile students are dragging down the university's academic profile.  Standard Cold Spring Shops fare, all that.  What's more interesting is what both Inside Higher Ed and Minding the Campus left out of Professor Rubenstein's statement.
The editorial mistakenly equates exclusivity with quality. Exclusivity enforced by selective admissions favors those in our society who are already advantaged. As an end in itself, selectivity does little to ensure high-quality educational experiences. 
Fair enough. Selectivity in the presence of the failure of K-12 to provide advantages to those capable of seizing those advantages reinforces the pattern of social stratification.
I worked on a factory assembly line after school while my high school friends from more fortunate families had time to do their homework and be tutored for their SATs. They often got better grades or higher SAT scores than did I. Many of them went on to Ivy League and other exclusive schools. I did not. I applied to SU, but I was not admitted. I went to a less selective college.
I went to Milwaukee Hamilton. There might have been Kaplan-style SAT preparation classes in those days, but they weren't something our parents fretted about.  The football and basketball programs might have garnered more attention, but the planetarium and the Superior Ability Program functioned as college board preparation (in addition to a number of other useful things, including the correct use of 3x5 cards for references and 5x8 cards for quotations).  Today, however, if such a program even exists, its very title is doubleplusungood, and I'm probably not overanalyzing to note that where the primal program is No Child Left Behind, the dual program is No Child Runs Ahead.  Professor Rubenstein's school district probably was not that constrained by public policy, but thirty years of misguided egalitarianism in the common schools leaves parents with few options other than to spring for Kaplan or locate a parochial school, in order that their offspring get a shot at the thick envelopes from the right places.  That, or take out a mortgage on a house with a price that includes the capitalized value of higher test scores.
I spent my winter, spring and summer breaks at the factory, not traveling with friends to Mexico or Europe. But I worked hard at my schoolwork; and because some of my professors were especially supportive, I did well enough to go to graduate school, though not well enough to get into a "top-tier" graduate program. SU rejected me for doctoral studies, too.
Apparently, though, his undergraduate degree was solid enough to get him into a graduate program that was strong enough to get him on a job trajectory that got him a professorship at Syracuse.  Doesn't sound like a subprime party school undergraduate experience to me, and it reinforces two points regular readers are familiar with: first, the tension between providing sufficient resources for a motivated college student to earn expenses with a full-time summer job and a part-time academic year job and taxing that student's less motivated or less clever classmates who join the workforce more rapidly to make the future degree recipient richer (an intertemporally regressive transfer); and second, the obligation of the less-well-regarded universities to act like they are in the same business as Harvard or Syracuse or Wisconsin.
By the age of 25, I had completed my Ph.D. at the State University of New York Binghamton (then considered a second- or third-tier school). Despite not being from a prestigious school, the education I got was outstanding, and I learned skills for teaching, research and publishing that many of my colleagues who went to more prestigious schools did not learn. Working through college and graduate school introduced me to worlds I would not otherwise have seen or experienced, and this enriched, too, my own educational experience. My experiences in the classroom and outside have enabled me to achieve much.
Binghamton might have come late to the land-grant business, but, note, the faculty Professor Rubenstein interacted with pushed him to work up to his potential: none of the pernicious we-can't-possibly-be-Syracuse-or-Berkeley-so-why-bother that causes more than a few of the comprehensives and mid-majors to fail at their mission before they even begin.  (There were more than a few economists with Binghamton connections passing through Wisconsin as visitors or as tenure-trackers while I was studying there: good research is good research, no matter what the institutional affiliation is.  Whether administrators there grasp the point I don't know.)

And note, again, no mention of Binghamton seeking basketball recognition with a less talented bunch of grifters than Syracuse employs recruits to achieve somewhat greater recognition.

More to the point, nobody put then-Mr Rubenstein down for being from a less wealthy family, or expected less of him.  We're all in the same business, and the rubric of low-net-worth-first-generation-minority-nontraditional-access does not have to be a low-level expectations trap for Syracuse's current students, the new cohorts of students, the faculty, or the administration.  But firing the diversity hustlers and the assessment weenies might be socially necessary to release that trap.