It's a theme at Historiann's ranch, although students in her state might be adapting well all the same.
A spokeswoman for the apartment complex e-mailed a statement to 7NEWS that said the party was a long standing charity initiative intended to encourage new students to socialize.

The statement said that "no alcohol was provided and consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited in the pool area."

Laura Van De Pette said property management took measures to proactively manage the security of the event, but that the larger than expected crowd raised concerns and required us to shut down early.

"We regret the outcomes of this event and wish to express our concern for the individuals whose safey was put at risk by those who violated the rules of our welcoming event," Van De Pette said.

Four people were cited and released. Two people were cited on assault charges, one person for disorderly conduct and one person for interference with a peace officer, investigators said. All were under 21.

Among those cited by police were 21-year-old Colorado State University linebacker James Skelton and 19-year-old defensive end Dillon Lawrence.

"We are looking into it and will comment further when we know more," said CSU head football coach Steve Fairchild.

CSU’s Dean of Students, Jody Donovan, told 7NEWS that any student accused of breaking the law or violating school policy could face disciplinary measures.

“Any student accused will have a hearing with an officer where they can share their perspective of what happened,” Donovan said. “They are entitled to due process.”
Where to begin?  Classes began at Northern Illinois on August 22 (it's some state mandate, the first day of class is the fourth Monday in August, never mind that it's two weeks before Labor Day and almost nobody is mentally ready to contemplate the higher learning, or even remedial math) and sure as Chick Evans the weekend police blotter devotes half a page to underage drinking citations.  Yes, changing the university culture to emphasize unlocking those gated communities rather than beer-'n-circus is desirable, but tying the drinking age to the highway trust fund in such a way as to turn collegians into scofflaws -- let alone that the trooper on leave from Afghanistan cannot legally drink a beer at the Legion hall -- is nuts.  Or shall we note the presence of footballers at the party?  Nah -- that's University Diaries territory.  I did tell my classes that if anyone sees me at the West Point game and has questions, that's fair game, after the fifth quarter, either at the Starbucks or at a pub.  Maybe the bikini babes at the pool party (there is a video at the story link).

Gives this meditation on the value of feminism some context.
My bet is that college students today will end up mostly just embarassed by their behavior (not to mention their hairstyles!) in ten years’ time or less, when they enter the paid workforce and rediscover why all that feminism they should have learned more about might be useful when they see how the world outside of schools and universities operates.  The success that young women have had in the past fifty years in going from a minority to a majority of college and graduate students shows how successfully the world of education has levelled the playing field, by and large, for women and men.  The first meaningful experience with discrimination most young women have will occur after they enter the workforce and see men with less education and less experience paid more and  promoted ahead of them.
There's a reason earnings profile studies attempt to dummy out education and sex and treat job tenure as a continuous variable. But perhaps for the charity-initiative pool party crowd, excellence, with or without money, is not of pressing importance.
GIVE US THAT OLD TIME RELIGION.  The Chronicle of Higher Education leaves a symposium outside the paywall, focusing on the clash of budget-cutting governors and embattled professors. Instapundit quips, "Note the defensive crouch".   And yes, a few of the usual Culture Warrior suspects participate, offering the usual stuff.  For instance, Yeshiva's Ellen Schrecker.
With higher education increasingly hard to pay for in the current economic crisis, it can no longer serve as a safety net for the middle class and a source of economic mobility for society. Nor, given the political attacks on academe, can our colleges maintain the intellectual excellence, diversity, and freedom that once made them the envy of the world.
Never mind the very real possibility that diversity crowded out intellectual excellence long ago, and publish-or-perish trammels inquiry in ways more corrosive than any spreadsheet-scanning, adjunct-hiring trustee can dream of, and the public has lost faith in higher education.

Texas's Daniel Hamermesh grounds his argument in reality, and recognizes tradeoffs.
In a sensible world, the cuts would be made disproportionately at the margins; colleges that have trouble attracting students, that are in remote areas, or that offer programs that duplicate their neighbors' superior efforts would bear the brunt of budget-cutting. Regrettably, financing of public higher education doesn't work that way. The cuts will be nearly across the board, since each local state representative wants to ensure that the local public college receives its "fair" share of public funds.

Cuts of this sort will hurt elite public universities in the short term. But they will meet the reductions without major cuts in quality. They will raise tuition more rapidly than otherwise and will do an even better job of building endowments, which is fine with me.

I'm not bothered by tuition increases for students who come from families with incomes exceeding $120,000 a year, as do half of the students at the University of Texas at Austin and probably at the other elite public campuses as well. Indeed, such increases are desirable—why should the average taxpayer continue to subsidize the children of the well-to-do so heavily?
Regular readers will recognize a regressive transfer argument in the preceding, but the abolition of some kinds of regressive transfers brings tradeoffs.
But the long-term impacts of the impending budget cuts will not be minor at the broad array of lower-tier public institutions that account for the larger part of this sector. Many of them cannot raise tuition without reducing demand and thus their ability to spread their fixed costs. And many do not have an alumni base that is likely to generate endowment donations big enough to substitute for public revenues. In the end, those colleges will instead get by with fewer programs and larger classes; with fewer tenure-stream faculty members and still more adjuncts and temporary faculty; and with less-up-to-date facilities.

Is this worrisome? After all, the gem of American higher education, its mixture of world-class frontier-level research with undergraduate and graduate education, will be maintained in the elite private and public research universities. So what if much of public higher education becomes increasingly vocationally oriented and is conducted on the cheap?

This reversion is the logical consequence of the now 40-year trend toward increasing inequality of income, a trend that in the past 15 years has been especially marked at the very upper tail of income distribution. The effects on higher education are no surprise, but they are disturbing. As higher education becomes a gated community for the offspring of the well-to-do, opportunity for others is reduced. The American ideal of upward mobility, perhaps our greatest contribution to the intellectual capital of mankind, is further diminished.

Worse, the opportunity for the diamond-in-the-rough student to become polished and to contribute world-class innovations that generate the technological leaps that benefit the entire society—and the human race—will diminish. Finally, by vocationalizing higher education for the masses—replacing education with training—we will increasingly fail to teach people to think.
Professor Hamermesh's concluding paragraph suggests the new separating equilibrium in higher education is being manipulated by the plutocracy.  Perhaps.  But the mid-majors and regional comprehensives are complicit in this sorting in a number of ways: treating the University of Phoenix and the online diploma mills, rather than the land-grants and state flagships as the competition to be emulated; associating first-generation and non-traditional enrollment with more vocational degree programs; admitting less-prepared people and calling it access.  But boy does that approach allow administrators to preen and posture about how inclusive they are, to the approbation of some politicians and some sycophants on the faculty.  Never mind that that approach equips no students with the keys to the gated community.
IF UNIVERSITIES WERE STREETCARS.  Then, perhaps, a Chicago Now column suggesting that competition in higher education produces dropouts might make sense.
In Chicago, there are over 80 colleges, universities and vocational schools that spend a lot of money to attract students. With so many colleges to choose from, if Chicago area students don’t like the college they are currently attending, it is very easy to transfer to another one, often just a few blocks away from their original institution. Graduation rates are typically higher in areas where there are very few higher education institutions.
Sure, take that A in precalculus from Northeastern Illinois and enter directly into engineering at Northwestern.
The top three  Chicago area colleges with the highest graduation rates were Northwestern University (94%), University of Chicago (93%) and, DePaul University (68%).

The Chicago area colleges with the lowest graduation rates were Telshe Yeshiva - Chicago (7%), Chicago State University (14%) and, International Academy of Design & Technology (14%).

With so much taxpayer money used for financial aid, should universities be doing a better job at increasing their graduation rates?
If transferring is as easy as the article suggests, perhaps Yeshiva's attrition turns up in Northwestern's graduations -- or the Pauline Fathers are selling indulgences?  And the Metra Electric honors South Shore Line tickets.  I'd bet that the greater inefficiency in financial aid is in the form of loans in support of non-transferrable credits.


FROM THE FIRST CLANG OF THE RAIL TO THE LAST CLANG OF THE RAIL. Another academic year begins at Palm Beach State College, where as of this evening, Olivia Morris-Ford remains Student Activities Coordinator.


A few evenings ago, Johns Hopkins political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg appeared on Extension 720 for a discussion of his new The Fall of the Faculty:  The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters, which might make its way onto the Cold Spring Shops reading list, time or interest permitting.  There's commentary available on line.  On one hand, the dean at Anonymous Community suggests that the attention to administrative bloat is misplaced.
Staff is increasing, but management is shrinking. And the staff increases are mostly concentrated in a few discrete areas: IT, financial aid, and students with disabilities. Prof. Ginsberg is invited to specify which of those he considers unimportant.
Let's break it down. Information technology: in some future Renaissance scholars will wonder why as literate a civilization as ours permitted the iVandalizing of the language by writers of computer programs and builders of electronic tools, and why university administrators provided a support service the freedom it has received to impose its choice of tools on the faculty.  For the production of scientific papers, my college has subjected me to training on Advance Write (subsequently Samna, eaten by Lotus); that then gave way to Word Perfect, but later some of the desk jockeys decided that the Microsoft Office products were more useful for their purposes, and when they got in the habit of attaching those virus vectors to electronic mail, we all had to have that suite installed, and sometimes we've had to install the upgrades on our own time.  Never mind that Scientific Word and Scientific Workplace are better suited to composing technical papers: that's our own effort to learn and modify.  It's not enough to saddle us with inadequate tools, oh, no, we can't run off paper copies of our course outlines and distribute them, those have to be provided on Blackboard, and we have to be proficient enough now on a potted version of PeopleSoft (another eIlliteracy) to make grades available.   The front end for these things gets done over from time to time, for reasons that escape me.  (The justification for the latest revision of Blackboard is amusing: wikis, mashups, blogs, group assessment; to add annoyance to insult, the table of organization of course tools is all new).  There is, however, a lot of work available for the people who decide that it's time for an upgrade and install the upgrade, and keep the faculty up to speed on the problems with the upgrades, and take questions about the problems that arise with the upgrades.  There must be a better way.

Or financial aid, otherwise known as the home office of the college bubble.   To some extent students rely more heavily on financial aid because state subsidies are smaller (that's a separate, and complex topic) but to some extent that's higher education pursuing enrollments whether the enrollees are up to the work or not.  Which brings me to student services.  The dean would put that division on the side of the angels by focusing on disabilities, but somewhere that spills over into access for its own sake, and the creation of offices, sometimes serving the general student population, sometimes serving only the scholarship athletes, for the preservation of eligibility, or retention and completion more generally.

Professor Ginsberg's thesis is that student services and financial aid metastasize, usurping faculty responsibilities and dumbing down the curriculum, in part by appealing to the better angels of the faculty's nature.  (Short form: package diversity as implementing civil rights, and sustainability as regard for the environment.)  Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars suggests that faculty dissent from politicized administrative bloat is misplaced.
Faculty members are deeply complicit in the regime Ginsberg describes, and administrators are in some cases the main proponents of liberal education in opposition to the illiberal views of a significant portion of the faculty.

But midway through the book Ginsberg offers an arresting thesis. In “The Realpolik of Race and Gender” he argues that “on many campuses the political commitments of the faculty have been hijacked and perverted by administrators.” The administrators, he says, have learned to play upon the ideological commitments of the faculty to affirmative action and gender politics by seizing these themes as grounds for building their administrative empires. They do so by “forging what amount to tactical alliances with representatives of minority groups as well as activist groups on their campuses.” The faculty, not daring to utter a word that might be mischaracterized as racist or sexist, sit back and passively watch as administrators “package proposals designed mainly to enhance their own power on campus as altruistic and public-spirited efforts to promote social and political goals, such as equality and diversity, that faculty cannot oppose.”
Professor Wood's vision is the tragic vision. Whether The Last Marxists are in the university administrations, and theirs is the responsibility for the coreless curriculum, the administrative bloat, and the bubble, or not, higher education's failure at its mission is sufficiently obvious that the public has lost faith in the faculty.
Ginsberg is lamenting a bygone era of strong faculty influence on the university and wistfully imagining a path to restoration. But one of the reasons such restoration is unlikely is precisely the public disaffection with what the liberal faculty have wrought. Blaming the consequences of political correctness on the parasitical administrators who learned how to use it to their own advantage isn’t going to persuade very many people to give the authors of the PC university another chance. 
Twenty years ago I offered an essay to the Faculty Bulletin at Northern Illinois.  It began "Universities are failing at their mission."  I'm tempted to post it (although, because the original is in Advance Write, and saved, if it is saved at all, on a 5 1/4" floppy, that involves a lot of typing) and take stock of what has transpired since then.
AN ECONOMIC HISTORY DISSERTATION SEEKING A WRITER.  In The Wall Street Journal, Stephen Moore finds some provocative quotes from Defenders of the Keynesian Faith.
The Godfather of the neo-Keynesians, Paul Samuelson, was the lead critic of the supposed follies of Reaganomics. He wrote in a 1980 Newsweek column that to slay the inflation monster would take "five to ten years of austerity," with unemployment of 8% or 9% and real output of "barely 1 or 2 percent." Reaganomics was routinely ridiculed in the media, especially in the 1982 recession. That was the year MIT economist Lester Thurow famously said, "The engines of economic growth have shut down here and across the globe, and they are likely to stay that way for years to come."

The economy would soon take flight for more than 80 consecutive months. Then the Reagan critics declared what they once thought couldn't work was actually a textbook Keynesian expansion fueled by budget deficits of $200 billion a year, or about 4%-5% of GDP.

Robert Reich, now at the University of California, Berkeley, explained that "The recession of 1981-82 was so severe that the bounce back has been vigorous." Paul Krugman wrote in 2004 that the Reagan boom was really nothing special because: "You see, rapid growth is normal when an economy is bouncing back from a deep slump."

Mr. Krugman was, for once, at least partly right. How could Reagan not look good after four years of Jimmy Carter's economic malpractice?
The current recession, or reset, or what have you, might be objectively different from the aftermath of the Great Society that culminated with Whip Inflation Now and malaise.  Some of the microfoundations are different, for instance I was in the middle of researching technology diffusion in steel production at the same time that the chin-pullers were bemoaning the decline and fall of Big Steel.  The sense I had was of an extremely lively corpse, as each closure of an inefficiently small or mislocated traditional steel plant seemed to be accompanied by startups of three to five electric furnace steel plants, the minimills.  That source of creative destruction is probably dated; perhaps we should be looking at new oil extraction technologies or improved manufacturing methods for oil-country goods.

Mr Moore's point, however, is that Our President's economic initiatives (and it is difficult to view the first few months, with solid Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress, as anything but full-on Keynesian spending, the quibbling over shovel-readiness or not) and perhaps he is providing intellectual ammunition applicable to the contemporary reality of prolonged unemployment in the eight to nine percent range and real economic growth in the neighborhood of one percent.
There is something that is genuinely different this time. It isn't the nature of the crisis Mr. Obama inherited, but the nature of his policy prescriptions. Reagan applied tax cuts and other policies that, yes, took the deficit to unchartered peacetime highs.

But that borrowing financed a remarkable and prolonged economic expansion and a victory against the Evil Empire in the Cold War. What exactly have Mr. Obama's deficits gotten us?
Thus the research opportunity. If the microfoundations are different, the effectiveness of a policy is likely to be different.
WISCONSIN IN EXILE.  Packers Everywhere sounds more interesting than nursing coffee and grudges on the Left Bank.


PEOPLE OUR AGE.  Bummer.  Best wishes, Pat Summitt.
GETTING IN ON THE EXCITEMENT.  The Virginia earthquake registers on our instruments.

Northern Illinois University image courtesy CBS Chicago.

It happened at class changing time, but before football practice.



It must be summer's end.  Thomas has returned to the Illinois Railway Museum.

I got a good screen grab from the museum's Spaulding Tower webcam.  Early in the day, there weren't a lot of toddlers on the grounds, but the eight coach formation suggests heavy passenger loading later in the day.

It's not the prettiest diseasel in the collection, but it has the oomph to keep the train moving.

Thomas entertains the younger set again next week.  Perhaps a few of them will remain ferroequinologists and as they get older, appreciate the efforts of Leviathan and other active preserved and replica steam locomotives.
A POSTMODERN INDENTURE?  The editors at the DeKalb Chronicle like a new tuition waver program.
A pilot program at Northern Illinois University will certainly make DeKalb County a better place to live by offering students tuition waivers in exchange for community service.

The Huskie Service Scholars program provides low-income and first-generation students a $1,132 tuition waiver. To receive the waiver, a student must perform 300 hours of community service. Groups of three freshmen or first-year transfer students are paired with a mentor who has been on campus for at least one year.

The program has joined with six campus organizations that already have mentor programs in place: the Asian American Center, the Center for Black Studies, CHANCE, the Latino Resource Center, the Office of Pre-Collegiate Programs and Student Support Services.

“We’re looking for it to instill some engagement in the students and to receive some support, as well,” said Stormie Surles, a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning, which is launching the Huskie Service Scholars program. “It’s a win-win situation.”
The world has changed, and the old tradition of working your way through university with a summer factory job and a school year food service job has been rendered moot by trade adjustments and rising tuitions and fees.  Don't look for a lot of indentured servitude, though.
The students participating receive much-needed tuition assistance while becoming more acclimated to the community. By being placed in groups of four, these students are introduced to more people on campus, making the transition to life in DeKalb that much easier. Doing the community service work instills a sense of pride and teaches students at an impressionable age the importance of community service.

“We’re really looking to serve low-income and first-generation students and become a support system for those students,” said Julia Spears, director of the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning.

The community service work – whether it’s volunteering time at a local social service agency or picking up trash from the side of the road – helps the community.
On the other hand, the unstated lesson of a summer in the factory often was "finish the degree and don't report back here."  Wisconsin's legendary hockey coach Bob Johnson used to tell his players to go home for the summer and work the worst job they could find.  The support system is providing a few students with financial aid, but the scut work comes bundled with the class work.
GOVERNING IS NOT EQUIVALENT TO ADDING PAGES TO THE FEDERAL REGISTER.  Columnist Mark Steyn describes Texas governor Rick Perry's “I’ll work every day to try to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can” as "one of the best lines in the campaign".  His column focuses on the symbolism of the Crowned Heads of Europe travelling in more modest style than Our President.  (He missed the opportunity to add Queen Elizabeth to his writings, but I digress.)

Rick Moran has a somewhat angry post that is nonetheless on point.
It’s both inane and indicative of the fact that liberals just don’t get it; it is not government that conservatives oppose, it is big government that is at issue. The fact that the left has no clue as to the difference classifies them as first class morons. One can support Medicare, Social Security, and even some subsidies that are designed to encourage beneficial economic activity and still oppose Obamacare, FinReg, card check, and heavy handed interference in our schools from the Department of Education.

There is no hypocrisy. The issue is the lack of intelligence demonstrated by liberals who see no limits for the growth of government, believe the Constitution is an optional document, and think that cutting $2.7 trillion over the next 10 years when government will be spending close to $50 trillion is tantamount to murder - not to mention stating that anyone who advocates such a course of action is a terrorist.
Governor Perry might not be the best spokesman for the limited government case, but restoring the Presidency to something approximating its Constitutionally defined functions might be worth considering, if only for lack of other options that work.
RESPONDING TO THE EXCESS DEMAND.  Kenneth Anderson of The Volokh Conspiracy considers the tradeoffs of state universities pursuing more out-of-state students who pay full fare, with the effect of crowding out qualified in-state students.
The public university faces a serious crunch in state funding.  It seeks to respond by bringing in more out-of-state and international students who will pay its full tuition cost; each of those students is much more valuable than an in-state student, no matter how well-qualified.  Anyway, if you have all of China to choose from, you can always find someone who will fit the bill, both intellectually and financially.  But the out-of-state tuition does not really cover the subsidized fully internalized cost of the public university to that state’s public.  That’s so in a direct sense, in terms of direct subsidies, and if one counts the capitalized costs of past subsidies, often over a century or more.  And the even more indirect, but still important, costs of community, alumni, and other goodwill (including the very expectation and promise of long term state funding — the effect of which is to give others the confidence to contribute, donate, and help build the institution over the long term), then the fully internalized cost would be far higher still.

The university has little incentive to charge that cost; all that matters to it is something over the current in-state tuition cost that the out-of-state traffic will bear.  In the face of demand from in-state students, however, this is a bad policy for the state and its residents — its community, which was, after all, the reason why the state subsidized the damn thing in the first place — even as it is good policy for the university.

To which one can say, well, the problem here is to raise the tuition price to fully capture to cost, and then let the university choose.  But that’s a good policy only if one assumes that a public university, founded by a state for the benefit of its society and economy, should be indifferent as to the members of that political community.  Which is to say, those that live there and lived there in the expectation of having some shot at attending the institution, and having a priority in that institution, as opposed to anywhere else.  I realize that many at public universities  (particularly the most elite that regard themselves as islands of cosmopolitan universalism in a sea of narrow and parochial people who regard being a resident — residing — living in a place for the long term) see such expectations related to actual place and actual community as precisely the problem.  But I don’t see that state legislatures, who presumably — even in California — are supposed to have some connection to place and resident community, should see it that way.

Price alone won’t do it, so long as the number of physical places is limited at the most elite schools.  That being the case, were I a state legislator in California, I would support very strictly limiting the ability of public universities to make decisions that are good for the university and bad for the state and its residents.  But in that case, be prepared for the loud and sententious backlash; the first rule of university relations with the wider world is that there is no policy in the financial self-interest of a university that will not be declared to be in accordance with Universal Virtue and the Greater Public Interest.  The University wants more money from a wider and higher paying pool; poof: it announces that its mission is to offer its services to the Global Community and to Men & Women Everywhere.  At whatever the global traffic will bear.
All true, and yet in the state flagships' difficulties are ways forward.  First, that "number of physical places is limited at the most elite schools" is true as a physical fact, but a meaningful constraint only to the extent that the most elite schools are perceived as better than the state flagships, where that perception sustains the price premium the Ivies and the like get away with.  The fact that ambitious students and cash-tight parents are willing to consider a Berkeley or Wisconsin or Illinois suggests there are limits to that price premium.  It is, however, up to the administrators at the flagships to provide the intellectual environment and the support for the high achievers in order to change the perception.  Second, the number of physical places is also limited at the land grants and the flagships: thus being one of Illinois's rejects at Northern Illinois or one of Wisconsin's rejects at Milwaukee doesn't mean the same thing it once did (if it ever did: models of pooling and separating equilibria in signalling models are notoriously difficult to test empirically).  Third, the notion, commmon among legislators, of turning university graduates into future taxpayers is a notion subject to review.  Think of it as Wisconsin or Illinois running a trade surplus with New Jersey, or with China.


PUTTING THE CIRCUS ROUSTABOUTS TO SHAME.  Thursday was move-in day at the dorms, and by all accounts the student and university helpers performed magnificently.
Hundreds of student volunteers pitched in to help thousands of their peers – many of them freshmen – move into residence halls as part of NIU’s annual Move-In Day. Campus staff members – including NIU President John Peters – also lent a hand. Volunteers from Immanuel Lutheran Church on Russell Road handed out free bottles of water to anyone passing by the residences halls.

The volunteers help make Move-In Day run smoothly, said Adam Riegle, Lincoln CD residence hall director.

“We’ve had several compliments, especially from parents who have moved other children into other schools,” he said.
There's more stuff to schlep these days (I recall starting with a suitcase and a laundry bag) and more electric stuff to hook up.

I recall bringing only a clock radio.  It lasted about fifteen years.  Its successor has lasted about 25 years.  Universities have had to rewire their buildings to provide electricity for the computers, sound systems, and food preparation equipment our charges now see as socially necessary.

If the show is up and on the lot early, there's more time to play.
Getting students moved into the dorms quickly gives more time to get rooms in order before classes begin Monday, and it also allows students to enjoy the annual Huskie Bash on Thursday afternoon at the west side of Huskie Stadium. NIU departments and student organizations have scheduled meet-and-greet events all weekend for the incoming students.
Is the Hokey Pokey now part of orientation?

Northern Illinois University Facebook album photo.

Classes begin Monday.  Army game kicks off Saturday evening, September 3.
PRESIDENTIAL EXCESS.  Last year, Newsweek (yes, Newsweek) considered the case for limiting the American Presidency.  The difficulty inherent in pinning one's hopes on the Right Executive has been a long time in the making.
The tussle, however, is one in which the next step forward in individual autonomy is wresting power from the philosopher kings who supplanted the hereditary kings. That dialectic might play out over another 500 years. Health care and oil-spill management and counter-terrorism are the symptoms.
Two recent Reason columns summarize in a few sentences what is at work.  First, Gene Healy with the symptoms.
No presidential candidate had ever done more to stoke Americans' grandiose expectations for what was supposed to be a constitutionally limited office. Yet Obama won the presidency at the beginning of an era of long-needed austerity, one in which we'll be paying good and hard for the outsized promises of past saviors in chief.

Those Greek columns at the 2008 Democratic National Convention were pretty, but they were made of Styrofoam; the guy standing in front of them was, like those who came before, a professional vote-grubber, not a worthy object of adulation.

The last thing we need right now is the Obamaphiles' messianic approach to the presidency -- messianism got us into this mess.
Our President is not the only guilty party: anybody else remember Hillary(!) Clinton, who after having put lots of money into ringing telephone commercials and otherwise questioning her rival's competence, bowed to the delegate count with a speech in which "make Barack Obama President of the United States" came as if the refrain to a litany of afflictions?  Ora pro nobis, indeed.

David Harsanyi continues, with the recognition that honest disagreement is a feature.
Feel free to bemoan the fact that the American people are not automatons, but "getting stuff done" is not the charge of the Constitution. Neither is having a king, though sometimes you get the feeling that a lot of folks who believe in power as the wellspring of morality are really annoyed by that fact.
Preach it. But in a political climate where every disagreement on Capitol Hill becomes a crisis, and compromise a code word for "give me more of what I want", preaching is necessary.
THE SOCIAL MODE OF TRANSPORTATION.  A November 2007 New York Times article about a trip on a very late Sunset Limited has been salted away in my draft posts file, and the article has not yet been sent to the bit bucket.
“WHERE else can you dine with an astronomer and a Buddhist monk?” said Ann Smith, a retired teacher from California heading home across Texas aboard the Sunset Limited.

There are no strangers on a train, and passengers on this storied route, American railroading’s oldest named line, are no exception. Theirs is a special fellowship, after all, one that still savors the journey, and forsakes the speed of air travel and the freedom and anonymity of the road.
You can learn a lot about the country by riding a train across it, and the opportunity to walk about the train to the lounge car or the diner is a big part of it.

Apparently a few travelers are uneasy about being seated at table with people they'd not previously met.  Amtrak's dining car stewards apparently recognize that, as their announcements now note that passengers will be seated "with new friends" in the diner.  In my experience, the ritual works out pretty well, you see a lot of handshakes, "where are you from" or "where are you going" and more than a few business cards change hands or pictures of grandchildren get passed around.
SUBSTANCE MATTERS.  Virginia Postrel draws on research by Richard Rumelt, a professor of strategy at UCLA (motto:  On! Wisconsin!)
Rumelt says he was motivated to write his book in part because he believes “bad strategy” -- or, perhaps more accurately, pseudo-strategy or even anti-strategy -- has become increasingly pervasive, not only in business but in all sorts of non-commercial organizations. Feeling obliged to articulate a “strategy” (or compelled to by orders from the board or Congress), people cook up statements that lack the clear-eyed analysis, real choices and coherent actions that good strategy demands.

For example, in 2008 the Los Angeles Unified School District adopted seven “key strategies,”including to “build school and District leadership teams that share common beliefs, values and high expectations for all adults and students and that support a cycle of continuous improvement to ensure high- quality instruction in their schools.”

That is a hope, a goal, or perhaps a prescription for North Korean-style totalitarian conformity. Whatever it is, the statement is not a strategy. It offers no guide to action. It is all too typical of “strategy” -- in the private sector as well as the government, in huge multinational corporations and small local charities.

Bad strategy, Rumelt writes, goes wrong in four common ways. Many bad strategies are just superficial nonsense expressed in big words, which Rumelt very politely calls “fluff.” Others fail to define the challenge. Some mistake goals or wishes, for strategy. And some set impossible objectives rather than focusing on modest but achievable ones.
University Diaries observes something similar in the academy.
Yet from the moment, ten years ago, she began attending NCAA and NCAA-related conferences, and heard one speaker after another intone words like integrity and principle to complacent audiences, UD has recognized that these NCAA words have exactly the same value as words like (counter-) hegemonicimbrication, and modalities among certain groupings of English professors.

Hollow abstractions prop up both groups as they struggle to maintain a sense not only that they are united, but that they are not marginal, not incorrect in their beliefs, and – in the case of the NCAA crowd – not corrupt.
The case of the cultural studies crowd is left to the reader as an exercise.
THERE ARE LIMITS.  Even Abercrombie and Fitch have standards.
“We are deeply concerned that [Jersey Shore cast member Mike] Sorrentino's association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image. We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans,“ an Abercrombie & Fitch spokesperson said in a statement. "We have also extended this offer to other members of the cast, and are urgently waiting a response."
Christopher Johnson has the best comment.
DON'T YOU HAVE TO WIN THE WAR?  Cold Spring Shops has long been a site for skepticism about a causal connection between the United States war effort and the subsequent broadly shared prosperity.

It's fitting to revisit that skepticism in light of a recent suggestion by a regional economist somewhat better known than me that a worldwide project to prepare for an alien invasion might end the recession.
The World War II years were a time of shared privation, with virtually every item that we take for granted today either rationed: e.g., meat, gasoline, sugar, clothing; or not available at any cost: e.g., new cars, appliances, etc. The American standard of living throughout World War II remained at an excruciatingly low level that no 21st century American would accept. Meanwhile, unemployment disappeared simply because 16 million able-bodied people were sent to war, paid below-market rates and subject to danger, death, and maiming they may not have preferred to unemployment.
The prosperity of the United States, after the victory, reflected the paucity of productive capacity elsewhere.   Britain's victory didn't provide any immediate dividends, and it took Germany and Japan a long time to get back to where they were before the two World Wars.

I leave it to more imaginative minds than mine to envision the surviving allocations of productive capacity after a victory over aliens.  After a defeat, the remaining productive capacity is useful only as forage for the space invaders.  That's what a summer show, Falling Skies, teaches.  There is supposed to be a second season.  I keep humming "Cherokee Nation" when I contemplate the ending of the first season.
IT'S AMATEUR SPORTS.  IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MONEY.  DeKalb Chronicle sports editor John Sahly begs to differ.
Last season, Akron was the [Mid American Conference] sixth seed and made a surprise run to the title. That looks almost impossible in the new [basketball tournament] format.

It was a great story for Akron, but not the MAC. The Zips were a No. 15 seed in the NCAA tournament and easily was bounced by Notre Dame in the first round. So long, extra money.

The MAC went with a plan that works. Protect your a$$et$.
The new tournament format? Call it Them That Has, Gets.
The top two seeds will receive a triple bye in the new format, automatically advancing them to the semifinals. Teams seeded No. 3 and 4 are rewarded with a double bye and will begin play in the quarterfinals.

The remaining teams, seeded 5-12, begin the first round on campus sites, with the women starting March 3 and the men starting March 5.

The winners of those campus site games will compete in the second round of the tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, starting March 7. Those teams will have to win five games to win the tournament, while the top two seeds only have to win twice.

“The new format will increase the importance of each regular-season game and reward teams that excel during the regular season and bring greater value to the seeds earned by the top teams,” [commissioner Jon] Steinbrecher said in a news release.

It also protects the top teams in the conference from an early exit in the MAC tournament, something that doesn’t help at-large teams on Selection Sunday. The MAC has made it an objective since Steinbrecher became commissioner in 2009 to increase its national profile in basketball and become a multi-bid league in the NCAA tournament.
The flip side of protecting the stronger regular season teams is raising the stakes for the weaker regular season teams. There's probably a research project here: does the level of effort rise for all competitors as a competition approaches a winner-take-all format, or do some participants choose to underachieve?

The question isn't just for fun.  The Mid-American, a Rust Belt conference in Knute Rockne's back yard, has athletic programs that rely heavily on student fees for operating support.  Member universities tend to push the nontraditional-first generation-working adults themes in their recruiting: is the benefit-cost ratio of a positional arms race in March Madness favorable?  Hint: the conference basketball tournaments have been in Cleveland for approximately forever: no jousting by Indianapolis or Chicago or even Detroit to get it.


THE CHICAGO WAY.  The city government is in cahoots with gangbangers who are in cahoots with rogue scientists who are in cahoots with real estate developers who are in cahoots with the Mob who is in cahoots with the police.  But since Michael Harvey's We All Fall Down is a mystery, Book Review No. 26 will leave it to readers to determine whether an urban renewal project or corruption or something more sinister is afoot.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)
TWENTY YEARS AGO.  An Evil Empire crumbles.

PAYING TWICE FOR HIGH SCHOOL.  The inefficiency of colleges and universities reteaching high school has long been a theme at Cold Spring Shops.  A Washington Times report suggests that others are catching on.
Students are much more likely to drop out of college if they feel that they are simply repeating high school, said Bob Wise, former West Virginia governor and president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington-based advocacy group.

Taxpayers also suffer, Mr. Wise said, by “paying twice” for students to take high-school-level classes again, since most remedial work doesn’t count toward college graduation.

In the 2007-08 academic year, the alliance estimates, remedial courses cost about $5.6 billion — $3.6 billion in “direct educational costs” such as taxpayer contributions to state universities and another $2 billion in lost wages, a result of giving up on higher education and missing out on the bigger paychecks that tend to come with college degrees.

“There simply has not been alignment or coordination between the K-12 system and the higher education system about what students need to know,” Mr. Wise said Tuesday.

“What we know about remedial courses is the student and the taxpayer are paying twice. You’re paying a lot of money to get back” to the academic level students should be at on the day they graduate from high school.
Walter Russell Mead, who provided the link, revises and extends.
The truth is that if American high schools (and middle and elementary schools) were doing their jobs, many students could get all the formal education they need in 12 years.

In any case, we need to move from a ‘time based’ to a competency based educational system.  You don’t get a high school diploma because you have spent 12 years in classrooms; you get a high school diploma because you have demonstrated a certain level of core competence.

A fortiori for BA, MA and JD and PhD degrees.  American students could learn much more in much less time — and at much less cost — than they now do. Making this move quickly and effectively is one of the keys to American success in the new century.
The Times article, to its credit, also recognizes that No Child Left Behind equates to No Child Gets Ahead.
A 2008 report by the education advocacy group Strong American Schools found that 80 percent of college students taking remedial classes had a high school GPA of 3.0 or better.

The ACT results fuel critics’ argument that federal education policy, with its heavy focus on standardized tests, does little to advance real-world goals such as college readiness and career preparation.

“Test-driven policies which claim to be improving U.S. public schools have, in fact, failed by their own standards,” said Bob Schaeffer, public education director at the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. “Proponents of No Child Left Behind and similar state-level high-stakes testing programs … made two promises: Their strategy would boost overall academic performance and it would narrow historic achievement gaps between ethnic groups. But academic gains, as measured by ACT, are stagnant and racial gaps are increasing.”
Little by little ...
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE.  Tonight's Google doodle.

There's got to be some significance in not stipulating that x, y, and z differ from zero.
A TWOFER.  Years ago, when the military issued a deck of cards to help troops identify Iraqi leaders, Cold Spring Shops paid homage to the tradition by starting (but never quite finishing) an Academic Administrator Deck of Cards.  The project also paid homage to the Superintendent's Wisconsin background by setting it up as a sheepshead deck (make your own inferences about administrators dealt from a 32 card deck).  Among the administrators initially honored we find Donna Shalala, the High Priestess of Political Correctness, as the Boss Trump.
The most powerful card in the sheepshead deck is the queen of clubs. Cold Spring Shops nominates Donna Shalala as queen of clubs, for finding no diversity fad too foolish, for conspicuous loyalty to corrupt athletic departments, and for distinguished service as a Democratic Party court intellectual.
We have subsequently had our fun with the yobbish behavior of Miami of Florida's football team, and it got delicious when Miami's team looked foolish against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl.

But never in our wildest dreams did we see Miami taking money from a Ponzi scheme manager.  University Diaries picks up the blind, with the Boss Trump in it.
This Dead Spin blogger is only the first of many writers who in the next few days will turn their attention to the woman who has presided over all of the amazing events at the University of Miami – hiring Charles Nemeroff, fielding the most violent university football team ever, enabling Nevin Shapiro for years… Miami is just a scummy school, and Shalala has let it get that way. She should go.
Epic fail, indeed.
THE LAW SCHOOL BUBBLE.  The dean at Anonymous Community catches up with a high school friend turned law professor.
“Do you ever feel guilty about preparing students for jobs that don’t exist? I do...”
Deeper in the article comes a recognition that when college has to do the high school's job, college doesn't necessarily do the college's job, even among the strivers and keeners who want to hang that shingle.
Even in the law school at which she teaches -- a well-respected one -- my friend reports that many of her students have trouble putting a coherent argument together, especially in writing. I would have expected people with strong undergraduate records to have mastered that skill.

There’s a very real sense in which the loss of legibility in the economy argues for colleges to focus more on the skills developed through the liberal arts. I don’t know what the next hot thing will be, or what the major economic trends of the next decades will be. But I’m willing to bet that people who can handle ambiguity, communicate effectively, and synthesize coherent meaning out of disparate information will be in better shape than those who can’t. In the aggregate, they’ll be better able to adapt to change, to roll with the punches, and to add value that automation couldn’t.
That's been what our institutional research has discovered for a long time, and I've seen numerous attempts to sell the first two years at Northern Illinois in preference to a community college with a good articulation agreement in order to allow students to marinate in that connection-making, critical-thinking milieu longer, rather than get their gen eds out of the way elsewhere only to discover that the upper division classes operate at a level of ambiguity that takes some getting used to.
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?  Short, narrow field, seven women per side.  Probably not safe for work.


WHAT WAS IT THE ENGINES SAID?  In North America, a number of new steam locomotives have entered service or are under construction.  Don't look for anything resembling a Hiawatha or Lima Super-Power, however.  Mainline power of the Gilded Age and the turn of the century is easier to transport and to operate on museum or shortline trackage (the major railroads either prohibit anything exotic, or run their own steam programs).

Illinois Railway Museum, 13 August 2011.

Leviathan is a relatively new locomotive, replicating as far as is possible one of four locomotives Central Pacific purchased in 1868.  A sister locomotive, Jupiter, was the eastward facing locomotive at the Golden Spike ceremony.

We're looking at Leviathan's first run with a train ... providing a knuckle coupler and air brakes consistent with the historical integrity of the replica gave the insurers and inspectors more fits than the builder.  The coaches are early twentieth-century and a bit heavier than the Gilded Age coaches the original would have pulled.



An outbreak of wilding at the end of Opening Day at the Wisconsin State Fair leads Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl, no card-carrying member of the vast right wing conspiracy, to break with the Conventional Wisdom.
Forget about blaming society, though I suspect plenty of these kids grew up with poverty, violence, unsafe neighborhoods, lousy parents or other challenges. The responsibility for this thuggery lies with the perpetrators. And they may not realize that the damage they're causing may be inflicted mostly on them in the long run as doors close and attitudes harden.
His colleague Eugene Kane, who was in Philadelphia at the time, after preemptively responding to the usual suspects, also says Enough.
But I do have real concern for the state of this community, where twice so far this summer there's been a shocking example of mob violence by young black people that can't be explained in any sensible way.
Put another way: no obvious police brutality, no insults exchanged, no gang fight.  While he was in Philadelphia, a flash mob unrelated to a state fair or a Phillies game or any other provocation got the city's mayor angry.
“Take those God-darn hoodies down, especially in the summer,” Mr. Nutter, the city’s third black mayor, said in an angry lecture aimed at black teens. “Pull your pants up and buy a belt ‘cause no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt.”

“If you walk into somebody’s office with your hair uncombed and a pick in the back, and your shoes untied, and your pants half down, tattoos up and down your arms and on your neck, and you wonder why somebody won’t hire you? They don’t hire you ‘cause you look like you’re crazy,” the mayor said. “You have damaged your own race.”
He gave that speech at a church, and received an endorsement from the traditional civil rights establishment.
The head of Philadelphia’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, J. Whyatt Mondesire, said it “took courage” for Mr. Nutter to deliver the message.

“These are majority African-American youths and they need to be called on it,” Mr. Mondesire said.

Mary Catherine Roper, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said her group sees the curfew move as legal with its sole caveat being that it not evolve “into an excuse to hassle” any youths on the street.

The state ACLU filed a federal lawsuit last year challenging Philadelphia police’s use of “stop and frisk” searches. A settlement announced in June allowed the program to continue, along with safeguards to prevent the use of racial profiling.
At about the same time, a few nights of looting in Britain that might have been provoked by police action leads Thomas Lane of Talking Points to indict the social services that Britain's poor and marginalized receive.
Clearly, the rioters are responsible for their own actions. Equally clear is that years of social decay and widespread policy failures have created a witches' brew. But the talk of cutbacks and austerity that has permeated British discourse for the past year must have been a fiery ingredient thrown into an already spicy, toxic, boiling broth.

It's debatable how much these cuts have actually began to hurt. Although several British reports noted the recent closure of youth centers in areas where the rioting began, many of the rioters looked far too old to have taken much notice. Still, whether hurting or not, the message many have taken away from the British government's cack-handed selling of the austerity line is: "You don't matter."

Even in Britain's comparatively socialistic system, this is a message they've been hearing their whole lives. On Facebook one of my Labour Party friends wailed, "What are they protesting? Free Healthcare? Free Education? Democracy?" The answer, is yes, yes, and yes.

For them free healthcare means years of inching their way up waiting lists until they're finally admitted to a dingy hospital with an indifferent staff. For them free education means leaving school at 16 with a string of Cs and Ds and few clear paths into jobs or training programs.

And don't talk to them about democracy. What they see from democracy is a government - whether Labour or Conservative - that doesn't listen to them; that takes away their benefits while bailing out the bankers. If a government minister was magically placed before a mob pressing him on this, he might explain that it was all in the national interest; that the policy was designed to stave off a credit downgrade and the resulting rise in interest rates.
Note in that statement neither an endorsement of school choice and medical markets, nor a case for providing more money for social services.
TAKE YOUR PROFITS.  I remember just enough macroeconomics to be dangerous, but evidently one thing that has not changed since I studied income accounting is the absence of a balance sheet for the United States.  One of the assets on the balance sheet is the gold reserve, which by law is carried on the books at $42.2222 the troy ounce although its market value is somewhat larger.  There's not enough gold in Fort Knox, even marked to market, to have much effect on the federal deficit or the national debt.  One analyst argues, accordingly, that the Treasury not cash in some capital gains.
Re-valued at today’s price of around $1,670, a sale of the US Treasury’s gold would only bring in around $430 billion. Again, in light of debt of $14 trillion, this would be a mere drop in the ocean. If the Treasury wants to pay of a significant amount of its debt with gold, the dollar must lose much more value relative to gold.

If the US government simply wants to pay for just the last half of the 2011 budget, the US Treasury would have to sell all of its gold at a re-valued amount at $3,155 per ounce just to make it to 2012.
Another analysis suggests that a harvest of capital gains might concentrate a few minds.
Even an orderly selling of the Treasury's gold could potentially devalue the commodity significantly, perhaps by as much as 50% of the reserves' current market value. This would result in about $220 billion in pure profit, or approximately 1.5% of the US' total debt burden, and proceeds of up to $400 billion, if done quietly. That cash could be used to provide working capital for the federal government as we work through our debt problems. This would also provide an impetus for many speculators to move from gold into other asset classes with tangible underpinnings, such as equities and bonds, thus helping boost investing nationwide.

Additionally, if markets actually relied on the value of these gold reserves on central bank balance sheets worldwide (note the 1934 Gold Reserve Act that essentially creates a paper exchange between the Fed and the Treasury, whereby the gold is now technically owned by the Treasury, but with its value accessible to the Fed), then the debt problems in Europe right now would be more easily rectifiable: Portugal owns approximately $20 billion in reserves and Italy owns around $118 billion. The magnitude of the European debt crisis seems a little less significant in light of this fact ... especially since one of the primary drivers behind central banks' possessing reserve assets is to stave off exchange rate manipulation.
The problem with precious metal assets is that they pay no interest and produce no income. There are other assets on the national government's books, including the air traffic control system, the interstate highways, and the national parks ... what income streams do those produce?


Inside Higher Ed looks at the academic positional arms race, and concludes the upper-status individuals are winning.
That finding itself isn’t particularly surprising to Sara Goldrick-Rab, an associate professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin. But seeing the same outcomes established over time -- the study looked at four cohorts, from 1972 to 2004 -- is yet another indication that, regardless of how many billions of dollars are devoted to closing this gap, there’s been little change.

“Sociology completely predicts this. The powerful will always find ways to preserve power, and whenever any given thing that the powerful have the other people get access to, they’ll find some way to get a handle on the next level,” Goldrick-Rab said. “The Race to the Top is at war with the equity agenda. The effort to be the best and brightest in the world, to be the most elite in the world, is naturally conflicting with the efforts of those who would like to see people be more equal.”
There's no necessary conflict here; no reason that the higher education industry can't expand the ranks of the best and the brightest by casting the nets more widely.  What too much of higher education has done, however, has thrown in with the egalitarians in the most destructive way, by admitting unprepared people and calling it access.  It doesn't have to be this way.  Additional capacity at the high end means additional places for students.
And, as the report says, it’s not just the students who are competing to be the best -- it’s the colleges, too. The benefits of enrolling a high-achieving student body -- more prestige, higher rankings in U.S. News & World Report, better job placement and more generous alumni, to name a few -- have just been too tempting for institutions to pass up, the authors say.

“The problem is that institutions are partly responding to what the public is telling them they want,” Goldrick-Rab said. “So long as our colleges and universities continue in this never-ending Race to the Top, that’s going to perpetuate the inequity among students almost no matter what we do to try to bring students along.”
George Leef is skeptical of that claim.
I don’t applaud Harvard for its Scrooge McDuck attitude toward its finances, but that’s not an “inequity” toward students from poorer families. They can go elsewhere and succeed just as well in life.
Yes, if those students have parents who value education, if they grow up in school districts that don't produce Distressed Material for the colleges, if the universities they enroll at recognize they are in the same business as Harvard or Wisconsin rather than sub-prime party schools.
FOURTH TURNING ALERT.  Charles Krauthammer argues that the "manufactured crisis" (according to Our President) of the debt ceiling is anything but.
Spare me the hysteria. What happened was that the 2010 electorate, as represented in Congress, forced Washington to finally confront the national debt. It was a triumph of democratic politics — a powerful shift in popular will finding concrete political expression.

But only partial expression. Debt hawks are upset that the final compromise doesn’t do much. But it shouldn’t do much. They won only one election. They were entrusted, as of yet, with only one-half of one branch of government.

But they did begin to turn the aircraft carrier around. The process did bequeath a congressional super-committee with extraordinary powers to reduce debt. And if that fails, the question — how much government, how much debt — will go to the nation in November 2012. Which is also how it should be.

The conventional complaint is that the process was ugly. Big deal. You want beauty? Go to a museum. Democratic politics was never meant to be an exercise in aesthetics.

Not just ugly, moan the critics, but oh so slow. True, again. It took months. And will take more. The super-committee doesn’t report until Thanksgiving. The next election is more than a year away. But the American system was designed to make a full turn of the carrier difficult and deliberate.

Moreover, without this long ugly process, the debt issue wouldn’t even be on the table. We’d still be whistling our way to Greece. Instead, a nation staring at insolvency is finally stirring itself to action, and not without spirited opposition. Great issues are being decided as constitutionally designed. The process is working.
The super-committee is not the proper organization to put in place a thirty- or forty-year workout in any event. Its charge, for instance, does not include revised rules for income accounting, under which, for instance, Treasury liabilities are balanced with assets.  I hope Mr Krauthammer is correct in seeing the long term troubles worked out according to established procedures, rather than having to be put right by a civil war.
TAX INCIDENCE ANALYSIS ISN'T EASY.  At the Iowa State Fair, Republican hopeful Mitt Romney encountered an audience skeptical of his assertion that corporations don't pay taxes, people do.  Matt Yglesias, who has more time to search the relevant research than I am willing to allocate, turns up a few sources. "The short answer is that nobody knows and the results seem wildly contingent on modeling assumptions." He concludes with an intriguing observation. "One of the main 'real world' elements of the case for the corporate income tax, as I understand it, is that failure to impose such a tax would simply create an inviting method for evasion of individual income taxes." Is it any more inviting than creating corporations for the purpose of sheltering income by losing money, or by taking capital losses so as to reduce individual liability? Many years ago Milton Friedman observed that economic losses for the purpose of reducing tax liability were still losses, and resources allocated to produce tax losses were resources allocated inefficiently.
PUBLICITY WE COULD DO WITHOUT.  At the Daily Caller, Robert Shibley finds objectionable speech codes.
Northern Illinois University bans “Intentional and wrongful use of words, gestures and actions to annoy, alarm, abuse, embarrass, coerce, intimidate or threaten another person.” NIU’s students, if this absurd and unconstitutional code were widely known across campus, would most likely respond with their own annoying or alarming gestures. But most students don’t find out about a college’s speech code until they’re brought up on charges for violating it.
I wonder if that applies to banging Thunder Stix at football games.
ALFRED CHANDLER IN MULTIMEDIA.  Railroads and the Transformation of Capitalism will be available through next January as an exhibit in Harvard's Baker Library.
MAKE THE HIGH SCHOOLS DO THEIR JOB.  Some straight talk about remediation at Washington Monthly College Guide.
Universities still don’t have to provide remedial assistance. Blaming administrative costs on the need for remediation is misleading, suggesting as it does that the growth in such costs is valid. In fact, there’s no reason administrators have to manage such “help,” and there’s no indication they’re doing it well.

And let’s not talk about how remediation wasn’t necessary years ago. If students aren’t prepared for college, just don’t admit them. It’s very troublesome to suggest that somehow because high school students aren’t ready for higher education colleges will just let them in anyway and then bill all students for the costs of remediation. It’s the college’s fault they don’t run remediation programs efficiently; there’s no reason to pass the costs of that wastefulness on to students.
It's not quite sending the high schools a bill for sending Distressed Material in need of repair before it can be exposed to College Work, but perhaps it takes time to eliminate the impossible.
ROAD TRIP.  Posting hiatus, account yard maintenance and some semester preparation and some system improvement time.  A number of things were going on in Wabash Railroad country, and a few oddities in addition to the expected events.

The Monticello Railway Museum uses some former Illinois Central and Illinois Terminal trackage for its preservation efforts.  Their excursion train, which sometimes features a working steam locomotive, also includes a beautifully restored Illinois Central combine, and a former Norfolk and Western coach with a genuine Pullman curved-wall fishbowl smoking lounge.

The spirit of Burma Shave lives on alongside the Interstates in central Illinois.  One set of signs pays tribute to an original jingle.


In its current incarnation, the first sign is changed to suggest that a firearm, rather than luck, might preserve your life.  It's an effort by the Champaign County Rifle Association to bring Illinois in line with the rest of the country in allowing firearm-carry permits.

A road trip requires refuelling stops, and Mechanicsburg came along about when the needle was to go into the running-in-fumes zone.

The sign is just west of town, and it seemed fitting to have just played the retrospective tape from the eponymous band that includes "For What It's Worth", a tune enjoying a modest revival in some recent commercials.



When Keith Bradsher's High and Mighty:  SUVs: The World's Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way came out, a great deal of the reaction focused on the pop-psychology of the customers, with Gregg Easterbrook noting all the marketing research that developed an appeal to what he refers to as buyers' reptilian brains.  David Brooks responded with a gripe against killjoy geeks.  Some commentators even brought Jesus in.

I recently found a copy of the hardcover version at Half Price Books.

Professor Munger has helpfully provided the material for Book Review No. 25.
If you want European size cars and fuel efficiency, then you need a big tax on gas, and then let consumers make their own choices. Since the price of petrol is 1.5 Euros / liter in much of Europe, we are talking prices that are $8/gallon or more in US terms, double our current prices. We can agree or disagree that this would be a good thing, but if you want fuel efficiency that is what you would have to do.

Instead, we have CAFE. CAFE requires that each manufacturer calculate the harmonic mean, weighted by sales of different models, for everything it sells.

EXCEPT....except that there is a dispensation for trucks, including "light" trucks. We now call those SUVs. CAFE is their daddy.

So, to oversimplify only slightly, US car companies did not stop producing small cars in spite of CAFE; they did it BECAUSE of CAFE. CAFE, with its bizarre Jesuitical list of requirements and exemptions, made it impossible to sell full sized station wagons, but actually subsidized giant SUVs that got much worse gas mileage. The best selling American "car" has been the Ford F-150 pickup, for a long time.

And if you think that Americans, in 2006, say, actually wanted little tiny cars but were forced by creepy manufacturers to buy big ass urban assault vehicles, you are just wrong. US automakers conceded the small car market to foreign companies, but the reason is that those companies could take advantage of economies of scale in their home markets because of much, much higher fuel prices.
Mr Bradsher has some of the economic analysis correct, some not.  He notes the political horse-trading by which large hatchbacks become "trucks" (the same horse-trading made possible the first minivans, which some analysts credit with saving Chrysler the first time it was bailed out).  But at page 414 he completely misses the consequences of the very policy he has questioned.
If a family living through the oil crises of the early 1970s were to be magically transported to a present-day car dealership, they would be astounded to find that America had found a way to have its cake and eat it too -- to have safe, roomy cars with decent gas mileage and negligible pollution.  But the same time-traveling family might be aghast to walk out the doors of that car dealership and look out at a street today.  Instead of driving large cars, the nation's best-educated, most affluent families have switched to tall, tippy monstrosities with mediocre brakes that block other drivers' view of the road and inflict massive damage during collisions.
Those monstrosities -- and here I include minivans and pickup trucks, because they are as hard to see around, and even more sluggish -- probably contribute to traffic congestion, although inertia in those reptilian brains and maltimed traffic lights have something to do with it.

But ending the plague of big, sluggish passenger trucks does not require an Act of Congress.  Here are excerpts from pages 419-420.
A big increase in gasoline prices would be the most effective way to prompt Americans to drive fewer miles and choose lighter, more aerodynamic vehicles with more [fuel] efficient engines. ... But the auto industry's market analyses suggest that with SUVs being purchased by prosperous families who care little about the cost of filling a tank, it would take a permanent increase in prices to as much as $2.50 a gallon [in 2002 prices] to have a big effect on sales of new SUVs.  A price increase on this scale is very unlikely.
I was playing around with this interactive Energy Information Administration chart (choose the Regular Gasoline Retail Prices series and use the sliding scale to show the range 1974 to 2011) and conclude that a price increase on this scale is current experience.  But there is no easy way, according to Mr Bradsher, to turn those price increases into a more sensible fleet of private vehicles.  Page 424.
Providing an incentive for automakers to address safety as well as energy conservation and global warming is not easy, and would require a more complicated set of fuel-economy rules.  The rules could get so complicated that they would be vulnerable to manipulation by the auto industry and its lobbyists.
That's the fatal flaw of rulemaking: where policies generate rents, there will be rent seekers.  Mr Bradsher has the opportunity to suggest that the safe family sedans of The America That Worked(TM) did not disappear because the Invisible Hand swept them away.  He hints at, but never quite develops, the possibility that the fleet of family cars might have become safer and less fuel-intensive in the absence of the fuel economy standards and the special provisions for so-called light trucks and commercial vehicles.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)