29.12.11

FIVE GOLDEN RINGS.

He spent much of his junior and senior year as a reserve for a tradition-rich college program going through a rough spell. He obtained a tryout for a professional team and spent the first few years of his career as a reserve for a tradition-rich program going through a rough spell.  His name, though, continues to surprise number-crunchers who would like to quantify the value of professional quarterbacks.  Search the records, though, and only one has earned the jewelry noted in the post title.  On to Book Review No. 36.  Keith Dunnavant is a long-time sports journalist, and his America's Quarterback: Bart Starr and the Rise of the National Football League leaves the unanswered social science questions, and there are many, to others.  But as such works go, it is not unabashedly hagiographic (an ill the genre is oft subject to) and it weaves a number of strands, including the adversity in the Starr family's life (a favored younger brother develops a tetanus infection, a promising son runs with the wrong crowd), the emergence of broadcast television and NFL Films concurrent with the Packers' title runs, and the changes in the national mood that coincided with those runs.  There are too many typographical errors to suit me, and the definitive social science investigation of the causal or collinear relationships between civil rights, the counter-culture, and the flamboyant athlete remain for some other researcher.  (A more famous Alabama alumnus would not have been as celebrated in the third Super Bowl absent a strong infusion of "do your own thing, man" into the supposedly stodgy culture of professional football.)  The book will reward careful study for the sports fan. Do your own comparison and contrast of Bart Starr and Brett Favre.  The latter has the stronger throwing arm; the former is more careful.  And reflect on Bart Starr's repeated shoulder injuries.  The book traces those events to a tackle by Atlanta's Tommy Nobis during Vince Lombardi's final season.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

WHERE THE EXCESS DEMAND IS.

Jonathan Robe of the sometimes-misnamed Center for College Affordability and Productivity questions the preferences revealed by the state flagship universities.
Could it be that the prestigious public research universities are the ones who are throwing teaching to the side in their quest to catch and overtake the most prestigious private research universities? Are these public institutions the ones who view their missions even more in terms of scholarly research than do the elite private institutions with which those public institutions compete, both for students and faculty?
Competition, whether it involves differentiated products or not, often manifests itself in convergence to a standard.  Mr Robe's colleague Richard Vedder has, probably correctly, suggested that the most highly regarded private universities create excess demand for their services by charging less than the traffic will bear, in order to raise their selectivity profile by generating enough applications to be able to turn down nine in ten, or nineteen in twenty.  Although there are probably fifty claimants to membership in the U. S. News top twenty, there are still plenty of frustrated applicants who treat the state flagships as safety schools.  (I'm not making this up: a few years ago at application season the Wall Street Journal had the story of some young man from a well-off neighborhood forced to settle for his safety school, the University of Michigan.  Talk about crying with your mouth full.)

The state flagships have to credibly commit to the experience and to the profile maintained by the elite privates, and do so in the face of tight state budgets.  Excess demand implies the existence of someone with the willingness and the ability to pay, but to realize the gains from trade, the institution has to provide the desired services.
The trend we see, looking at just instructional and research spending, is the prioritization of research over teaching at both private and public institutions, though the trend is much more noticeable at the public research universities than at their private, not-for-profit counterparts. Whereas spending on research was 52.3% of instructional spending at public institutions in 1999, by 2009, research spending was 58.1% of spending on instruction (at private institutions, the comparable percentage for 1999 was 53.4% and for 2009 was 55.7%).

It is certainly true that a wide variety of factors (including external factors entirely outside of universities’ control) affect institutional spending; nevertheless, it is striking that, during a time when real per student total revenues rose by 11.8% at public research institutions (without the 2007-09 recession, they likely would have risen more), spending on research outpaced revenue growth while spending on instruction lagged revenue growth. The fact that spending on research grew so much faster than spending on instruction is, in my view, strong evidence against the claim that public institutions have needed to hike tuitions to make up for shortfalls from other revenue sources. If revenues were the real problem public higher ed faced, could these institutions not have adjusted by cutting down on their research spending (or at least bring it more in line with instructional spending growth) rather than further burdening those students they are supposed to be serving?
In the presence of common and joint costs, any allocation of costs to a specific activity has an element of arbitrariness.  At the same time, those public institutions cannot simply assert that their faculties are as creative as their Ivy counterparts: those people have to be supported, and they are mobile.

GOING UPSCALE?

A Chicago Tribune article on the construction of new housing at Northern Illinois University buries the lede.
Residence hall improvements are part of the university's broader plans to boost enrollment and improve academic standards by 2020.

[University president John] Peters' Vision 2020 initiative calls for enrollment to rise from 23,000 to 30,000 — including 27,500 on campus. Tuition and fee revenue from higher enrollment will help fund a series of initiatives.
Or provide the debt service on the housing?

Note, though, that the investment in capacity precedes the expansion of the student body.  I hope to be able to report that a similar phenomenon will be at work in the academic departments, where the past twenty years have been a downsizing of the faculty to a university of roughly 15,000 students.

The generalization to the provision of capacity for, say, Passenger Rail, is left to the reader as an exercise.

POTTED POLITICAL ECONOMY.

Steven Horwitz offers a Trenchant Observation for all time, and particularly for political economy.
One of the most commonly deployed arguments against free markets is that they are plagued by “market failure.”  Critics point to particular cases where some problematic outcome has occurred and then argue that markets either did not or cannot possibly address those situations.

The market-failure criticism has two problems, both related to the fact that the critics rarely understand the meaning of term has in economics.  First, the meaning itself is problematic from a Austrian understanding of the market process.  Second, saying that markets have failed does not mean that government intervention can improve on the outcome.
Lynne Kiesling elaborates.
But if market processes in realistic contexts have imperfections, don’t government intervention and regulation have imperfections too? The relevant comparison is between the results of market institutions and government institutions in realistic contexts, not in simplified blackboard theory.

I would add a third point to this analysis. Often when I encounter the “market failure” argument I make a quick riposte of “markets don’t fail, they fail to exist”, which is the Coase/transactions cost response. Transactions costs interfere with the ability of parties to find mutually beneficial trades, thus impeding optimal resource allocation and the creation of maximum gains from trade. Transactions costs lead to missing markets, as in the case of environmental pollution and other common-pool resource situations.
Combine knowledge problems with cognitive hubris and there may be a case for the failure of technocracy that can't be so easily dismissed as Special Pleading For The Rich.

26.12.11

THE MONUMENTS WE'VE DESTROYED.

In The Time of Our Lives: A Conversation About America, longtime NBC correspondent Tom Brokaw looks at the complicated, Washington-centered procedural world he and his Silent Generation contemporaries created, sees that it's too complicated to accomplish much, and expresses his regrets.  There's not much to say in Book Review No. 35, as there's not much by way of organization or consistent reasoning for readers.  There might be some play value in looking at the commentary masquerading as fact that introduces each chapter, followed by answering the rhetorical question that follows (weak argumentation per se) in such a way as to turn the analysis of some other chapter upside down or inside out.  Try this.  Fact:  One farmer is capable of feeding many more people today than a frontier farmer in the Dakota Territories.  Question:  What inference might you draw about the smaller number of people in military service today, compared to World War II?

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

REDISCOVERING THE INDUSTRIAL DISTRICT.

A recent David Rotman column in Technology Review notes that technical progress requires shop floor experience to provide reality checks and unanticipated improvements to the scheming in the research office and boardroom.
After decades of outsourcing production in an effort to lower costs, many large companies have lost the expertise for the complex engineering and design tasks necessary to scale up and produce today's most innovative new technologies, not to mention the appetite for the risks involved.
The logic of agglomeration economies (as regional economists have it) or of "ideas in the air" (as Alfred Marshall once put it) doesn't go away, even with high-capacity internet connections and ever-better graphics software and prototyping hardware.
Academic researchers have begun documenting the complex connections between innovation and manufacturing with an eye to clarifying how the loss of U.S. manufacturing could affect the emergence of new technologies. Willy Shih, a professor of management at Harvard Business School, has created a list of basic technologies in which the United States has squandered its lead in manufacturing in recent years. They include crystalline silicon wafers, LCDs, power semiconductors for solar cells, and many types of advanced batteries. And he has detailed how losing the "industrial commons"—the research know-how, engineering skills, and manufacturing expertise needed to make a specific technology—can often mean losing the knowledge and incentives to create advances in related technologies. For example, as silicon semiconductor production and associated supply chains have shifted to Asia, the development of new silicon-based solar cells has been hampered in the United States.

It turns out it's not necessarily true that innovative technologies will simply be manufactured elsewhere if it doesn't happen in the United States. According to research by Erica Fuchs, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, the development of integrated photonics, in which lasers and modulators are squeezed onto a single chip, has been largely abandoned by optoelectronic manufacturers as they have moved production away from the United States. Many telecom firms were forced to seek lower-cost production in East Asia after the industry's collapse in the early 2000s, and differences in manufacturing practices meant that producing integrated photonic chips was not economically viable in those countries. Thus a technology that once appeared to be just a few years away from revolutionizing computers and even biosensors was forsaken.
The way in which a country exploits its comparative advantage still matters.

STILL UNDEFEATED IN GREEN BAY.

The team name begins with P, and it includes a number of players never recruited by better-known programs.
It’s a remarkable record made even more remarkable by the fact it’s been accomplished largely by players from Wisconsin who were not highly recruited, if recruited at all, by the big schools in the power conferences.
The players use that knowledge as motivation.
We all kind of play with a chip on our shoulders,” [guard Hannah] Quilling said. “We’re trying to make Green Bay known. I think we’ve done a good job of making it more than just a school with a hyphen in it. We’re becoming in landmark in women’s basketball and we’re not done. Sweet 16 isn’t the only banner we want to hang. We want to keep going.”
Over the weekend, the Phoenix rallied at halftime to beat another Big 12 Ten program, one the local newspaper seems to be holding a grudge against.
Maybe the University of Wisconsin should have hired Matt Bollant.

The UW-Green Bay women's basketball took down another Big Ten team on Friday night, beating the Badgers 65-49 in front of 5,035 at the Kohl Center.

The victory extended two winning streaks for the No. 18 Phoenix, which has won 30 straight regular-season games and its last seven against teams from the Big Ten.
The coach at Green Bay isn't taking Wisconsin's failure to interview him personally, although the Press-Gazette never misses an opportunity to remind readers.
It's not [Phoenix coach Matt] Bollant vs. Wisconsin, even though it's difficult to imagine that Bollant wouldn't mind showing the Badgers what they are missing.

Wisconsin had interest in hiring Bollant last spring after he led UWGB to its first Sweet 16. For a while, it even appeared he was the school's top candidate despite odds that appeared to be stacked against him.

The school had never hired a male to coach its women's basketball team, and that didn't change.
Gary Becker and Milton Friedman have long noted that discrimination carries a price. Years ago, their argument often served as a rebuttal to claims that businesses discriminated against women and minorities in order to make more money.  Choosing to make do with less qualified workers just to indulge a preference means foregoing gains from trade.  Politically correct discrimination, which Wisconsin might be engaging in, also means foregoing gains from trade, or surrendering the unofficial state basketball title to Green Bay.  The shame is that Green Bay remains with the remnants of the old North Star Conference, after DePaul left for the Big East and Northern Illinois returned, for better or worse, to the Mid-American,  and the Phoenix have to win out in their league and their tournament to get into the national tournament again.

IT'S FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.

The case for activist or paternalistic government often, but not always, is an argument from bounded rationality or incomplete information.  Arnold Kling suggests that bounded rationality or incomplete information can also be reason for the activists or paternalists to back off.
Cognitive hubris is particularly troublesome when combined with radical ignorance. Indeed, this configuration justifies limiting government intervention in order to avoid setting up systems that are excessively fragile.
Read and understand.

ONE WEEK TO THE IOWA CAUCUSES.

Betsy's Page has a lengthy roundup of investigations, most from the right side, of some of Representative Ron Paul's more outrageous public statements.  Probably better to have the scrutiny before the first delegates get assigned.

22.12.11

MARKING OFF.

Santa's elves double as Huskies.  (The reindeer are otherwise occupied.)


Their enthusiasm was not wasted.


The university's Festive Season greeting features One World, Many Huskie Stories.

Closer to home, the stockings are placed near the train set with care.


Are you ready for some football?

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.



RIDING ON THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS.

Don't mess with Cajun Mama.
Train travel with Amtrak is what travel by air used to be like. I realize traveling by train is the alternative to driving, but with the craziness of the TSA over the past decade, paired with the airline’s nickel and dime shenanigans, train travel should be the alternative to flying. Yes, it will take you longer to get to your destination, but if you factor in layovers, missed connections, and cancelled flights, Amtrak is where it’s at.
Note, that's on the etiolated City of New Orleans (you only think this is a Tip Top Tap, it's really the dining section of the cafe-lounge that now passes as a dining car) running on slowed-down Illinois Central tracks.


Image courtesy Cajun Mama.

Imagine double or triple-daily service, or a full four or five trains a day between Chicago and Memphis, and the 110 mph running reintroduced on The Main Line of Mid America south of Kankakee.


OF BUBBLES AND REGRESSIVE TRANSFERS.

Instapundit characterizes the diffusion of remedial developmental courses throughout the Cal State system as a "lower education bubble".  Dig deeper into the article, and the logical solution to the problem might be suggesting itself.
If half the students eligible for the Cal State system are unable to handle college work, [Cal State Chico chemist Jim Postma] said, California is in bad shape.

"It's a terrible indictment of the K-through-12 system," Postma said. "If a factory was building cars and the lug nuts kept falling off the tires, you would do something pretty dramatic about it. We keep adding the lug nuts back to the tires rather than trying to figure out what the problem is."

The remedial problem is hardly confined to California. Schools across the country have puzzled over how to better prepare students for college and what to do with those who are not ready.
You mean "progressive" education isn't, and No Child Left Behind implies and is implied by No Child Gets Ahead?  You gain wisdom, young apprentices.

In the Cal States and the regional comprehensives and public four-year colleges, the focus on retention and completion is contributing to social stratification, argues Ronald Trowbridge of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.
Universities by de facto action are agents of class warfare. An October study by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) entitled "Cheap for Whom?" finds: "Average taxpayers provide more in subsidies to elite public and private schools than to the less competitive schools where their own children are likely being educated."

The disparity between rich and poor is shocking. Reports AEI, "Among not-for-profit institutions, the amount of taxpayer subsidies hovers between $1,000 and $2,000 per student per year until we turn to the most selective institutions ... Among these already well-endowed institutions, the taxpayer subsidy jumps substantially to more than $13,000 per student per year."

It has become a caste system. AEI asserts, "If the country is to retain its competitive edge, it must reverse the current policies that result in providing the lowest levels of taxpayer support to the institutions that enroll the highest percentage of low-income, nontraditional and minority students - the fastest growing segments of the population."
Writing in the Washington Post, Daniel De Vise notes that the state flagships are complicit in the social stratification.
Michigan, Berkeley, the University of Virginia and their peers already charge double or triple tuition to out-of-state students and admit them in comparatively large numbers, using their wealth to subsidize the cost of educating everyone else.

All of those schools have enacted large tuition increases over the past decade. But typically, some large percentage of that tuition revenue is recycled as need-based aid, and students from needy families pay minimal expenses to attend.

Presidents, faculty groups and others have proposed various ways of taking this progressive fee model further: allowing the top flagships to set higher tuition rates than other schools, and reinvesting ever larger sums into need-based aid.

At least one prominent public university, Miami University in Ohio, has attempted progressive tuition, setting one high rate for residents and non-residents alike and then awarding scholarships to state residents in proportion to their need.
 
It didn’t work. Miami University quietly reverted to a traditional structure of (lower) resident and (higher) nonresident tuition.

Tuition increases are not popular. Voters and lawmakers in Virginia, California and other states have protested double-digit tuition increases. Needless to say, state legislators might have a hard time lining up behind a proposal that would effectively double or triple the price tag of a public university.
By default, because the state legislators also have a hard time continuing to fund the state universities in the same way they once did, those state universities that can have been competing with the private universities by charging a lower fare than the private universities do, and offering a mix of academic standing and big time sports that is satisfactory, to families that can pay full fare, and using those revenues to replace the subsidies to in-state residents that the legislatures used to provide.  That approach works well enough for the institutions that can carry it off, but it displaces some in-state students to other state-located universities that might not be able to make the same adjustments of resources.

THE OLDER BROTHER HAS TO SET A GOOD EXAMPLE.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush writes a policy manifesto for The Wall Street Journal.
As Florida's governor for eight years, I was asked to "do something" almost every day. Many times I resisted through vetoes but many times I succumbed. And I wasn't alone. Mayors, county chairs, governors and presidents never think their laws will harm the free market. But cumulatively, they do, and we have now imperiled the right to rise.

Woe to the elected leader who fails to deliver a multipoint plan for economic success, driven by specific government action. "Trust in the dynamism of the market" is not a phrase in today's political lexicon.

Have we lost faith in the free-market system of entrepreneurial capitalism? Are we no longer willing to place our trust in the creative chaos unleashed by millions of people pursuing their own best economic interests?

The right to rise does not require a libertarian utopia to exist. Rather, it requires fewer, simpler and more outcome-oriented rules. Rules for which an honest cost-benefit analysis is done before their imposition. Rules that sunset so they can be eliminated or adjusted as conditions change. Rules that have disputes resolved faster and less expensively through arbitration than litigation.

In Washington, D.C., rules are going in the opposite direction. They are exploding in reach and complexity. They are created under a cloud of uncertainty, and years after their passage nobody really knows how they will work.
Where was this advice when his younger brother was pushing for No Child Left Behind and advocating for democracy all over the Third World and listening to the cheerleaders for National Greatness Conservatism?

ROADS DON'T PAY FOR THEMSELVES.

Transit’s Not Bleeding the Taxpayer Dry.  "Non-users fork over $779 per household for roads — as opposed to $50 for transit." Read and understand.

21.12.11

COMMINGLED, YET SEPARATE.

Some state legislators would like to toss Chicago out of Illinois.
Under the lawmakers' proposal, the state would be telling Chicago and Cook County to get lost. Without the domineering, overly liberal and tax-hungry metropolis, [state representatives Bill] Mitchell and [Adam] Brown contend, Illinois could be more like GOP-run Indiana.

For some down south in the Land of Lincoln, their resentment toward Chicago is less about politics than values. They are generally more conservative, and more opposed to the state's recent income tax hike, civil unions law and abolishment of the death penalty.
There's more to this proposal than a way to make Northern Illinois University charge out-of-state tuition rates to Chicagoans.  The proposal is a consequence of migration patterns and political decisions that long ago created states that often require people with very different outlooks on life to agree on how to do government, or not.  And Chicago, as readers of How the States Got Their Shapes know, is part of Illinois in order that each of the states carved out of the territory ceded by Britain after Independence shall have a lake port.  The rationale for creating what became the Chicago area as part of Illinois was to allow farmers in Illinois to ship crops for export via the Great Lakes rather than along the Mississippi River, through slave-held territory.  Those Congresses never anticipated Chicago reversing the course of its river.

Colin Woodard's American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, today's Book Review No. 34 (don't expect fifty by year's end) provides inter alia the origins of the spat between Chicago and Downstate (more specifically, central and southern Downstate) Illinois.  He characterizes Chicago as a border city.  Joel Garreau, in The Nine Nations of North America, a book that has long been in the Cold Spring Shops research library, makes the same observation.  Mr Woodard proposes to go Mr Garreau a few analyses better, by providing the historical background missing from Nine Nations.  (The historian can find a research opportunity in calling a work "ahistorical."  The economist can find that opportunity in discovering an inconsistency with theory.)  He begins with the initial settlers on each coast (Spain to the south, France and England at several places, Netherlanders on Manhattan, and Inuit via Siberia in the north) and traces their migrations and political coalitions over the next 400 years.  Sometimes, as in his suggestion that the inclusive and diverse banking and port called New Amsterdam preordains the location of Wall Street and Harlem, I fear that he claimeth too much.  I enjoyed his analyses of migration (often entire families and communities) that extended the original nations inland.  That's certainly consistent with my own genealogical research (just compare the names in the Baptist cemetery in Carmel, N. Y. and the cemetery in Hingham, Wisconsin) and the migration patterns along the rivers and later the rail lines will reward careful study.

Taken as a broad perspective, however, American Nations gets the main ideas right.  There has never been anything resembling a national consensus on national affairs, whether we are thinking about independence (New Englanders had a Scottish Enlightenment vision of liberty; Tidewater aristocrats were Aristotelian; there were representatives of the same nations on both sides of the Canadian border) or the meaning of freedom (my choice of words in the previous parenthetical anticipates the Civil War) or the role of government or the purpose of the tax code.  It's dangerous, though, to take the analysis too literally: do not, for example, attribute the existence of Canada as a member of the British Commonwealth despite a separatist French nation in its east and substantial boreal forests for the aborigines solely to the absence of cotton-lands and plantation owners with experience in Barbados, or treat the red-state, blue-state or religious, secular dichotomies as immutable and bred into the North American character.  On the other hand, it is instructive to learn some survivals of medieval customs, including the arms of the House of Calvert on the Maryland flag, and the meaning of South Carolina's titled crescent.  I marked up my book extensively and expect to consult parts of it again as the presidential election takes shape.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

THE WALLS BEGIN TO TREMBLE.

Seven years ago in Cold Spring Shops:
Presumably the set of social institutions that involved Dad working, Mom minding the kids, and parents staying together for the sake of the children, which takes advantage of the Say Aggregation Principle to ensure that one wage earner could support a family, and which makes unilateral dissolution of marriage less attractive, are not the set of social institutions envisioned in these discussions. There are, however, other institutional changes to consider, including reduced reliance on the treadmill career path, which might in fact be productivity enhancing as people might have less reason to look for ways out of productive but extremely time-consuming jobs.
An anecdote in USA Today is not validation.  But it's not reason to back down, either.
Tiffany Willis of Dallas has spent years climbing the corporate career ladder, working up to 70-hour weeks and pulling in about $60,000 as a middle manager.

She describes herself "as that mom sitting at the top of the bleachers at my kid's Saturday-morning football game on my cellphone for a conference call with my laptop."

She walked away from the pressures, paycheck and prestige of jobs she called "meaningful and important" earlier this year and refuses to return, no matter how many offers come her way.

"I will never go back to the corporate world," she says. "I want to own my life."

A new nationwide survey shows that Willis, 44, may not be alone. A women and workplace survey from More magazine shows that 43% of the women surveyed say they are less ambitious now than they were a decade ago. And only a quarter of the 500 women ages 35 to 60 say they're working toward their next promotion.

And forget about the corner office: 3 out of 4 women in the survey — 73% — say they would not apply for their boss' job. Almost 2 of 5 — 38% — report they don't want to put up with the stress, office politics and responsibility that often go hand in hand with such positions.
What intrigues is the reaction of the women of the fevered brow.
More Editor-in-Chief Lesley Jane Seymour says she's hoping that the survey, conducted in June, is more a reflection of the stress and negativity of difficult economic times and not a permanent trend.

"We're bemoaning the lack of women in top Fortune 500 companies or women in political office," Seymour says. "We're sliding backwards, and here's your answer. It's because we have thrown ice water all over ambition."
We're all underemployed compared to our ancestors who had cows to milk and fields to plow, with no mechanical assistance. We're rich enough that scaling back ambition doesn't have to mean starving.
Willis says she's not surprised about results showing more women backing away from top corporate positions.

"It's not worth it. I had what I called my 'heart-attack jobs,' and I strongly believe they took years off my life," Willis says. "I have been referred by people for other (management) positions, and I tell them no amount of money is worth it. I don't care if they offered me a million dollars."

Willis is now a freelance writer who also teaches a course at a local community college and says her plan is to remain a contract worker.

As a single mom, she says she and her children "have downgraded our lives and our expenses" and "we're going to live differently."

The flexibility of being able to meet personal and professional demands on her own terms makes any lifestyle changes worth it, she says.
She gets specific.
Willis predicts the trend of women opting out of high-pressure jobs will continue.

"We women enjoyed it for a time, but now we've had time to see the toll that it takes on us and our families," Willis says.

Still, the trend isn't just about women trying to manage children and professional demands. The survey found that only 15% say that household or child care responsibilities have held them back in their careers. Interestingly, while 62% of women with children say they would take more free time over more money, a larger number of single women — 68% — say they would.

Seymour says she's concerned about women who have no intention of getting a corner office or seat at the corporate boardroom table.

Women have been shown to be positive forces not only for promoting world change, but also for driving bottom-line results. As the economy struggles "if we back off from promoting women, we're just shooting ourselves in the foot," Seymour says.

Willis disagrees that women are backsliding and should make the choice to fight for top-tier jobs. She says women are simply making different choices and believes that young, unmarried and childless women will continue to seize those opportunities. As for herself, she doesn't rule out re-entering the corporate management when her children are grown.

"Women will continue to be powerful, but it's not going to be with a two-hour commute and a corner office," Willis says. "It's all about letting women make their own decisions about what's right for them and their families."
Meredith Lepore of The Grindstone agrees that freedom to choose matters.
It is wonderful if you would rather work less to spend time with your family but if you want to get that corner office, and there are most definitely women who do, it is okay to work as hard as possible and devote a lot of your time to do that. It is your time and you get to decide what to do with it.
The problem is, very few people are able to do both, and the positional arms races and the destruction of private lives will go on.  Robert Franklin of Fathers and Families weighs in.
Time and again, survey after survey finds that women in a position to do so tend to opt out of paid work.  Usually that’s to care for children, but the Moresurvey shows that it’s just as likely to get out of corporate life.  Various studies have shown the same thing about female attorneys, MBA graduates and those in careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

My guess is that women further down on the educational and economic totem poll are just as likely to opt out when it’s feasible for them to do so.

What this suggests is that women are proving to be fairly resistant to much of the social engineering that’s been going on for the past 40 years or so.  Despite an astonishing array of cultural messages saying that motherhood is a snare and a delusion, and that a woman’s true place is in the corporate boardroom, women are saying ‘no.’  They’ve dipped their toe in the water and found it too cold for their liking.
That's a possibility. I'm not going to get into the custody battle and culture wars implications of that post today. I wonder, though, whether some of the discouraged workers of the ongoing Great Reset are using the straitened economic circumstances as occasion to say no to the most demanding employers.  What's the point of doing the work of four people for twelve hours a day on half your previous salary if "downgrading your expenses" doesn't rule out Internet access or a functioning car or clothing for the kids?

LOOKING FOR AN ARMS CONTROL TREATY?

There's a collection of observations about the various college football bowls that, taken together, suggest the consequences of coordination failure, but no easy way out of the dominant strategy equilibrium.  We'll start with University Diaries, a critic of long standing of Big Time Football, with Schadenfreude over the failure of big time programs to sell their allotment of bowl tickets.
Human enterprises don’t come any more prestigious than the Bowl Championship Series; and – dang! – football’s the front porch of the American university! I challenge you to say one word against big-time university football! So WHAT the hell’s going on.
When the morning talkers on a radio station that carries the Packers and Badger football notice the same thing, something might be happening.  A few days ago the conversation was about the absurdity of 6-6 Illinois, which had just fired its coach, playing Pacific 12 runner-up and 6-7 UCLA (motto: On! Wisconsin) in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.  This morning it was about the naming rights.  The broadcasters were happy to note that Wisconsin would be playing Oregon in The Rose Bowl presented by Vizio, while the other traditional bowl games were the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the Discover Orange Bowl and the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.  They also had scorn for the GoDaddy.com Bowl, intending to watch it only for the commercials.  I view it as a perfect curtain-raiser for the Allstate BC$ National Championship Game.  The presence of Allstate as major sponsor intrigues, but I'm not sure why.

At Grantland, Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier suggest that bowl participation ought be viewed as a capital investment.
There are plenty of statistics about how many schools lose money in bowl games, but they are based on comparing travel costs with the payout received from the game. That’s a flawed analysis. It’s all about advertising. What schools may lose up front they usually make up in the long run, and that is why competition to play in bowls is so fierce.

Larger schools pull in most of their revenue from tuition and donations, and successful collegiate sports teams boost both areas. That’s why a good football coach can make several times more than the college or university president, with top coaching salaries reaching well into the millions.
That reference to "top coaching salaries" will merit further scrutiny, First, though, the authors make a claim that might not be true.
In years following a championship football performance, admissions interest in a school rises significantly, including relative to its peer institutions. That means more students and a better selection of students, and over time it also means more and better donors for the school.

The prospect of alumni donations drives the structure of big-time collegiate sports.
Donations, perhaps. Student quality, not so much.
On campus, a successful football team is a cause for celebration.

So much celebration, in fact, that three economists have found a link between a winning season at one big-time football program and lower grades for male students.

In a new paper, the economists at the University of Oregon chart the grade point averages of students there alongside the fortunes of the football team between 1999 and 2007. Their findings could give ammo to critics of big-time college sports.

Their conclusion: When the Ducks were winning, students celebrated more and grades suffered. And that doesn't bode well for upcoming report cards — the Ducks are 11-2 this season, Pac-12 champions for the third straight year, and headed to the Rose Bowl.

"They drink more when the team wins, they party more when the teams wins, and they study less when the team wins," said professor Jason Lindo, who is one of three co-authors and says the study is the first of its kind.

Women's grades held up better than men's when the team was doing well — and the drop in men's grades compounded a GPA gender gap that was already present at Oregon, as it is on many campuses.

The bottom line: Three extra wins for the Ducks' football squad in any given year caused a drop in male GPAs that's about as steep as the one you'd expect if male students had scored 27 points lower on their SATs.
It's intriguing that Huskie Wire picked up the story, which includes the obligatory spin from university administrators, as well as the proper on-the-one-hand, on-the-other observation from Professor Lindo.
"This is a cost, it's an important cost," he said. "But it has to be weighed against potential benefits."
Professors Cowen and Grier come to a less satisfactory conclusion.
In sum, we have a system where the games are not designed to produce the best on-field matchups, the competitors often lose money but fight fiercely to participate, outsiders and observers complain vehemently, and the organizers amass and waste a great deal of money with little oversight.

Welcome to capitalism, American style. Get back to us when you’ve found a better system.
There's an area of economics called industrial organization, in which game theory (often no more complicated than the prisoners' dilemma) is a useful analytic tool, and I'm surprised that Professor Cowen in particular wouldn't recognized the rent-seeking phenomenon (itself an inefficiency) in that amassing and wasting a great deal of money.

That understanding of rent-seeking might clarify Huffington Post commentator Wendy N. Powell's investigation of the peculiar economics of college football, which complements the Cowen and Grier essay in part, and conflicts in part.
The reality is that coaches have created their own salary market, a task that the rest of us cannot afford to do. In this economy, we don't have the luxury of holding out for the highest bidder. Most of us take what we can get. But, they have driven up the market by making demands of public institutions that would be a fantasy to most. It's about "me too" and drive up the next bidder.
Let's rephrase that. Most of us are not Paul Krugman, who is in the position of being able to play Princeton off against Columbia or MIT or Stanford for an endowed chair, or to negotiate with the New York Times for a column.  Paul Krugman and Robert Barro and Thomas Sargent and other highly regarded economists compete in a different segment of the market, but they did so by working more creatively than those of us who are using a day the offices are closed to catch up on blog posts and electronic mail.  Think of the reserve army of underemployed Ph.D.s as the academic equivalent of volunteer assistant coaches holding tackling dummies at small high schools.  A few of those people become high school head coaches, a few of those secure assistant coach appointments at universities, and on occasion a science teacher named Lombardi leaves St. Cecelia High School to have a trophy named after him.  The question Professor Powell and the others ask is really whether it is worthwhile for public institutions (and Notre Dame and the University of Spoiled Children and Syracuse) to be validating those demands, or whether it is time to end the positional arms race.

DESTROYING THE PLAY VALUE IN MACROECONOMICS.

There have to be more than a few people who see in the income-expenditure model and the Keynesian Cross the potential to do Good Things through the use of expansionary fiscal policies, and some of them might consider a career in economics.  Robert Samuelson suggests that the enthusiasm might be misplaced.
When Keynes wrote “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money” in the mid-1930s, governments in most wealthy nations were relatively small and their debts modest. Deficit spending and pump priming were plausible responses to economic slumps. Now, huge governments are often saddled with massive debts. Standard Keynesian remedies for downturns — spend more and tax less — presume the willingness of bond markets to finance the resulting deficits at reasonable interest rates. If markets refuse, Keynesian policies won’t work.
He's really suggesting a different approach to teaching macroeconomics.  The last time I thought seriously about macroeconomics was in graduate school, when Ed Feige, a Milton Friedman student, introduced us to G - T = ΔM + ΔB, the government budget constraint.  That's the law of conservation Mr Samuelson is referring to, noting that deficits must be Monetized or Borrowed.  Somehow we got through the income-expenditure model and an entire semester of public finance and fiscal policy without encountering that law of conservation, or at best being informed that large-country governments had pretty good lines of credit.

From what little I know about the teaching of introductory macroeconomics these days, the permanent income hypothesis (which makes the multiplier based on the marginal propensity to consume go away) and rational expectations and monetary policy.  These all strike me as somewhat more challenging concepts compared to the government budget constraint, and a relatively simple law of conservation ought to be easier to teach.
Countries then lose control over their economies. They default on maturing debts or must be rescued with loans from friendly countries, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), government central banks (the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank) or someone. There are other reasons why Keynesian policies might fail or be weakened. But they pale by comparison with the potential veto now posed by bond markets. Ironically, the past overuse of deficits compromises their present utility to fight high unemployment.
Here Mr Samuelson is channelling Milton Friedman, who once compared the use of inflationary policy to drink: the longer the binge, the bigger the hangover.
Governments have ceded power to bond markets by decades of shortsighted behavior. The political bias is to favor short-term stimulus (by lowering taxes and raising spending), which is popular, and to ignore long-term deficits (by cutting spending and raising taxes), which is unpopular. Debt has risen to hazardous levels, undermining Keynesian economics as taught in standard texts.

Were Keynes alive now, he would almost certainly acknowledge the limits of Keynesian policies. High debt complicates the analysis and subverts the solutions. What might have worked in the 1930s offers no panacea today.
The U.S. Treasury, however, is in the enviable position of selling industrial volumes of the closest thing to a risk-free security (something apparently so desirable that Hot Money was willing to invest in mortgage backed securities during the years the federal budget was in surplus) which suggests the reckoning could still be avoided, or else when it comes, it will be particularly severe.

MORE TO IT THAN THROWING MONEY AT IT.

Newmark's Door features two thoughtful posts on why poverty is hard to fix.  Both recognize that life-management skills matter, and both posts save the main message for last.  At Business Insider, here's Eric Falkenstein.
Life is a journey from ignorance and instinct to higher virtues, including the prudence needed in a complex world. Such prudence comes mainly from acting with thoughtful resoluteness towards the many petty people and temptations around us. Willpower is a great book that reaffirms the power within us to become better people.
Instilling that mindset, or any of the other traits of successful people, might be beyond the scope of public policy, Atlantic's Megan McArdle cautions.
Having higher wage jobs available would give people more money which would be a good thing, and it would solve the sort of problems that stem from a simple lack of money.  But it would not turn them into different people.

Public policy can modestly improve the incentives and choice sets that poor people face--and it should do those things.  But it cannot remake people into something more to the liking of bourgeois taxpayers.  And it would actually be pretty creepy if it could.
Perhaps so ... people are not as malleable as assorted Serious People would like to believe.  But is it asking too much to urge that the policymakers stop undermining poor people by reframing destructive traits as differences to be affirmed?

20.12.11

NOT COLLEGE MATERIAL, EVEN WITH A COLLEGE DEGREE.

Huffington Post correspondent Jeff Selingo (via Joanne Jacobs) has encountered a few corporate college recruiters who, while conceding their employers' failure to develop their human resources, are less than happy with the applicant pool.
[A]ll of the recruiters told me they were surprised by the number of applicants they encounter who clearly were not ready to go to college in the first place, yet possess a degree.

"The focus on access and completion has come at a real cost," one recruiter told me (he didn't want his company identified because he's not allowed to speak on its behalf). "We're encouraging students to go to college who should be considering other options, and then we're pushing them through once there."
The pushing-on-through apparently has a signal: poor writing skills.
That's where many of the recruiters were quick to let colleges off the hook, for the most part. Students are supposed to learn to write in elementary and secondary school. They're not forgetting how to write in college. It's clear they're not learning basic grammar, usage, and style in K-12.
Do I see indirect support for the Cold Spring Shops proposal that colleges send high schools a bill for the remedial education (developmental should not mean teaching eighth grade material) their lack of effort imposes on college faculty?  If I had wanted to teach special education, I would have sought a special education certificate, not a Ph.D. in economics.  I also suspect that the introduction of oppression studies into freshman composition to the exclusion of writing doesn't develop writing skills.

The correspondent also suggests that the nonaggression pact between professors and students is not working in the students' favor.  On one hand,
The recruiters complained about professors who clearly gave grades that were not deserved, allowed assignments to be skipped, and simply didn't demand much from their students. The lack of academic rigor might please students and their parents while in college, but it's doing a disservice to students when they graduate and have similar expectations in the workplace.
On the other,
Speaking of expectations, many of today's younger workers want everything now and have a sense of entitlement.
The recruiters lay some of that off on indulgent parents, but if one gets an A just for showing up, the first time the boss (pointy-haired drone or not) insists that a deadline be met, it is going to come as a nasty surprise.
Colleges and professors need to uphold their standards and encourage more rigor in the classroom, knowing the short-term consequences might be unhappy students but the long-term benefits will be better-prepared graduates.
The offices are closed to conserve energy. Perhaps that will give me time to post an essay I wrote twenty years ago, in which I suggested it would be better if students were unhappy with demanding professors.  Why not use the protections academic freedom and tenure give to deliver university level content?

HIGH-SPEED RAIL AS MAKE-WORK?

A Bloomberg report suggests that faster passenger trains in the megalopolises should not be politically controversial.
Because of its ingenious scope, neither the airlines nor the auto industry contested the plan. It targeted corridors among major cities that are too far apart to drive, but too close to make flying worth the time and hassle of trudging through airport security: Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Milwaukee, for example, or Atlanta, Charlotte, Birmingham and New Orleans. Although trains wouldn’t compete with planes between New York and Los Angeles or, for that matter, Chicago, the plan would put high-speed rail within the reach of 80 percent of Americans.
We know the potential for the Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Upper Midwest routes generally.  We disagree with the article's case for spending on faster passenger trains as part of an economic stimulus.
The weak economy only increases the urgency. Interest rates are at historic lows, real estate values remain depressed, private sector spending is stagnant, and unemployment is stuck around 9 percent. There could hardly be a better time to borrow billions of dollars to buy up land for train rights-of-way and to create high-paying jobs in engineering, manufacturing and construction.

When Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, returned $2.4 billion in federal rail funds last year, he also expunged about 17,000 construction jobs in one of the most depressed areas of his state. The Florida corridor, which could have linked Orlando to Tampa as early as 2014, was projected to return an operating profit of $10 million in its first year alone.
Interest rates are low, and Treasuries, despite the deficit, are perceived by investors as safer than European or Latin American government bonds.  There still is a marginal efficiency of capital, and in the case of Passenger Rail, some of the investments are relatively cheap.  Modify the Interstate Commerce Commission orders governing passenger train speeds, retime the road crossing signals (although the use of public money to build road underpasses or overpasses at crossings of major railroads does make sense) then replace the P-79 speed indicators away from city limits with P-110 signs, and away you go.  But if somebody wanted to put the public money into a new fleet of passenger stock, including successors to the Beaver Tail, Tip Top Tap, and Super Dome, I won't object.

MONEY WASTED ON IMITATION?

Cold Spring Shops is on record as not pleased with Northern Illinois University spending of money on taglines, branding initiatives, and a new trademark, particularly when five-gallon plastic buckets are strategically placed in the corridors of heavily used academic buildings, including the home of a theater department that developed Joan Allen and Dan Castellenata.  Information that arrived with the dossiers for a recent job search didn't change any minds here.  A great deal of effort went into creating "Learning Today, Leading Tomorrow" as the new tagline (contemporary usage; the traditional description is motto or blurb).

The dossiers included a number of letters from the University of Houston, and some of the departments must have been practicing economy, using letterheads with "Learning. Leading." as the bottom footer.  Houston spent several million bucks and five years coming up with this, back in 2000, and it has subsequently given way to "You Are The Pride."  The stylesheet doesn't specify what Houston spent on that new slogan, or why.  Presumably there is a presentation somewhere with all the design elements and bullet points justifying the change.  Further down in the stylesheet is a note restricting the use of what Houston calls the "interlocking UH mark," characterizing it as a "legacy graphic symbol" and prohibiting its placement "next to the university logotype."  That's a pity.  The legacy symbol looks like something a partnership of Herbert Matter and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association might have created, and Houston would not have been out of place registering the brand for use on the left hip, right hip, left shoulder, right shoulder, left cheek and right cheek.

DISAPPOINTMENT, CENTRALIZATION, REGICIDE.

Walter Russell Mead draws parallels between the primitive practice of executing the leader and the contemporary cult of the presidency.
If the crops were bad, the solution was obvious: kill the king, sprinkle his blood on the fields, pick a new and more righteous ruler, and wait for the boom when the new harvest came in.

American elections can be viewed as a mild form of this practice today.  In fact, presidents don’t have as much influence over the economic cycle as we pretend, but it makes us feel better to oust the incumbent when the economy does poorly, so we do.
His focus is on Egypt's troubles, no matter whether one can lay them off on Hosni Mubarak or Rameses II. He's reinforcing a traditional Cold Spring Shops argument.
It's the belief in leaders that gives us the cult of the CEO and the cult of the Presidency and the cult of the sports hero and celebrity culture in general -- and the resulting fascination with the shortcomings of those supposedly special people. Complex adaptive systems will do what they please ...
The best thing for Egypt or the United States or anywhere else might be simple, dependable rules of contract and ownership.

18.12.11

THE CASE FOR MORE RIGOROUS DRIVER PREPARATION.

Larry Webster of Popular Mechanics comes close to alleging that the two easiest licenses to get are a driving license and a marriage license.
It’s true that drivers not focused on the task at hand are a risk to everyone on the road. But the real problem isn’t our gadgets. It’s us. Why do we treat driving so frivolously that we allow ourselves to be easily distracted?

Perhaps it’s because Americans have come to regard a driver’s license as a right—not a privilege. In this country, it’s ridiculously easy to get a license. Just think back to your driver’s test. I took mine in a parking lot, and the gruff man doing the grading never got a chance to see how I’d merge onto a highway or where my eyes focused when approaching an intersection. The hardest part, as it is for many license-seeking teenagers, was parallel parking. That skill comes in handy now and then, but how important is it to being safe on the road?

America’s lax standards about driving tests and entitlement about driving are just symptoms of our lackadaisical attitude toward driving. And that attitude conveys exactly the wrong message: Driving is a cakewalk, so why not send a few texts while we’re behind the wheel?
He's reacting to a possible federal ban (yet another unenforceable law) on using cell phones, including the hands-free version, and texting (what about Citizens Band and ham radio?) while driving.  After a meditation on the usefulness of more rigorous driver training and testing, he gets to the heart of the matter.
Some would argue that the cost of that training is prohibitive (about $2500). But just think of how much we spend on the safety features—such as airbags, antilock brakes, stability-control systems—that are now required in every car.

I’m not suggesting that those features be removed. I am saying that we rely on cars to do too much for us. This morning I heard a caller on a talk show say that the solution to distracted driving is new safety systems that warn of accidents and even automatically stop the car if necessary. Engineers are already working on those kinds of systems, and no doubt they’ll be useful. But they’re Band-Aids. Shouldn’t the responsibility for avoiding trouble ultimately rest with the driver?
That's something economists have long understood. George Stigler quipped that cars go faster because they have good brakes, and the origin of the proposal that there be a spear on the steering column to concentrate the mind is with Armen Alchian or Gordon Tullock.  It all sounds a bit silly, but there's a serious implication.  The safer people perceive their cars to be, the more risks they take with them.
A person behind the wheel of [a four wheel drive vehicle] is far more likely to be wielding a mobile phone while driving, and less likely to wear a seatbelt, researchers say. They have concluded that four-wheel-drive owners take more risks because they feel safer.
Put it together and the proposal might appeal to environmentalists and fans of small cars.  People buy the large four-wheel drives for a misplaced feeling of security, then dissipate some of the security in distracted driving (hey, the person my urban tank rams bears the burden.)

RUNNING EXTRA.  Froma Harrop may be making the same connection.
Moving at a stately 30 mph, the woman drove her tanklike vehicle right through the stop sign and almost through me as I crossed the street.

Like the psychiatrist assigning mental illness at the mere sound of crazy shouting, I didn’t have to look at the motorist. I just knew from her behavior that she was yakking on a cellphone. Sure enough, she was.

Many of us who play pedestrian – even if only in parking lots – have dodged motorists blankly staring out the windshield as they jabber on the phone. Between now and 2012, countless families will have suffered tragedy at the hands of these distracted drivers. And nothing will have been done about their dangerous practice, given the strong political and societal forces amassing in its defense.
It's not clear which coalition of political and societal forces she has in mind.  She continues to note that there is no such thing as multitasking, only switching from doing one thing badly to another.

VACLAV HAVEL.

Playwright, dissident, presided over a peaceful separation of Czechoslovakia, now among the honored dead.  Margaret Soltan has a recollection, and the commenters recommend more.

THE LONGEST WINNING STREAK IN WISCONSIN.

That belongs to the Whitewater Warhawks.
UW-Whitewater survived a defensive slugfest with a familiar nemesis Friday night and emerged with its third consecutive NCAA Division III football championship.

A key turnover led to the Warhawks' only touchdown, and they fended off Mount Union, 13-10, in their seventh consecutive meeting in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.
The Packers put together nineteen consecutive(*) wins in 364 days, before having a learning experience in Kansas City. But nothing in Packer history, either in the regular season or those epic playoff battles with the Giants at the beginning of the Lombardi Era, or the Cowboys at the end, approaches Whitewater's history in Division III.
Whitewater sported a 44-game winning streak and had not lost since Mount Union won the 2008 championship. The Purple Raiders, meanwhile, were aiming for their 11th Division III title overall.
Positional arms race puzzle: do some Upwardly Mobile athletics programs go to Division II or aim higher for the supposed money, or to get away from Whitewater and Mount Union?

(*)Practice games don't count toward pro football winning streaks.

17.12.11

CONTRIBUTIONS BY HUSKIES.

I had time to watch Wayne State play Pittsburg (Kan.) State in the Division II title game.  It started well for the Tartars Warriors with Wayne running the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, then intercepting Pittsburg on their first series.  Pittsburg (I'm not sure whether a gorilla mascot is inventive or silly) turned the game around late in the first half, first when their defense blocked a field goal and returned the ball for a touchdown, then, just before halftime the announcer called tight end Bristan Kelley open in the end zone for six.  He's a transfer from Northern Illinois, initially recruited for basketball.  Gives cause for appreciating Pittsburg's win.  In Division II, coaches still have to request reviews, none of this automatic review stuff.

16.12.11

I DIDN'T GET TREATED LIKE A TERRORIST.

Joe Sharkey of the New York Times discovers First Class on what passes for the West Coast Champion these days.
Given the length of the trip, I reserved a sleeper compartment. The private sleeper had two comfortable seats that could fold down into a bunk bed and a second bunk that ratcheted toward the ceiling when not in use. It also had a toilet, sink, a work table and an electrical outlet.

The fare was $480.80, which included four meals in the adjacent dining car. By comparison, one-way nonstop airline fares on that route ranged from $248 to $301 this week.

“We’re seeing more business travelers, usually on trips of about 500 miles but sometimes even all the way to New York,” said Dennis M. Lyons, an Amtrak product development officer. I ran into him at Union Station in Tampa as I was boarding the Silver Star, which travels about 1,500 miles from Miami to New York, with brief stops at about 20 cities along the way.

The Silver Star, one of more than a dozen of Amtrak’s long-haul trains, carried about 393,000 passengers in 2010, up 6 percent from 2009, Amtrak says.

Before boarding, I was skeptical about this adventure, but I have to report that the trip was more civilized than air travel and worth it this one time. The dining car menus offer a good range of selections. Communal dining — that is, you’re seated at a small table with strangers — was a nice change from the general social alienation of air travel.
Note that 500 mile figure: ten hours driving time, with bathroom stops and hotels at the end of the journey, and the aggravation of traffic and the rolling roadblocks the long-distance truckers have become. Or one hour in the air, with another hour or two in security and waiting to board through one door, plus transportation to and from airports.  Choosing any rental car is scant compensation for being set down miles away from wherever you want to be.

Note also, that's the one train remaining from Tampa to anywhere, and it's running on the not-always-dependable CSX south of Washington, D.C.  Provide additional frequency, and give those long-distance trains free rein to 90 (or, with the newer equipment coming, 110) and you might have something.

I'm pleased to see additional Establishment reporters making the case for the long-distance passenger train.


LEARNING TODAY, LEADING TOMORROW.

Headquarters probably had something else in mind.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Sam Hurd was locked up in federal custody Thursday and charged with trying to set up a drug-dealing network.

U.S. Magistrate Young Kim ordered Hurd, who played college football at Northern Illinois University from 2002-2005, held until at least today while prosecutors and defense attorneys work out bond details before he is sent to Texas to face charges.
The Bears have waived their rights to Mr Hurd.
Hurd, 26, played for five seasons with the Cowboys and is in his first season with the Bears. He has contributed mostly on special teams, playing in 77 games overall with six starts and two career touchdowns. He has played in 12 games this year, catching eight passes for 109 yards.

He caught 143 passes for 2,322 yards and 21 touchdowns during his four years at NIU under longtime coach Joe Novak.

“My NIU experience was great,” Hurd said last summer. “It was a big growing-up lesson for me. I would tell anybody to take a chance and take advantage of it. ... It was an awesome experience. It made me better as a man, and it gave me a chance to get out here and prolong my football career.”
That may be over, too.

THE WORK STILL TO BE DONE.

In a tribute to homeschooling, Nathan Harden pens a mission statement that would be worthy of any institution of higher learning.
Makes you wish there was such a thing as college home-schooling. Then again, if students received an education in our public schools that tapped their full potential, rather than the low-performing, time-wasting experience they often plod through, they might actually be prepared for college. And college might then be a much more educational and less remedial experience.
Indeed.

15.12.11

RESACRALIZING FESTIVUS.

USA Today guest columnist Amy Sullivan proposes a truce in the culture wars.
The battle for the soul of Christmas ended a long time ago, and cultural forces won. That's clear when Christmas trees fill homes and apartments in Japan, a country where 2% of the population is Christian.
As a friend put it years ago, "What's more pagan than a Christmas tree?"
In his wonderful book Christmas: A Candid History, Methodist minister and religious studies professor Bruce David Forbes explores the ways in which early Christians established Christmas by linking it to pre-existing midwinter celebrations. Many northern cultures coped with winter by looking forward to feasts and merriment marked by lights and greenery that reminded them that the darkness would end and life would begin again.
The winter solstice would be a good time to celebrate a resurrection, but there's the little detail of the Last Supper taking place at Passover, a spring ritual.
As Forbes suggests, the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity might have been a little rougher if it had required Romans to give up not just their gods but their parties as well. So starting in the fourth century, the first Christmas celebrations took place just before the new year.

The difficulty for those who understandably want to simplify Christmas or strip the holiday of its secular elements is that a purely spiritual Christmas has never existed. That reality has frustrated religious communities for centuries. After the Reformation, the Puritans were appalled by the excess and non-biblical practices associated with Christmas, and launched an actual war on Christmas that culminated in the English Parliament's 1652 decision to outlaw Christmas. In the American colonies, Puritan influence resulted in subdued observances.
She goes on to propose an unpackaging of Christmas the Christian observance from Christmas the midwinter festival. That formulation might be too complicated. Keep in mind that the Redeemer whose birth is celebrated in the Christian observance is a Jewish man, possibly a composite of several Jewish men claiming to be the promised Messiah.


As is Joshua Lionel Cowen.

INVOLUNTARY MEDICAL REDSHIRT.

Devon Butler is now wearing pads.
NIU coach Dave Doeren said Butler can participate in non-contact drills, but won’t be cleared for contact until April – one year after Butler had potentially life-saving surgery at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center. Butler, who used his medical redshirt this season, was unavailable for comment Friday because he will not play in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 8.

Doeren met with Butler on Thursday, just to emphasize the importance of not pushing his body too much. Even then, Doeren could sense his players’ excitement.
Mr Butler was in the wrong place at the wrong time last spring (a depressingly frequent occurrence of late), and I'm pleased to note his progress.

Rehabilitation after an injury with any kind of enforced idleness is work.  Younger bodies, fortunately, recover more quickly.

THE NAIVETE OF ROBERT REICH.

He criticizes Wall Street for lobbying against new regulations.
Wall Street is its own worst enemy. It should have welcomed new financial regulation as a means of restoring public trust. Instead, it’s busily shredding new regulations and making the public more distrustful than ever.
I'd be more worried if Wall Street endorsed the regulations.

Do whatever you want with me, but don't fling me in that briar patch.
The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention.  It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.
To some extent, Mr Reich sees the deceit and the oppression.
Wall Street has blanketed America in a miasma of cynicism. Most Americans assume the reason the Street got its taxpayer-funded bailout without strings in the first place was because of its political clout. That must be why the banks didn’t have to renegotiate the mortgages of Americans – many of whom, because of the economic collapse brought on by the Street’s excesses, are still under water. Some are drowning.

That must be why taxpayers didn’t get equity stakes in the banks we bailed out – as Warren Buffet got when he bailed out Goldman Sachs. That means when the banks became profitable gain we didn’t get any of the upside gains; we just padded the Street’s downside risks.
In that environment, would Wall Street be doing itself any favors by endorsing the regulations?
But in coming months and years, the American public will weigh the social costs and social benefits of Wall Street itself. And it wouldn’t surprise me if they decide the costs of the Street as it is far outweigh the benefits.

The result will be caps on the size of banks. Some will be broken up. Glass-Steagall will be resurrected. Some Wall Street bigwigs may even see in the insides of jails.

If so, the Street has only itself to blame.
The problem there, however, is that the activists will have their laws, and the investment bankers will capture the regulators.

13.12.11

NO CHILD GETS AHEAD.

City Journal correspondent Sol Stern, initially an advocate of No Child Left Behind, gets the dual proposition.
I should have realized that by focusing almost exclusively on the educationally disadvantaged, yet ignoring the country’s future scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, NCLB—despite its framers’ best intentions—would damage America’s competitiveness. As noble as combating “the soft bigotry of low expectations” is, America’s global standing and economic well-being are more likely to be improved by nurturing a culture of academic excellence and creating programs that support elite education in math and the sciences.

NCLB could easily have included reforms to benefit academically gifted students—for example, using financial incentives to encourage states and school districts to expand programs for gifted kids in the early grades and to create more merit-based science and mathematics high schools. The idea of strengthening elite education never entered the NCLB conversation, however; the civil rights agenda pushed everything else off the table. With Republicans trying to establish their civil rights bona fides, a bipartisan consensus formed to focus the new legislation almost exclusively on shrinking the racial achievement gap.

A decade later, despite indications of academic decline among the country’s top students, education policymakers still haven’t expressed much interest in improving instruction for high achievers. Look on the website of the U.S. Department of Education, and you’ll find the usual impossibly optimistic boilerplate about bridging achievement gaps.
Government failure does not prevent some children from getting ahead, but the market's response is a bundle of a good school and a granite countertop.
Yes, there are lots of good comprehensive high schools, primarily in wealthy suburbs, that provide top science and math students with opportunities to excel, to take college-level courses, and to compete in contests like the Intel Science Talent Search. But as the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation report points out, graduates of dedicated science and math high schools are, on average, better prepared for advanced college-level academics and far more likely to pursue undergraduate and advanced degrees in “STEM studies,” as educators have dubbed the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Yes, but recognizing and protecting talent, unless it's sports talent, is an alien concept to the education establishment.

A LONG ROAD SLOG TO THE TITLE GAME.

At the beginning of the year, that was the Packers, with a happy ending.

At year's end, it's the Wayne State Warriors, who impressed the Division II selection committee to secure the final playoff seeding and make what USA Today characterizes as either an improbable or a magical run.
This opportunity has been a long time coming for coach Paul Winters. A former assistant at Akron, Wisconsin and Toledo, he took over at Wayne State before the 2004 season. The Warriors were 4-16 his first two years, but he's had only one losing season since.
Two Mid-American programs, a Big (12) Ten program, and fifteen minutes of fame.
The Warriors play in a 6,000-seat venue at the west end of the school's Detroit campus. Needless to say, this isn't Michigan or Michigan State. Wayne State's roster is filled almost exclusively with players from Michigan and Ohio.

Since national recruiting is almost nonexistent, it's important for Wayne State to keep the players that do join the program.
It's a million dollar business, although not as expensive as a Michigan or a Toledo, and apparently not expected to be a fundraising opportunity (are you listening, Northern Illinois?)
This season has been the most successful ever for the Wayne State University football team, but don't look for the victories to translate into a windfall of cash or a move up to Division I.

That doesn't mean the school isn't seeking whatever financial help it can get for its Division II football program -- which operates on a budget of just $195,000.

The team's success will be used to cultivate WSU's donor and corporate base for both sports and academics, said WSU Athletic Director Rob Fournier.

"We'll use this as a greeting card to go to people," he said. The athletic department has been buying spots on the radio to appeal to alumni and donors.
In Division II, optimism is tempered with realism.
Playing on television and pride are the rewards for a Division II champion. And unlike Division I bowl games, which come with payouts to participating schools in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, there is no institutional payday for the schools.

"Competitive success at the Division II level rarely leads to a financial windfall," said Dave O'Brien, editor of College Sports Business News and director of the sports management program at Drexel University

"Increased institutional pride, engaged on-campus students, enhanced alumni involvement/giving patterns and a modest increase in applications may all result from on the field success; but, with limited, if any, media coverage and/or television deals, corporate support is very limited."
That might not be all bad, with teams paying for the privilege of playing in bowls (once the sponsor guarantees are netted against the incremental costs).

Some things don't change in Division II.  Money is still fungible.
WSU's surprisingly small football budget covers travel, equipment, uniforms, meals, recruiting and everything else, Fournier said.

"I would argue that we get a whole helluva lot out of our $200,000," Fournier said.

Salaries for the coaches and player scholarships come out of the athletic department's nearly $5 million budget, which covers all of WSU's 15 programs.
The price of admission to a higher division is beyond Wayne's means.
Wayne State offers the full 36 football scholarships allowed under Division II rules, but it divides them into halves and quarters so that the nearly 100 team members get some financial help. No player has a full scholarship.

A Division I football program offers 86 full scholarships, but don't look for the Warriors to move up any time soon. The cost and bureaucratic hurdles aren't worth it, Fournier said.

"It's almost financially impossible to move to Division I because of the different constraints," he said. "The application just to go Division I is almost a million dollars. In today's economy, it just wouldn't make a lot of sense to be spending money like that."

There's also been a moratorium for several years, ending in 2012, on schools moving to Division I for football. 
We have much to look forward to. The positional arms race is on hold for the moment, but I expect the conference realignment frenzy, and the filings of applications to move up, to resume just as the current election cycle winds down.