Gabriel Byrne, who requested a short committment to his role as the unimaginative Jarl Haraldson on Vikings (granted in the best Viking style), reflects on his longer role playing a psychologist on the HBO marathon series Treatment.
"Being listened to and being heard is an experience that doesn't happen terribly often," he muses. "To listen compassionately or nonjudgmentally to another person — not to get too heavy about it — but I once heard somebody say that was a form of real prayer."
Yes, and a counselor or psychologist must be compassionate and nonjudgemental in a way that a priest hearing confessions or a professor hearing explanations doesn't have to be.


The latest fad among university administrators is giving the impression of having control of their image.  Thus we see resources devoted to strategic planning, to marketing and packaging, and to positioning.  We don't necessarily see resources devoted to taking care of the academics.

The rationalization administrators generally offer is that everybody else is doing it.  And there's no faculty organization strong enough to propose that administrators enter into a strategic marketing reduction treaty in order to end a positional arms race that net-net dissipates resources.

But while the arms race rages, there are plenty of administrative follies to scoff at, most recently, at an eastern university with a dog of a logo. University of Connecticut (hereafter ZooConn) president Susan Herbst announces the outcome of her university's branding initiative, in language that echoes John Kennedy blaming Dwight Eisenhower, and by extension, Richard Nixon, for a missile gap. Apparently, to the missile gap and the mineshaft gap we have to add the wordmark gap.
“We need to broadcast who we are or we will waste away, as other very sophisticated and successful universities dominate public discourse and the search for knowledge,” Herbst said during her address.

The new primary wordmark – presented as “UCONN,” in all capital letters – lies at the center of the University’s visual identity and has been designed to create a powerful symbol that is representative of the University as a whole. Recent University research indicates that the University of Connecticut is widely known today as UConn; a number of other institutions have similarly embraced shortened school names as their primary naming convention for their academic and athletics programs, including MIT, UCLA, Georgia Tech, Pitt, and Penn.

“As an institution, for years we have made use of ‘UConn’ as an institutional nickname of sorts,” Herbst said. “Recognizing that there is great value and recognition in this unique identifier, going forward, we are adopting ‘UConn’ as one primary visual wordmark for the entire institution.”

The newly adopted wordmark has been created for institutional and academic use across the University. It is a modified version of the wordmark developed in recent years for the UConn Athletics program, which began working with Nike last year to unify the numerous disparate logos used by various UConn athletics teams.
It's the usual business bafflegab, despite pieties to the contrary.
“We’re not breakfast cereal, and we’re not a detergent. But we still need to communicate what we do, why we do it, how we do it, and that we do it well. So branding actually matters a great deal,” Herbst said. “As an institution with a global reach, we must compete on an international level for virtually everything: for students, faculty, staff, grants, awards, donations – you name it. And when we compete, we need to present ourselves at our very best, because how key audiences perceive our academic strength and overall reputation influences the choices they make.”
So for all the money they spend, they got this.

As if that dog says anything at all about what the meteorologists or the economists or the string quartet or the string theorists or the philosophers are doing.  Somewhere in the intellectual activity, methinks, is where the very best is.

The new symbol has generated pushback that has received national attention.
Over the course of the past few weeks, UConn has gradually unveiled its “New University Visual Identity Program” which will make UConn the school’s new “wordmark” with a unified appearance, and will require a change in the Husky Dog logo from its current mascot to a more “powerful and aggressive” looking logo. In your Second State of the University Address, you spoke to the reasoning behind this re-branding and logo change, and these justifications left me overcome by waves of anger and frustration. As a UConn student who is proud of my University’s academics and my future degree, I feel frustrated; as a woman student living at this campus I am outright offended. I am appalled by the selective amnesia these justifications display and angered at the superficiality of this Visual Identity Program.
Whatever.  Herbert Matter could put new paint on the New Haven and on the Boston and Maine, but if the trains were unreliable, it made no difference.  In like manner, ZooConn can replace its old logo with this one, and if the administration starves the academic departments of resources, it will make no difference.

Other commentary on the rebranding initiative gripe about the aesthetics, or not, of the design.

Sorry, ZooCoon, the best use of red, black, a Huskie, and a wordmark has already been taken.


I've been all about specialization and division of labour and the ways in which resources are wasted because colleagues and departments we count on to do some things don't.

In Economics, we teach Principles as a condition of being able to investigate perfect Bayesian equilibrium and other fun stuff.

It's a necessary evil that our colleagues in other departments are ducking?
One of the mysteries of academe is why English departments have self-destructed. We understand how it happened — professors moved into esoteric literary theories based on Marxism, feminism, and other -isms, neglecting their traditional duties such as teaching freshman composition. (That’s now handed off to graduate students and adjuncts; what they don’t accomplish is left to “writing across the curriculum” policies.)

But why? From self-interest alone, you would think that teaching the basics of writing would be wise because well-taught introductory courses (especially when required) bring in new students. Some will become majors in the department and expand the department and provide job security. But the number of English majors has taken a nose dive.
A business consultant offers a proposal that will probably turn off a lot of people by its use of the current corporate bafflegab.
English departments can be restored to prominence if they re-focus, re-brand, and re-market their curricula to adapt to the needs of their students and meet the demands of the marketplace. I say that as a business consultant who mentors many new graduates, but my views are not that different from those of [William M.] Chace, an emeritus English professor and former president of Emory University.

Now, English department faculty may not like this advice. I understand that English departments are focused more on theory than on literature  itself—some say they have shifted from love of English literature to deconstructing it. Yet they remain the natural place for teaching how to communicate.

As Chace wrote, English departments “should place their courses in composition and rhetoric at the forefront of their activities. They should announce that the teaching of composition is a skill their instructors have mastered and that students majoring in English will be certified, upon graduation, as possessing rigorously tested competence in prose expression.”
The consultant's conclusion, also, is too laden with business bafflegab to persuade many people, although much of his substance is correct.
If English departments could be the locus of this learning, they would have that “definable expertise” that they lack now. They would create an emotional connection with incoming students, increase synergy with other departments within the college, and establish a foundation to create a brand within the college and grow exponentially through extensions within the department. Since most students would study this curriculum (in my view, it should be required), the English department’s gravitas would dramatically increase.

If English professors are so devoted to "theory" that they don't see themselves doing anything so mundane as teaching composition, then someone else may sieze the opportunity. That someone may not be in the university at all. As higher education begins to change, there will be more chances for entrepreneurs (inside and outside universities) to offer education in unconventional ways.
It works something like this.

Football is blocking and tackling.

Economics is incentives, substitution, and arbitrage.

History and anthropology are good stories, well-understood.

English is writing, conversation, and communication.

The core curriculum is about the central ideas, and the major fields, the elaborations.


The point of the so-called sequester (only in Official Washington is a reduction in the rate of increase of something a sequester) was to make budget constraints pinch.  Ezra Klein notes that those hopes have been dashed, because the rent-seekers go on forever.
In effect, what Democrats said Friday was that in any case where the political pain caused by sequestration becomes unbearable, they will agree to cancel that particular piece of the bill while leaving the rest of the law untouched. The result is that sequestration is no longer particularly politically threatening, but it’s even more unbalanced: Cuts to programs used by the politically powerful will be addressed, but cuts to programs that affects the politically powerless will persist. It’s worth saying this clearly: The pain of sequestration will be concentrated on those who lack political power.
That is, if there really was any pain.
The managers of our massive federal bureaucracy have not given up on trying to convince Americans that even the slightest of spending cuts will have a devastating impact on the lives of its citizens. Furloughs for air traffic controllers kicked in this weekend, and Federal Aviation Administration heads warned Friday that air travelers will see flights delayed for hours.
The Washington Monument has been closed for going on two years now, and the Republic somehow carries on. Perhaps, little by little, people will come to the realization that much of what the political class tells us is Necessary and Proper is something that we can get along without, or do better without sending the money through Washington first.

Take the air traffic control system. Please.
Air traffic control—in the United States, Europe and other advanced countries—is on the verge of a paradigm shift that promises to at least double the capacity of the skies without expanding the workforce, i.e. doubling productivity. The NextGen program in the United States is implementing key technology and procedural building blocks for this transition, but the program is at risk of becoming merely an upgrade of hardware and software, rather than redesigning the airspace and consolidating its far-flung, labor-intensive facilities. Without these additional changes, the end result will be a far more costly, albeit higher-tech, system.

Three key enablers of the paradigm shift are performance-based navigation, far more precise surveillance of aircraft positions, and digital communications instead of voice. Together, these will make it possible to manage air traffic from anywhere to anywhere. A controller located in Miami will be able to manage traffic in Seattle, for example. Thanks to these changes, the entire airspace can be reconfigured, expanding its capacity to handle two or three times as many aircraft safely.

This reconfigured airspace, in turn, should drive the reconfiguration of staffed facilities. ATC facilities will no longer need to be located directly beneath the airspace they manage. And that means most of the 187 Centers and TRACONs, many of which are aging and in need of major refurbishment if kept in service, can and should be shut down. They can be replaced by a much smaller number of facilities, many of which can be designed from the outset to function in the from-anywhere-to-anywhere paradigm.
I've learned to be suspicious of any statement that includes the expression "paradigm shift" but if I understand the supporting information correctly, information technologies are powerful enough to keep track of aircraft in motion anywhere in Euclidean 3-space, freeing airliners from having to proceed as if along railroad tracks in the sky, the way it works these days.  And why shouldn't air traffic control be as centralized as it is with the railroads, where a dispatcher at a desk in Omaha can delay freight in Illinois or in California?

The article hints at, but does not fully explore, the possibility of freeing the air-traffic control system from control by the political class, or the rent-seekers.
Congress should develop a process to permit large-scale consolidation to proceed without micro- management, as it has done for needed but difficult military base closing and consolidation. It needs to allow the Air Traffic Organization to make use of new funding options, such as issuing revenue bonds, to finance the facility consolidation program. And it needs to permit the ATO to retain the proceeds from selling the land and buildings associated with facilities that will be closed, to help fund the development of the new facilities.

If Congress cannot accomplish those admittedly difficult tasks in the near future, the alternative is to delegate these responsibilities to a revamped ATO that would be insulated from both congressional micro-management and federal budget constraints. This would involve separating the ATO from the FAA, enabling it to charge aircraft operators for its services (like airports and other utilities) and use the revenue stream to back ATO revenue bonds. The FAA would regulate the reformed ATO for safety, at arm’s length. This model has been used successfully overseas, including in Australia, Canada, Germany and the U.K., each of whose self-supporting air navigation service providers has successfully consolidated its equivalent of Centers and TRACONs along the lines proposed in this study.
I understand the logic of having to provide paths and traffic control for military aircraft. But many of the benefits of a well-functioning air traffic control system accrue to the air carriers, and to air travellers. Why not require those who receive the benefit to bear the burden, perhaps with provisions for paths assigned Military Authorization Identification Numbers when Air Force One, or a relief shipment of supplies to a disaster area, or Seal Team Six or a test flight out of Area 51 are in the air.  Private benefits, private costs, no more rents to generate, seek, and dissipate.


Northern Illinois University sends a football team to the Orange Bowl.  A 50,000 watt Chicago sports station drops Northern Illinois to pick up the Illini.
However you rationalize this latest news, it’s not good for the best and most productive football program in the state for the past decade (82 wins, seven bowl berths, two Mid-American Conference titles).

After four-plus decades of talking about being big-time, NIU football finally can market BCS victories, a Top 25 national ranking, NFL talent, a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, plus state-of-the-art on-campus athletics facilities.
And yet, not much by way of a fan following among residents in Greater DeKalb, plus this habit of scheduling weeknight games (often when the Witch of November comes stealing) at the behest of ESPN, despite the utter inconvenience of the schedule for anybody with a day job.

In addition, going on the big-time radio station did not sit well with some of the local-market radio stations that had carried Northern Illinois games live for years.
Finding additional stations that ring the Chicago perimeter might be difficult, too. Several Huskie Radio Network affiliates and local outlets got some ruffled feathers when "big boy" WSCR-AM arrived – including DeKalb’s WLBK-AM, which enters its 25th year as the NIU flagship station this season. Some of those relationships must be repaired. Local and long-time partnerships are vital.
I have to stress the live because on occasion Northern Illinois games would go on the radio with a tape delay, in one instance to honor a contract to carry a high school game!

Perhaps, though, the market for sports programming is becoming saturated more generally.  Last Tuesday, I observed the prime-time broadcast on ESPN-U of ... wait for it ... the Texas A&M spring game.  You mean there wasn't a live baseball game or lacrosse match or even a track meet going on that Tuesday of possibly greater import?


The Obama administration would never be mistaken for National Command Authority in a Tom Clancy novel.  In Tom Clancy novels, however, it is realpolitik to know what Russian intelligence knows.
Months after the FBI cleared Tamerlan Tsarnaev in its investigation of possible connections to jihadist causes, the Russians approached the CIA as well to look into him, CNN has learned.

But what was provided by the Russians in late September 2011 was "basically the same" information that had been given the previous March to the FBI, according to a government official.

The source said the communication was a "warning letter" sent to the CIA.
In Tom Clancy novels, information from Russian intelligence can be of particular interest when the plot involves lesser-light jihadis bent on mayhem, not necessarily of the high-concept kind. In Official Washington, Tom Clancy novels are profiling, and it Just. Isn't. Done. Until the mayhem happens and the second-guessing begins.
The database system has been criticized in the past for being too cumbersome, especially in light of an attempted attack on a plane in 2009. Intelligence and security agencies acknowledged in Congress that they had missed clues to the Detroit 'underpants bomber' Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Officials said after the incident that he had been listed in the TIDE database.

Republican Senator Susan Collins said there were problems in sharing information ahead of the Boston bombings, too.

'This is troubling to me that this many years after the attacks on our country in 2001 that we still seem to have stovepipes that prevent information from being shared effectively,' she said.
It does no good to have some fancy database with a catchy acronym if we're back in the days of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, when the CIA's left hand doesn't know what the FBI's right-hand is doing. Better, perhaps, to have Mary Pat Foley and Dan Murray over to the White House for coffee and conversation.  But then Jack Ryan almost never had Hollywood types over to schmooze.

Other news reports suggest there is more investigative work to be done.  Tamerlan Tsarnaev complained of having no American friends, which probably excludes him from palling around with model railroaders and remote-control plane modelers.
Investigators said the two Boston Marathon bombs were triggered by long-range remote controls for toy cars — a more sophisticated design than originally believed — bolstering a theory that the older suspect received bomb-making guidance on his six-month trip to Russia last year.
The sequencing of the second bomb thus gets interesting. Dzhokhar sets it down, is then observed on a security camera placing a 'phone call as everyone else reacts to the first bomb, he then walks deliberately the other way. Who and where was the trigger-man?



A number of the Constitutional Amendments we refer to as the Bill of Rights proscribe the United States Government from committing Abufes and Ufurpations that were standard procedure for the British Crown.  We focus this evening on the following passage.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
I have to wonder what Paul Revere, who alerted the citizens of the northwestern suburbs that the Regulars were coming out, or John Kennedy, who stared down the Soviets, would make of heavily-armed men riding a personnel carrier Russian-style through the streets of Watertown.

Although the mainstream press, and the official line out of Boston, is that law enforcement did its job correctly and the Public is With the First Responders, a dissenting view of what the Germans call a Großfahndung has come out of the Cradle of Democracy.
The scenes look like something out of a disaster movie, with the backdrop of suburban America juxtaposed with what is essentially martial law playing out in full daylight.

The story floated in the mainstream media that the door to door searches were conducted with the voluntary consent of the residents of Watertown is clearly false. 9000+ Police locked down an entire city and went in with full force, with armored vehicles and combat gear, all to search for an injured 19 year old kid who turned out to be cowering in someone’s back yard.

While armies of police roamed around people’s homes and private property, Public transportation was shut down, businesses were forced to close, and a no-fly zone was enacted over Boston in an unprecedented show of force.

At this point, as military helicopters buzzed over neighborhoods, the Fourth Amendment had ceased to exist in Boston, which quickly resembled a war zone.

The compliant mainstream media reported on the activity without alarm or question.
Richard Epstein notes a contested legal principle where a bright-line, or per se, rule on warrantless searches might be desirable.
Matters of criminal procedure were not much in evidence in the aftermath of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Nary a peep of protest was raised against the massive lock-down and manhunt that followed hard on the heels of that senseless tragedy.

But now that some degree of normalcy has returned, it is important to think about these procedural issues.
There have been plenty of peeps of protest, and it's important to give one such peep the last word.
We've been surrendering liberty in the hope of keeping ourselves safe for the past decade. The marathon bombings will hasten our surrender of freedom from the watchful eye of law enforcement. The Boston Globe is already clamoring for additional surveillance cameras, which are sure to be installed to the applause of a great many Bostonians. You can rationalize increased surveillance as a necessary or reasonable intrusion on liberty, but you can't deny its intrusiveness, or inevitable abuses.
Simpler question: despite all the heightened security, do you feel safer now than you did ten years ago?


The History Channel took a break from producing redneck reality TV to go medieval with Vikings.

It has in common with other efforts of the entertainment industry a tendency to err on the side of the dramatic rather than the accurate.  The viewer must keep in mind a maxim we grew up with, that anything can happen in a cartoon.  The producers were unable to obtain permission to record in Norway, but that didn't stop a Norwegian newspaper from carping (herringing?) about notable inaccuracies in the show.  The major gripe is about the placement of the Viking temple at Uppsala atop a hill, rather than in a meadow.  Perhaps the producers of the show borrowed from Richard Wagner, as at the show's temple is Yggdrasil, being watered with the blood of goats, pigs, and men, and perhaps those hallucinogenic trips worshippers went on included visions of the Norns spinning under the tree.  The article also gripes about the Kattegat being presented as a fjord.  It's more accurate to think of the Skagerrak and Kattegat as somewhat broader versions of the Straits of Mackinac.

A working historian has his own complaints, summarized as entertaining, albeit historically inaccurate.

A colleague at Central Michigan takes a more positive view.
Sadly the reaction of many of my peers to the series has been resoundingly negative. I have followed with interest as professional archaeologists and historians snipe bitterly about the inaccuracies in the program. OK, I admit it aggravates me, too. But we can use popular culture as a touchpoint to talk with the public about the science and history behind the series. People are excited about archaeology and history, we just aren't talking to them.
Historians and anthropologists don't have to explain, as I often have to, why runaway trains can't happen the way they do in the movies, or financial markets cannot be controlled by a James Bond style villain.
The "look" [producer Michael] Hirst and company have gone for is a bit more seedy 70's leather bar than early medieval Scandinavia. I suppose it's the curse of video games and the HBO series "Game of Thrones" really, but we can use this type of thing as a teachable moment. For example, I had my students deconstruct the visuals in class and compare them to what we know archaeologically about Viking dress. The result was a good conversation about how popular culture can seep into our understanding of the past. Why do you think we have the popular misconception that Vikings had horns on their helmets?

I suppose I am less bothered by these factual lapses than some of my colleagues because I get that it's fiction. It is not a conference paper or journal article and let's face it, if it were no one would watch. This is where the television series can be beneficial to us as academics. (I do want to clarify that I am not talking about pseudo-science garbage like "Ancient Aliens"-type shows. Those shows are a whole different, stinking kettle of putrefied fish.) Dramatizations like Vikings can spark people's curiosity and move them to learn more about the subject. We just have to be willing to embrace their curiosity. As archaeologists and historians, we have the best stories in the history of humanity at our fingertips, and yet we are too often unwilling to share them, and can be terrible storytellers.
Indeed so, and yes, I have a few leading questions to ask of people who think a Bond villain can manipulate the financial markets ...
So let the debate rage, my friends. Let's use people's curiosity to draw them into the conversation. The public is not losing interest in history and the past, they just are not interested in technical jargon. If the public is turning to more welcoming sources for knowledge, it's not their fault, it's ours. We as professionals have failed to communicate our own value and we have failed to tell the interesting and fascinating stories about the human past that we know. A brown leather tunic in place of a more historically accurate red cloth is not the work of the Anti-Christ, it's a teachable moment. Climb down from the ivory tower and do your job.
Indeed so. And enjoy the sail with the disco-hater.
Earlier this month, the History Channel’s Vikings, which airs Sunday nights, swooped in from out of nowhere and, in a manner befitting the actual Vikings of yore, seized the title of Most Metal Show on Television from& Game of Thrones. HBO's Game of Thrones had what many people considered an incontestable claim on the title before Vikings appeared. It had swords, grim men with beards and long hair, bloodshed, beheadings, mayhem, dark sorcery, and Frank Frazetta levels of gratuitious nudity. It had dragons. And yet Vikings is far more metal.
And, as cartoons go, the show doesn't jump the shark, or cross into pseudo-science, or policy mythology.
It also helps considerably that the show is based in history rather than fantasy, as truth is more brutal than fiction. While there are enough (fairly inconsequential) historical inaccuracies to keep the Internet’s more pedantic Norse history nerds busy writing outraged blog comments, the show mostly depicts how things happened back then, at least as far as I can tell from having fallen down enough Viking-related Wikipedia rabbit holes to consider myself somewhat knowledgeable on the subject. The Vikings on Vikings aren’t berserkers in horned helmets but technologically advanced seafarers with extremely aggressive attitudes toward their neighbors’ property. The show’s wanton bloodshed and destruction isn’t the invention of some novelist, but more or less how things went down day to day in Northern Europe around that time. And watching a recognizably human character nonchalantly order a child sacrifice is far more intense when you realize that kind of thing was really going on back then.

Although Vikings doesn’t explicitly acknowledge how metal it is (its theme song is Fever Ray’s sinister electro-pop cut “If I Had a Heart,” expertly used), it sometimes seems to hint that it knows. That would explain Floki’s pseudo-corpsepaint, and the scene where Ragnar and his wife Lagertha offer to have a threeway with a priest, which is on a level of blasphemy that King Diamond would respect. And the fact that early on in the series Ragnar and his crew burn down an ancient church, which is widely considered to be one of the most metal things ever, although obviously terrible from a world-cultural-heritage perspective. Next thing you know they’re going to have him murdering his bassist.
The same Norwegian paper that griped about putting Uppsala uppahill noted that it is a Norwegian metal band that provides the shows theme song.

The greatest act of blasphemy on the show so far has been Ragnar offering his Saxon priest as a sacrifice to Odin.  What's more interesting, though, is that the Viking priest who questions the Saxon prior to determining that his devotion to Odin isn't sufficiently strong asks him three times to deny Christ.  (No, there wasn't one of the sacrificial roosters crowing just after that.)  In a previous episode, that priest is looking on as Lagertha is administering justice while Ragnar is shaking the Saxons down for Dane-geld.  One of the petitioners is a previously infertile couple who turn up with a baby, and the mother's husband claiming some other man was the father.  It transpires that in Norse legend, (subject to peer review by professional medievalists) there is an Immaculate Conception.  Lagertha and Ragnar have been having a rough patch ... stay tuned.


Texas Governor Rick Perry has been traveling to failing blue states to woo business.  The best Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel can do is engage in MSNBC-style cheap shots.
Taking umbrage at Perry's visit was Chicago Mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. He took the occasion to taunt the governor with a reminder of the gaffe that killed Perry's 2012 presidential campaign and which Perry blamed on back pain medication taken just before a debate.

"I hope when he comes he remembers all three of his reasons," Emanuel said at a press conference in reference to Perry's inability in the debate to recall the three federal departments he would eliminate.

What Perry remembers and knows is that while Texas has been blossoming, Illinois has been steadily sinking into an economic abyss.
The editors of the DeKalb Daily Chronicle concede some of the governor's points, but also lapse into silliness.
Illinois business owners have legitimate gripes. [Governor Patrick] Quinn and the Legislature raised income taxes 2 years ago. The state’s worker’s compensation costs are high. Soaring public pension obligations threaten the state’s financial future. If your business does business with the state of Illinois, you won’t be reimbursed for months.

Perry can boast a lower jobless rate in his state (6.4 percent) compared with Illinois (9.5 percent).

Yes, Perry and other out-of-staters believe Illinois is an easy target.

But those of us who live in Illinois know the state has plenty of positives in manufacturing, agriculture, energy, transportation, research and more. Aircraft parts maker Woodward Inc. is bringing new jobs to Rockford. Chrysler is bringing new jobs to Belvidere. Nippon Sharyo is bringing new jobs to Rochelle. SGS Refrigeration is bringing new jobs to Dixon.

We would certainly like the economy to be better, but staying put to work things out is a wiser strategy than jumping ship.

And who, frankly, would have any interest in relocating to Texas – a land of oppressive heat, killer bees, and chainsaw massacres?
Yeah, probably better to make irrelevant pop-culture references rather than consider the implications of "irreconcilable differences."

The news report on the governor's visit details some probable causes that might impel business to separate.
Perry hit on sore points that haunt Illinois' business climate — the nation's worst pension problem, lowered credit ratings and high taxes. His visit coincided with a poll released Monday by Morgan Stanley Wealth Management that found the Chicago area's wealthiest investors are more nervous about their state's economy than counterparts elsewhere in the nation, including the Houston area, which is the fourth largest U.S. city behind Chicago.

"This is a good red state blue state conversation we're having," Perry said. "The idea that we shouldn't be competing against or with each other is really counter to our founding fathers."

Quinn, a Democrat who faces re-election next year, has said Illinois doesn't need advice from Perry, and the state's top Republicans agreed with him on Monday. Instead, GOP members in Illinois said Perry's visit should be another signal that action must be taken the state's nearly $100 billion pension problem.

For years, Illinois skipped or shorted payments to its five pension systems. Illinois legislators have been focused on the issue over the past year have only recently gotten some traction on the issue, with three separate plans awaiting Senate consideration.
The state government is currently stiffing suppliers, or making them wait for payments. The Legislature made a decision to divert money from the pension funds to other purposes, in much the same way that the U.S. Congress has been using the "Social" "Security" "Trust Fund" as a piggy-bank.  In the face of such continued political malfeasance, does it come as a surprise that some businesses might be tempted to channel their inner Davy Crockett?



Agglomeration economies among Creative Class types have created rising house prices, in a way that Virginia Postrel suggests might be self-reinforcing, in a way that might ultimately prevent the influx of new creative types.
The news isn’t all bad. Less-educated workers may not have the opportunities they once had in places such as California and New York, but they can still raise their real incomes, factoring in housing costs, by migrating to states like Nevada, Florida and Texas. “Places that didn’t have this increase in [land-use] regulation still have the old process that worked,” [Harvard's Daniel] Shoag says, “where people move to the richer areas, human capital levels converge, incomes converge -- the whole chain that used to exist for the whole country is still true if you focus just on the areas that haven’t had as large an increase in regulation.”

As I have argued elsewhere, there are two competing models of successful American cities. One encourages a growing population, fosters a middle-class, family-centered lifestyle, and liberally permits new housing. It used to be the norm nationally, and it still predominates in the South and Southwest. The other favors long-term residents, attracts highly productive, work-driven people, focuses on aesthetic amenities, and makes it difficult to build. It prevails on the West Coast, in the Northeast and in picturesque cities such as Boulder, Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The first model spurs income convergence, the second spurs economic segregation. Both create cities that people find desirable to live in, but they attract different sorts of residents.

This segregation has social and political consequences, as it shapes perceptions -- and misperceptions -- of one’s fellow citizens and “normal” American life. It also has direct and indirect economic effects. “It’s a definite productivity loss,” Shoag says. “If there weren’t restrictions and you could build everywhere, it would be productive for people to move. You do make more as a waiter in LA than you do in Ohio. Preventing people from having that opportunity to move to these high-income places, making it so expensive to live there, is a loss.” That’s true not only for less-educated workers but for lower earners of all sorts, including the artists and writers who traditionally made places like New York, Los Angeles and Santa Fe cultural centers.
Ms Postrel suggests that residential sorting might be lamented publicly by Creative Class types, yet privately welcomed.
They may wring their hands over inequality, but in everyday life they see segregation as a feature, not a bug. It keeps out fat people with bad taste. Paul Krugman may wax nostalgic about a childhood spent in the suburbs where plumbers and middle managers lived side by side. But I doubt that many of his fervent fans would really want to live there. If so, they might try Texas.
Perhaps not. A few years ago,  I noted a post suggesting the popping housing bubble might be restoring affordable housing in some of those richer areas.  Whether that is sufficient to undo the sorting into polarized neighborhoods remains to be seen.  Whether college hiring will be rendered easier also remains to be seen.


The University of Illinois have a new president, and that means a new round of strategic planning, or mission and vision statement brainstorming, or something.
The two leaders said the UI will be the pre-eminent public research university with a land-grant mission and global impact. In order to hold such a title, [provost Ilesanmi] Adesida outlined three goals for the campus: improve scholarship, discovery and innovation; provide students with a transformative learning experience; and have an impact on society.
I'm encouraged to see that this project is not entirely about information technology and distance learning.
Rebuilding the faculty in several strategic areas is a key component of the vision unveiled on Monday. In recent years the number of tenured-system faculty has decreased from about 2,100 in the 2007-2008 school year to a current tally of around 1,856.

Faculty ranks have eroded due to several factors, including a spike in retirements, hiring freezes amid an uncertain state funding outlook and employees leaving for opportunities elsewhere. The campus has organized several hiring programs to counteract that trend, but numbers are still down, particularly because of a high number of faculty who retired last year.

Rebuilding faculty "is how we bring new energy" to the campus, said Adesida, whose office oversees faculty hiring.

"Hiring 500 faculty over the next five to seven years will be a challenge, but an exciting and a welcome challenge," said Barbara Wilson, executive vice provost for faculty and academic affairs.

The new faculty hires will be in six theme areas — "cluster hires" — but the campus will also be looking to prop up faculty numbers in departments as well.

"Cluster hiring offers the ability to quickly build critical mass in targeted areas," Adesida said.

These cluster hires will likely be scholars whose work extends beyond one discipline, department or even college, according to Wilson.
Words are plentiful, deeds are precious, cynics are ubiquitous in the comment section, and cluster hiring may be an attempt to dilute faculty power by assigning new hires to centers under the direction of a deanlet or deanling, rather than to departments who elect a colleague to serve as a chairman.


Econ Log reports encouraging news from Poynton, England, where a rebuilding of the town centre crossroads eliminated traffic signals in favour of a double rotary.  "Stopping traffic is an obvious planner's solution; trusting drivers to make the right decisions requires a belief in the wisdom of individual decisionmaking."  It helps, though,to keep the rotaries simple.  There's a compound rotary in Swindon that looks like a Spirograph set gone mad.  The temptation of the planners to impose order rather than allow it to emerge has gotten so far out of hand in Wisconsin that the state's Department of Transportation now provides an animated diagram illustrating the proper way for motorists, including truckers, and pedestrians, to use one.  I'm not sure whether the animated pedestrians are holding up an arm to alert drivers to their presence in the crosswalk, or heiling der Fuehrer.



Vince Lombardi famously instructed his Packers that football was blocking and tackling, had the team prepared well enough to be able to out-perform most opponents.  You work on 49 and 38 and 31 Wedge until everyone knows how to do it, and leave the trick plays and the fluff to others.

College teaching works the same way.  It's not how much material you cover, but how well you pick the material to cover.  Student "disengagement" might be a rational response to an encyclopedic plan with several hundred key concepts and several thousand definitions.
But we should not misconstrue that data as tantamount to disengagement, nor should we assign fewer readings, simply imply because there are data that show many students do not complete reading assignments. This recommendation – of assigning less reading and teaching it in greater depth – was one of the suggestions made by José Antonio Bowen, author of Teaching Naked, in his dynamic and imaginative keynote address at this year’s annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
A number of economists have looked at the folly of attempting to prepare freshmen or sophomores for Ph.D. candidacy exams in one semester. Their colleagues nod politely and keep doing it, and textbook editors err on the side of including more concepts, more sidebars, more diagrams, more definitions.

This enthusiasm is not a recipe for assigning Plato in every class, although that is an idea that most definitely would generate discussion. That written, I believe that we should reconsider how we administrators and educators think about student engagement. It is more than knowledge about civics and current events. It is bigger and deeper than service learning, or a passion to work in one’s community.

Provide students with a compelling text and a professor who knows how to raise thought-provoking questions, and students will ponder, debate and imagine the world in new and different ways. They will learn how to think critically and creatively. Cultivating that form of student engagement is no easy task, but it begins by exposing students to great texts and great ideas. Engagement is more than a form of political participation. It is the core of the liberal arts.

Some suggestions for economists. Trading for mutual gain. Opportunity Cost. Specialization by comparative advantage. Transaction Costs. Substitution. Leave the formulas and the crowded diagrams out.


I've long claimed that the New York Times editorial lamenting the destruction of Pennsylvania Station is more noteworthy for anticipating the greater sins of our even at that time increasingly tacky common culture.  Commentators from a variety of perspectives have looked to the television series Mad Men as a look backward at what else has been shamefully vandalized.

A recent Ed Driscoll column spells out the ways in which The America That Worked(TM) came apart in 1968.
[W]e now know that we’re witnessing Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce versus 1968.

Or perhaps it’s the other way around, given how the year of 1968 came close to tearing the country apart. In many ways, the events of that year shaped our current world in ways that are still playing themselves out, so it’s worth exploring just how badly the nation imploded. Apologies for the length of this post, but it’s merely a partial list of 1968′s horror stories.
The title of the post is "Off the Rails," and Mr Driscoll weaves the Penn Central debacle into his chronology.  Apparently the destruction of Pennsylvania Station contributed a plot complication to an earlier Mad Men episode.  Corporations attempting to pass off a crap sandwich as a service improvement, and hiring Morale Conditioners to do so are nothing new.  In those days, the railroads increasingly saw their passenger service function as providing subsidized commuter trains who could dash to or from their trains, without much requirement of great public spaces or spacious corridors.  Apparently the prospects for business development weren't as good in Baltimore or Philadelphia as in Boston, Chicago, and New York, which is why the former two cities have proper big-city stations to this day.

But it's not necessarily the destruction of a few classic railroad stations that matters.  More salient may be the loss of guardrails for troubled people.
“Life is difficult,” wrote psychiatrist M. Scott Peck at the outset of his international best-seller, “The Road Less Traveled.” Stress, difficulties, disappointments, accidents, disease, misfortune, cruelty, betrayal – they’re unavoidable in this life.

Yet, during eras when society and families are stable, unified and fundamentally decent and moral – as, say, America during the 1950s – the stress level for each person is minimized, or at least not compounded by a perverse society. Conversely, when – as is the case today – we have widespread family breakdown, a depraved culture that mocks traditional moral values, a chaotic economy and disintegrating monetary system and a power-mad government dominated by demagogues and sociopaths, the normal stresses of life are greatly multiplied.

Thus it has come to pass that America, long the hope of the world, has grown increasingly dispirited and angry, which in turn breeds anxiety, fear, confusion, hopelessness and depression.
I wonder, though, whether it will be harder to rebuild a common culture, or to get rid of Madison Square Garden in order that New York may have a proper intercity passenger terminal. In the modern world of professional sports, an arena more than 20 years old is often an embarrassment, with one exception.
The fourth incarnation (and hopefully there's never a fifth) of Madison Square Garden has been through enough history that it's surprising there's never been a battle fought inside its walls.

While battles raged between Reggie Miller and Spike Lee, the clinching title game in 1970, the first Ali-Frazier fight and countless pop culture figures rolling through, the Knicks endured all.

They remain there to this day, and whether or not their blunders are too much for fans to endure these days, it remains one of the most awe-inspiring arenas in all of sports—not just basketball.
The battle was fought outside, over whether it was proper to demolish Pennsylvania Station. At the time, one of the advocates for building the Garden anticipated that when the time came to remove it, in another fifty years, there would be protests seeking to preserve it. Those protests are likely to come from pro basketball junkies. We have much to look forward to.


Travel and Trains asks which of the California Zephyr or Coast Starlight is the better train.

I've filed reports on an overnight Coast Starlight ride, and three days of the California Zephyr.

There are reasons to recommend both trains.  Only one, though, has the Pacific Parlour Car.
Imagine gazing out at that scenery from an overstuffed, swiveling armchair while sipping on a Bloody Mary prepared on order by the Parlour Car’s attendant!
The Parlour Cars are remodeled former Santa Fe lounge cars, originally intended as bar cars for the all-coach El Capitan.

But in those days, the railroads understood the idea of first class.  Amtrak, you can do better than those eighteen-seat token sections you call Business Class.



The Milwaukee Brewers just swept a weekend series with the Chicago Cubs (OK, this season isn't as fraught as 2007 or 2008).  After a miserable start, the Crew swept a home-stand and now have more wins than losses.  But there's no Sprecher in the cooler.  Time for a road trip?  Perhaps.  Instead, I'll hoist a Barley Island Dirty Helen brown ale.  Antitrust devotees will get the significance.


Via Destination: Freedom, a useful primer on the nature and extent of transportation subsidies.
About 30% of Americans want to live in [transit-oriented developments], yet the government does not support that reasonable and healthy market demand. Instead we subsidize cheap gasoline, suburban McMansions and the "Drive Everywhere to Everything" lifestyle with $101 billion ($327/capita) in subsidies (General funds & non-transportation taxes) in 2010.
I hesitate to vouch for the extent of the demand or the absence of government subsidies for, e.g., streetcars and Passenger Rail.  But leave aside the polemics and keep in mind that there is a lot of public money in road construction, maintenance, traffic enforcement, and snow plowing, and the definitive study of whether that expenditure is a regressive transfer or not remains to be written.



Ruth Conniff: "What we want is our peaceful, multicultural, civil society back."  I don't remember there ever being one.  I also fear that the more some people double down on embracing diversity, the less peaceful and civil the society will be.  Here's a particularly angry statement suggesting as much.
I know you’re not supposed to paint with a broad brush, unless you’re a liberal, in which case you are not only permitted, but expected to make Adam Lanza the poster boy for 100 million law-abiding legal gun owners.

But please, before the Kool-Aid drinkers in the Senate try to get amnesty for at least 12 million un­documented Democrats, can somebody please consider how many more of these Dzhokhar Tsarnaevs we really need?
There is one commonality between the angry white guys involved in some of the recent shooting incidents and the Tsarnaev brothers. All expressed some degree of alienation from the mainstream of society, however they perceived that mainstream to be. I'm not persuaded that deconstructing the mainstream necessarily reduces the alienation. More on this point, once the crush of end-of-semester business passes.


Don Boudreaux first counts the ways in which The Enlightened of various stripes fancy themselves able to Impress the Right Motions on the chess-pieces.  He then contemplates the way in which The Enlightened seek to expand their powers by the Consent of the Governed. "The more expansive is the scope of government authority, the more my life is subject to commands issued in part under the influence of people who read Us magazine."  Lynne Kiesling made the case for limiting what coalition-builders could do with the Public Power a few years ago.
Every individual has his/her own preferences, own view of the good life, own objective function. The “man of system” cannot know, cannot experience the wants, the needs, the social context in which each individual makes choices (individual and collective choices). To the extent that the imposed system creates an environment that does not honor the knowledge problem, it makes both the individual and society worse off. The “man of system” approach to institutional choice is not consistent with that epistemological constraint. Is this an argument for representative government, even with they “tyranny of the majority” problem?
Perhaps not, but taking away people's guns, or beer, or pressure cookers is Necessary and Proper to Producing A Better World.


Reason TV reveals the way the technocratic vision works.
"In a great nation like ours, you can't let people do what they want. It has to be coordinated," says Hasan Ikhrata, the executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).
It's just so annoying to Smart People(TM) that Complex Adaptive Systems Do Pretty Much What They Darn Well Please.



That's Decatur's Archer Daniels Midland, notorious as a participant in an expensive conspiracy to fix the price of chicken feed, quite happy to suckle at the public teat to produce ethanol, also quite happy to benefit from the Essential Air Service subsidy rather than develop ethanol-fueled corporate jets?
On any given day at O'Hare International Airport's bustling Terminal 3 -- amid the jumbo jets and superliners taxiing in and out of the gates -- there’s a tiny nine-seat Cessna Caravan waiting to board passengers headed to Decatur, Ill.

It’s paid for with federal money: More than $2.6 million a year in tax dollars this year alone.
The news report suggests that a Decatur resident can get to a nearby airport [or to Amtrak at Lincoln or Urbana] more quickly than many Chicagoans can get to O'Hare or Midway.
Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), an international food-processing corporation with its headquarters in Decatur, wrote a letter to the U.S. DOT saying it "enthusiastically supports" the subsidized air routes to and from Decatur.

"ADM employees utilize and enjoy traveling with Air Choice One thanks to their Chicago O’Hare and Lambert St. Louis connections which make it significantly easier for catching connecting flights," an ADM official wrote to the head of the EAS program.
Did you ever expect the beneficiary of public largesse to concede that the program in question is a boondoggle?


Very early in the history of Cold Spring Shops, I called readers attention to the phenomenon of administrative bloat in higher education.  In retrospect, I should have been grateful for 1985 level enrollments with 1995 staffing, given that we're now working with 1985 level enrollments and 2013 staffing.  More recently, I've attempted to link financial aid, administrative bloat, and tuition bubbles.  And financial aid provides all sorts of opportunities to practice perfect price discrimination.
To the extent that vouchers make potential students or their parents less price-sensitive, the administrators are free to exercise more market power. We also have to know what preferences the students are acting on. These vouchers might be subsidizing Jacuzzi U and other creature comforts -- not a new problem -- rather than additional computer connections, journals, or smaller classes.
The passage of time didn't make me less gloomy.
Furthermore, whether you want to call the third-party payment a voucher or a guaranteed loan or a subsidy, it is still a third-party payment. Students will have less incentive to shop around and administrators less incentive to cut out the expense-preference behavior. To obtain lower tuitions and greater enrollment requires both shopping around and an end to that behavior.
The good news for today is that commentators at outlets appealing to different constituencies are picking up the argument.  First, the Via Media argument, which will probably be picked up by Insta Pundit and circulated around the libertarian cyberspace.
Once upon a time, the government-subsidized student loan system was about putting college within reach of a wider array of Americans. But this model has gone sour, as colleges have raised prices to keep pace with federal aid. Universities increased tuition by 65 percent in the past ten years alone, meanwhile taking on debt to finance lavish new facilities. The number of administrators hired by higher ed institutions has increased 50 percent faster than the number of instructors since 2001.

It’s hard to imagine that universities would have done this if they had been forced to compete with each other on price. Alas, abundant government loans ensured that the only competition that mattered to them was the quest to lure in students and their federally subsidized grants and loans.
Rents sought, rents generated, rents dissipated in climbing walls and new-age dorms with self-contained kitchens.

So here's Matt Yglesias in Slate, likely to be picked up by a different set of constituents.
I think it's misleading to say that administrative spending is "contributing to" rising costs. That's not how things work. The issue is that schools are finding that they can get away with charging high prices. Since colleges are non-profits, ability to charge high prices doesn't lead to dividend payouts or the acquisition of big cash stockpiles. The money gets spent. And the trend lately has been to spend it on administrators.

All of which is one reason I'm skeptical that you can really do much on the college "cost" front by offering more tuition subsidies. At any given level of subsidy, schools are going to charge families what they can afford to pay and then they're going to take that money and spend it on the stuff that the people running the school want to spend it on.
Where it's not strictly what families want to pay, now it's what our political masters see fit to provide in the form of subsidized loans and other attempts to introduce affordable education.  And Business Week weighs in: "From 1993 to 2009, U.S. universities added bureaucrats 10 times faster than they added tenured faculty." Just in case anybody needed reminding why I frequently sound tired or cranky.


Rush Limbaugh provokes people putting it this way.

See if you can spot the same argument, in this Atlantic analysis of a recent presidential gaffe.
In contemporary America, women can choose the extent to which they wish to engage with this system of power, but there's no question that it remains extant, and that in many ways the most economically successful women are those who use it best to their advantage--actresses, models, musicians, and the like. Beauty is a system of power, deeply rooted, preceding all others, richly rewarded. We pay homage to it, still, and young women as they face the world can make a choice to live a life--even a career--within it, just as they can choose to go to law or medical school or contend in any other way for standing and earning capacity in the world.

That is, they can enter the system of power. Power as the acquisition of status, capital, position, knowledge, property. And for a reason other than the exploitation of the resource of the physical self. The fight of feminism was the fight of women for entry into the system of power from the system of beauty. The fight in the workplace for women very often is to create a space for themselves within the system of power while continuing to operate within the system of beauty in their private lives. And the struggle of feminism has often been to acknowledge that the system of beauty is irrevocable and cannot be expunged by protest or discourse or time. To be an educated professional woman in contemporary America is to know that you operate--and often, must operate--within both systems. It's why beautiful and extremely capable women are often valued above their less glamorous or less fit peers--they are triumphs in two systems of value, double-threats.
Put alternatively, think about those double threats as holding a diversified portfolio.


A number of the cases involving lower-level employees caught up in the coffee fund investigation have been dismissed. Mark Beaird is the most recent person to be cleared.
Beaird, like the other defendants whose cases were dropped, performed duties that would not have been different had the recycling funds been directed to the proper account, [state's attorney Richard] Schmack said.

“They had no role in making a decision about which account the funds were going into, and we didn’t think the ends of justice were being served by continuing to prosecute,” Schmack said.

The coffee fund was an off-the-books account for proceeds from the sale of NIU-owned scrap metal and other materials. The account accumulated at least $13,000 since 2005 and held $2,187 when it was closed in August. The money was used for office retirement parties and similar expenses, NIU officials said.

Six cases cases have been dropped since Robert Albanese, former associate vice president of the Division of Finance and Facilities at NIU, pleaded guilty last month to violating the State Property Control Act, a misdemeanor. Albanese, 62, of Elburn, was sentenced to 18 months of court supervision and fined $825.
The investigation is not finished.
Charges are pending against Lawrence Murray, 52, of Rochelle, and Kenneth Pugh, 57, of Sycamore. They are on suspension from NIU. They are due in court in May.
These individuals held middle-management positions in the university, and their role remains to be determined.


The MidWeek publish a weekly retrospective of events newsworthy or unusual from years ago.  In the most recent roundup is this gem from 13 April 1988.
The public information office at Northern Illinois University used April Fool’s Day to inject some levity into the serious business of the budget crisis. The office release a list of “proposed budget cuts” April 1; the Chicago Tribune carried the story on the front page of its DuPage County section. Among the April Fool’s recommendations were to send faculty to academic conferences but provide no return tickets; lease ROTC cadets to friendly armies; offer law students course credit for watching “Divorce Court”; close the counseling center and refer students to Dear Abby; replace intercollegiate football with intramural cribbage; limit journalism majors to stories based on facts; and replace campus computers with battery-run abacuses.
Had we known then that the next quarter-century, despite two major periods of macroeconomic expansion, would be nothing but recisions, budget crises, and retrenchments, we might not have been so jocular.

We're currently looking at no recruitment, no travel, and possibly no replacements of life-expired computers.  Counseling has expanded in the past quarter-century: their influence is so great now that the university may be imposing what it calls a "syllabus policy."  The term "syllabus" is incorrect for what we properly view as a course outline.  The policy proposes so much legalese as part of the document that it's more accurate to borrow a term from railroading and distribute Conditions of Carriage on the first day.   In the intervening years, the football team went to the Orange Bowl as well as went undefeated against Alabama.



The solution to any perceived pay gap between men and women is for the women to become ... more like the men?
Talented young women who aspire to be rich and powerful would be advised to major in economics or electrical engineering rather than psychology or social work. They should be prepared to work 60 hours a week at the office rather than combining shorter hours with home, family, and other pursuits they find fulfilling. Those who stick with this course will find that their W-2s are equal to those of their male counterparts.
Perhaps so, but to refresh readers' memories,
There's no intellectual basis for criticizing the individual who is willing to outwork others in order to secure income, or promotions.

On the other hand, there's no reason for a corporation to restrict its promotion opportunities to the most conspicuous time-servers, or to restrict its flexible job descriptions to mothers.
I offer a more provocative conjecture, in light of today's research seminar, an investigation of networking and C.E.O. compensation. That is, the current tournament model of business promotions screens for sociopaths.

That's probably over the top, but somewhere the opportunity cost of goofing off must collide with enhanced opportunities to goof off.


Sometimes, the Perpetually Aggrieved are just plain boring.
Why are there no peace correspondents?

War correspondents are omnipresent on cable news networks—in fact, they're the superstars of TV journalism. Anchors are just a pretty face, perched on swivel chairs and shuffling papers on top of laminate countertops. The war correspondent, however, plays the role of the beautiful, disheveled hero brazenly sending dispatches from a conflict zone.
When it comes time to propose alternatives, though, you get a bundle of earnestness combined with a lack of imagination.
We need peace correspondents—Anderson Coopers that update the public on the status of peace, with as much passion, panache and gravity as they update us on the status of our wars.

We need fewer interviews with five-star military generals on Sunday Morning talk shows, and more interviews with the Mareid Maguires, Leymah Gbowees, and other unsung heros who advocate for concord over conflict.

We need journalists embedded with organizations with Women for Afghan Women, the Free Gaza movement, and Code Pink in addition to U.S. Military units.

When wartime is over, we need reporters to send dispatches from the field, showing what it's like to have families whole and together, lives restored, and money spent on more fruitful endeavors than bloodshed—and how all those gains can all so quickly disappear, as they did ten years ago.
OK, fine, a some Nobel Laureates who might have actually faced down Death rather than (cough) made a movie or just got elected can add perspective, if of that rather earnest form that placates the Perpetually Aggrieved.

Doesn't the food correspondent or the sports reporter or the person who covers the P.T.A. (or files a story from the N.M.R.A. show) also qualify?


It has long been the Cold Spring Shops position that institutions of higher learning, no matter their station, view themselves as being in the same business as the Ivies.  Their failure to do so may be contributing to widening social stratification.
At its heart, the widening gap in college completion rates between rich and poor students undermines the traditional American notion of equal opportunity. It also represents a missed economic opportunity. Raising graduation rates among low- income students would significantly increase average educational attainment in the U.S. and, in so doing, bolster productivity.
In many cases, the propensity of students who might be eligible to attend more visible institutions, yet choose not to, may be self-handicapping. (There's a more cynical view of the phenomenon here, if you can stomach it.)

Self-handicapping or not, however, it might be a separating equilibrium desired by the current elite, according to Ross Douthat, proposing here that self-selection of eligible strivers out of the Ivies helps the current elite perpetuate itself, provided nobody is too open about it.
No, it’s better for everyone when these questions aren’t asked too loudly. The days of noblesse oblige are long behind us, so our elite’s entire claim to legitimacy rests on theories of equal opportunity and upward mobility, and the promise that “merit” correlates with talents and deserts.

That the actual practice of meritocracy mostly involves a strenuous quest to avoid any kind of downward mobility, for oneself or for one’s kids, is something every upper-class American understands deep in his or her highly educated bones.
It's a separating equilibrium in which some of the land grants and mid-majors are complicit, in a way particularly demoralizing.
If you are a low-income prospective college student hoping a degree will help you move up in the world, you probably should not attend a moderately selective four-year research institution. The cards are stacked against you.

That’s the sobering bottom line of Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality (Harvard University Press), a new book based on five years of interview research by Elizabeth A. Armstrong, an associate professor of sociology and organizational studies at the University of Michigan, and Laura T. Hamilton, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California at Merced.

It’s not entirely the colleges’ fault, Hamilton says. Declining state and federal support and rising tuition have made it critical to recruit students who can pay more (and who continue to donate after they leave). But the out-of-state and affluent students attending these colleges are not in it for the academics – those students are going to the Harvards, Michigans and Berkeleys of the world.

The students who end up at Midwestern University – a pseudonym for the flagship institution where Armstrong and Hamilton follow a group of women through their college careers, from the dorm floor to a year post-graduation – are socially minded. Thus, to lure and keep those students, institutions have come to structure their academic and social frameworks in a way that accommodates that population.

The result of this “party pathway” is more than just a substandard education for those students, whose significant family resources and connections -- which set them up for jobs after graduation, regardless of credentials -- allow them to take easy majors and spend as much time if not more drinking as they do studying. It also deters those on the “mobility pathway,” as those low-income students seeking entry into the middle class are both poorly supported and distracted by the party framework. As a result, many of these students struggle to succeed -- meandering through college for six years or more -- or drop out altogether.
Time's Fareed Zakaria communicates the same message to a wider public.
State universities--once the highways of advancement for the middle class--have been utterly transformed under the pressure of rising costs and falling government support. A new book, Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality, shows how some state schools have established a "party pathway," admitting more and more rich out-of-state kids who can afford hefty tuition bills but are middling students. These cash cows are given special attention through easy majors, lax grading, social opportunities and luxurious dorms. That's bad for the bright low-income students, who are on what the book's authors, Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton, call the mobility pathway. They are neglected and burdened by college debt and fail in significant numbers.
The strategy might work as a revenue-enhancer short run. Taking the longer view, though, it's not likely to pay off in political support, as the thin envelopes arrive at the homes of strivers who can vote for legislators, and as the value of the institution's degree degrades, as the party-pathway students hit the work force.


Soon, too, might airline passenger tariffs be?
Samoa Air is the first airline to adopt what many others are no doubt contemplating: charging per pound. They actually weigh you at the check-in counter.

Oh — the horror. You already take off your belt, shoes, sweater and coat. You get felt up by strangers. You get ordered into the naked body scanner.

Now this.

A pay-what-you-weigh pricing plan: 93 cents for every 2.2 pounds of your luggage — plus you. It’s like the post office: The heavier the package, the more you pay.

But wait: I just learned that 
Samoans are even fatter than mainland Americans. Only a third of us, so far, are actually obese, compared with 75 percent of American Samoans — who are U.S. citizens, though at 55,000, there aren’t enough of them to tip the nation’s statistical scales.

And teeny tiny Samoa Air flies teeny tiny planes. Ever fly one of those teeny tiny Cape Air planes to Hyannis or New Hampshire, look around at six or seven supersized passengers and wonder, in panic, Can we get off the ground?

Did the pilot get a gander at that side-by-side refrigerator in 2A?

So I’m down with Samoa Air. Liftoff is everything.
I see the potential for a startup, should such pricing diffuse to the major carriers: an airline that flies only planes with bigger-than-first-class seats, at a flat rate that makes the large passengers strictly prefer flying that airline, rather than pay by the pound to get onto a standard airplane. It's not going to be a pure separating equilibrium, however, a plane with fewer seats can be loaded and unloaded through the one door more expeditiously. Almost as expeditiously, in fact, as getting thirteen bulls off the circus train.


Life in the humanities sucks.  Then you're deconstructed.
Who wouldn’t want a job where you only have to work five hours a week, you get summers off, your whole job is reading and talking about books, and you can never be fired? Such is the enviable life of the tenured college literature professor, and all you have to do to get it is earn a Ph.D. So perhaps you, literature lover, are considering pursuing this path.

Well, what if I told you that by “five hours” I mean “80 hours,” and by “summers off” I mean “two months of unpaid research sequestration and curriculum planning”? What if you’ll never have time to read books, and when you talk about them, you’ll mostly be using made-up words like “deterritorialization” and “Othering”—because, as Ron Rosenbaum pointed out recently, the “dusty seminar rooms” of academia have the chief aim of theorizing every great book to death? And I can’t even tell you what kind of ass you have to kiss these days to get tenure—largely because, like most professors, I’m not on the tenure track, so I don’t know.

Don't do it. Just don't.
These days, that summer sequestration may not even pay off in grants funded, or in merit money. But treating summer as solely for re-creation gives headquarters one more excuse, whether it's a fall-off in departmental research productivity, or a failure to incorporate the latest deaducationist fads in your course material, to trim your department's budget.