30.3.07

WAR IS THE HEALTH OF THE STATE. The Secret Service perceives a vague threat against the President. With no evidence of wrongdoing, the Executive subjects law-abiding citizens to secret invasions of privacy and indefinite detention on unspecified charges. There is no evidence of the mainstream press uncovering the invasions. The opposition party refrains from criticizing the detentions.

We are not, however, contemplating President Bush on September 11, or the TALON database, or the prison at Guantanamo Bay, or complicity by the New York Times and the Democrats. We are reading about President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Bureau of the Census. There were internment camps in the western states for Americans of Japanese extraction, and the opposition party was the Republicans.

Documents found by two historians in Commerce Department archives and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library confirm for the first time that the bureau shared details about individual Japanese-Americans after Japan's Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Census Bureau played a role in the confinement of more than 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent who were rounded up and held in internment camps, many until the war ended in 1945. In 1942, the Census turned over general statistics about where Japanese-Americans lived to the War Department. It was acting legally under the Second War Powers Act, which allowed the sharing of information for national security.

The newly released documents show that in 1943, the Census complied with a request by the Treasury Department to turn over names of individuals of Japanese ancestry in the Washington, D.C., area because of an unspecified threat against President Franklin Roosevelt. The list contained names, addresses and data on the age, sex, citizenship status and occupation of Japanese-Americans in the area.

Those Depression-era politicians could give today's leadership a clinic in plausible deniability.

The Census Bureau's role in helping the government ferret out Japanese-Americans during the war has been documented in previous research by [Fordham's William] Seltzer and [Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Margo] Anderson and others. But today's report marks the first time that documents have been uncovered indicating that the agency released actual names.

The Census Bureau has consistently denied releasing such names probably because, over time, most officials there didn't know it had happened, Seltzer says.

The agency has "not had the opportunity to review" today's report, says Christa Jones, chief of Census' policy office. "The disclosure of the names was legal at that time," Jones says. "One of the most important things for us is to remind everyone that the law is very different today."

Census activities during World War II "obviously go against their own mandate for confidentiality," says Terry Ao, director of census and voting programs at the Asian American Justice Center, a civil rights group.

The disclosure is also a call for critics and defenders of current homeland security measures to go beyond tu quoque arguments.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Congress approved the USA Patriot Act to give the government broad investigative powers. Since then, civil liberties groups have criticized government efforts to monitor phone calls, prepare no-fly lists and keep files on anti-war activists.

"It's a bombshell," Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, says of today's disclosures. "This is such a black mark on American history that we need to make sure we never allow ourselves to engage in anything close to that kind of violation of people's constitutional rights."

An ethical issue was raised in 2004 when the Census turned over information it had collected about Arab-Americans by ZIP code but not by name. The information was already public but civil rights groups protested the agency's handing over of data to Homeland Security. The Census now puts all requests for sensitive data through a rigorous approval process and makes all special releases of data available to the public.

Disclaimer: much of my lead paragraph is carefully selected sentences from Joe Conason's recent It Can Happen Here, which will be the subject of a review in the near future. In that review, I want to get beyond Mr Conason's antipathy toward President Bush to consider the substance of his argument, as well as the pitfalls inherent in attempting to govern a free country in time of war.
IT'S NOT ABOUT MONEY. Coaches Troubled by Meager Attendance for Women's Tournament.
Anyone watching this year's tournament on television can't help but notice the empty arenas. Teams accustomed to playing in front of capacity crowds during the regular season are competing before meager audiences in the most important games of the year.
Again, the tradeoff: game times are convenient for television, not necessarily for fans.

North Carolina Coach Sylvia Hatchell was not a supporter of predetermined sites when they were introduced.

"I felt like it was too early," Hatchell said. "Most of the time, we got to host because we were one of the top 16 teams, and we got great crowds. You say, 'Well, that gives the higher-seeded teams a home-court advantage.' But you know what? You play the whole season for that . . . . We went to the predetermined sites for several reasons. I think some of it was for the convenience of television. Television has helped us tremendously, but yet it's hurt the attendance."

Television is also blamed in part for inconvenient starting times. Being a North Carolina fan these days means being a night owl. The Tar Heels haven't had a game earlier than 9 p.m. during the tournament.

"You do what you have to do, especially for the TV exposure," Hatchell said. "I do think it's awful late, especially on a school night because to me our fans are senior adults and families with young children. And when your game starts at 9 or 10, they're not going to be there."

North Carolina isn't the only one with late games. Connecticut has played nine consecutive NCAA tournament games after 9 p.m. ESPN knows it can count on these teams to draw viewers.

But, as coverage of Wisconsin-Green Bay's upset bid notes, at the expense of Connecticut's fan base.
"This is all TV driven, all ESPN driven," [Connecticut coach Geno] Auriemma said. "If it was up to us, we'd have played at noon."

Auriemma believes the late starts hurt attendance because a large part of UConn's fan base is children and older adults. A crowd of 6,824 attended the Huskies' first-round game. UConn averaged 11,493 fans per game during the regular season. The Huskies split their home games between their on-campus facility in Storrs, Conn., and here at the Hartford Civic Center.

UConn often is placed in the later prime-time spot because it has a national appeal.

"ESPN will say, 'If it wasn't for us, you wouldn't even be on television, so kiss my (expletive)," Auriemma said. "That's what you'd get from them, but I don't know if it's ESPN's fault. If somebody else was doing the games, they'd be doing the same thing."
And disappointing the kids, who are a big part of the audience at Northern Illinois as well. What's the purpose? To comply with Title IX? To determine a national champion under the most objective of circumstances? (which the "them that has gets" formula for seeding and for assigning home courts most emphatically is not.) To use the television revenue, such as it is, to reduce the athletic department's operating deficit?

The coaches focus on the predetermined (often distant) sites, the television coverage, and ticket prices. Has anybody heard of elasticity of demand? A lower ticket price that sells out the arena can also generate more revenue than a higher ticket price that forces ESPN2 to use tight shots to hide the empty seats.

National Review's Carrie Lukas offers her own hypotheses.
Most others will find more benign explanations; namely, that the men’s game is more fast-paced, dramatic, and thus appealing to a television audience.
Perhaps. The men's game will provide more spectacular evidence of defensive breakdowns for the highlight tapes, as well as that slim chance of a jailhouse brawl during the game. But, again, to fret about attendance and television ratings is to turn the discussion into a business case study. It's supposed to be amateur sport, isn't it?
THE OLD GRAY NEWS JUST AIN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE. The crew at JibJab have done it again. (Via Charlie Sykes.)
WORKING YOUR WAY THROUGH COLLEGE. Inside Higher Ed guest commentator Alan Contreras criticizes public policy toward higher education.
We can do little about the stupid except to hope that they decrease in number though socially acceptable methods, but the United States in the late 1960s established a goal of providing low-income students with 25 percent of the cost of their college education. This goal has, of course, been long-since abandoned by politicians of all subspecies, since loans don’t count as providing anything. Yet the underlying issue remains to be solved: How should a civilized society ensure that college-able young people are not thrown away because they are poor?
His statement about loans misleads: consider an equivalent dismissal of the self-amortizing mortgage, which has likely provided a lot of people with the opportunity to own a house with a reduced risk of default. On average, college degree holders earn more money than high school graduates or school-leavers: a loan against future earning capacity is observationally no different than a loan to set up a business or to own a truck. To some extent, loans might provide students with incentives to go into more lucrative majors rather than follow the path their hearts and minds are better suited for. At worst, however, that introduces a tradeoff of enhanced access (compared to the absence of loans) for enhanced learning (in which fewer students choose majors on the basis of criteria other than earning power).

He runs the numbers on working one's way through college.

In 1974, a year of attendance at the University of Oregon (the flagship university in my state) cost what a student working minimum wage could earn working 27 hours a week, year-round. That is a lot of work for a full-time student during the school year, but was not impossible and could be offset by more work hours in the summer.

By 2004, a full-time student would have to work 46 hours a week to pay for the same attendance. That is essentially impossible, cannot be sufficiently offset by summer earnings and is the fundamental gap that policy makers either don’t understand or choose to ignore because it is too depressing and can’t be fixed.

It is therefore disingenuous for policy makers to repeat the tired theory that “if I worked my way through college, why can’t today’s students?” Because they can’t. There aren’t that many hours in the day.

On the one hand, I was able to manage the University of Wisconsin (1971-1975) with precisely that mix of a commissary job during the academic year and a factory job in the summers. On the other hand, the taxpayers of Wisconsin, some of whom may have graduated from Milwaukee Hamilton with me but not have tested as well as I did, and some of whom never prospered as did I, paid the taxes to make the return on my human capital investment larger than it would have been had I been obligated to borrow against my future earnings.

The column offers an interesting suggestion, in which "intrusive federal regulation" ceases to be a trope of libertarian-leaning colleges.
One other thing can be done, and that is to refocus institutional fund-raising efforts around the need to achieve independence from government handouts and subsidies. If the government is going to play its silly hide-the-facts game indefinitely, while students stagger under an increasing debt load, then colleges need to build their endowments to the point that they can uncouple themselves from government rules.
It also hints at one of my pet themes: excess capacity devoted to access-assessment-remediation-retention.
Can this approach work for the nation’s hundreds of large public universities and community colleges? In most cases, no. However, these schools are no longer what they were in many cases supposed to be: colleges accessible to anyone. They are relatively expensive, vaguely effective job-training programs mated to a mildly structured social life for teenagers, with a partially sealed superstructure of research faculty and graduate programs standing on stilts above the teeming swarm.
The column neglects to note that the more selective of those colleges are also those most likely to be able to go the high-tuition, generous targeted financial aid (read: secret rebate) route. Might there be a way to reduce capacity, tighten standards, and free up resources for secret rebates to poor but talented students that cover more than 25% of their costs?
CHICAGO USED TO HAVE SPAM CANS. The somewhat smaller loading gauge on the London UNDERGROUND, combined with crush loading, has prompted some riders to think of their carriages as sardine cans.
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE. South Park manages to combine 24 and the presidential campaign. Classical Values has more, including an excerpt from the show, and a link to a review of the episode, which I believe will be repeated Saturday.
HOW OTHERS SEE US. View from a Height's Joshua Sharf combines discontent with Dallas's updated streetcar and with higher education.

Then there's the light rail. Almost every city has "invested" in one of these white elephants. Although as a visitor, it's more comfortable to ride than a bus, very few visitors are going to have the same local travel profile that I will: stay downtown for meetings, ride out to the 'burbs for dinner. And while the downtown seems to have some retained some of its local character, once out of the city, the thing runs along the interstate, which looks like any other Interstate, only moreso, as Rick would say.

Although there are always the distractions onboard the train, like the electronic advertising sign for Dallas County Community College: "Love is a canvas pattern furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination." Their motto should be, "DCCC: Sucking the Manhood Out Of Texas One Associate's Degree At A Time."

Not that his flight back to Denver was any better.
YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK. Among the items in the notorious 2005 transportation bill was a gift from the then Speaker of the House to Northern Illinois University.

That stretch of road will soon be built. (Comments to the article hint at other kinds of pork involved.)

There has since been a change in the management of the House of Representatives, but the public-choice dynamic remains, albeit in a more destructive form.

This vote allows Democrats to claim they opposed General David Petraeus's plan to stabilize Baghdad, even as they let him fight. The troops must be pleased with that indulgence. If the plan fails, as Democrats expect, Mr. Bush will get the blame. If it succeeds, well, they figure no one will remember their pessimism a year from now. Either way, "accountability" is the last word to use for this exercise.

Meanwhile, the troops on the line are waiting for their money, and they'll have to wait a while longer. When they return from their holiday, House and Senate leaders will have to "reconcile" their bills, which could take more weeks. Because the bills are packed with some $21 billion in pork, as well as differing versions of a minimum wage increase, the Members will be fiddling over their domestic priorities rather than financing the war. Then they can finally present their "message" to the White House for Mr. Bush to veto, at which point they'll get to start all over.

The spectacle qualifies as a textbook example of why Congress can't be trusted to micromanage, much less lead, a war. It's a committee of Lilliputians whose main contribution is to tie down the President so that his policy fails. Few bills deserve a veto as much as this one. And once Mr. Bush dispatches it, we hope Congress will fulfill the one war power it does have, which is to appropriate enough money so our troops can accomplish their mission.

Cartoonist Michael Ramirez sees it this way.


Marquette Warrior has found another cartoon in the same spirit.

29.3.07

MAKING YOUR GRANDMASTER NORM. It's possible for a team in a sub-major conference to go undefeated in its regular season and be a bubble team. That's what Wisconsin-Green Bay's Kevin Borseth is dealing with.

"We had to go through the same thing they did — losing in the tournament a couple of times — and then we won a couple of games and go to the regionals and beat a couple of teams we shouldn't have," [Connecticut's Geno] Auriemma said after his team pulled away for a 94-70 victory over UWGB. "Then everybody's looking at us and saying, 'These guys are good. Let's give 'em a higher seed from now on.'"
It's called dues-paying, apparently, and Green Bay have gone from winning the Mid-Continent tournament and earning an automatic bid as a #14, having to deal with a Stanford in the first round, to earning an automatic bid as #8 or #9, and a crack at Connecticut in the second round.
[Borseth's] frustration over having to play a top-seeded team such as Connecticut in the second round was evident. He had perhaps the best team he's assembled in his 20 years as a head coach. It went into the UConn game ranked 21st in the Associated Press poll and with the nation's longest winning streak at 26 games. He went 3-0 against teams from the Big Ten, yet because the Horizon League is so bad, UWGB's RPI dropped all season, costing it valuable seeding positions.
The problem he faces is one in which there are 64 positions to fill in a tournament, although it appears paradoxical that a team can win games and yet lose positions. In chess, the worst thing that could happen is that his rating would stay unchanged. Consider the re-rating formula,


Rn = Ro + k(W-We),
where Rn = new rating,
Ro = old rating,
W = observed wins,
We = expected number of wins, and
k = coefficient of difficulty.

Let's work backwards from the coefficient of difficulty.

A lower coefficient gives more weight to previous events and changes the rating at a slower rate. A higher coefficient gives more weight to the most recent events and changes the rating faster.
A beginning chessplayer has his or her rating adjusted with k = 40, and this coefficient is adjusted downward until it reaches a value of 10 after the player has played sufficiently many games. I don't know whether the power ratings are adjusted for early in the season. The worst thing that could happen to Green Bay is that its power rating would not change after conference play began, and that would require W - We = 0. Perhaps Green Bay had a sufficiently strong team that it would be expected to run the table in the conference: there have been sufficiently many chess games played that there's an actuarial table for games between players of differing strengths.

The problem, however, is that to be invited to play in the higher levels of the tournament, one cannot simply win a lot of games against mediocre opponents. That's where the grandmaster norm comes in. (Here's the official explanation.) A player cannot earn the rank of Expert, Master, Grand Master (in the U.S.), or International Grand Master (internationally) without winning sufficiently many games against other Experts, Masters, Grand Masters, or International Grand Masters. Going 16-0 against a field of patzers with an anticipated 14 wins (Illinois-Chicago and Wisconsin-Milwaukee might have won) does not a grandmaster norm make.
QUESTION OF THE DAY. Belmont Club contemplates gated communities, ancient and modern.
It is often forgotten that the Dark Ages were also the heyday of multiculturalism. Each valley held its petty lord and it was possible for places separated only by a few miles to speak totally different languages. But it can't happen again, can it?
EXPECT VICTORY. Dean Esmay contemplates Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It's very hard for me to look at American Muslims, or Muslims in general, or anyone who considers themselves "liberal" or "progressive" or "humanist," who claim to stand for freedom and human rights and then attack everything America has done and tried to do in Iraq over the last four years.

The fact is that the naysayers claimed we weren't really striving for liberation. We were. They claimed we'd install a new puppet dictator. We did not. They claimed that we wouldn't really try to set up a democracy. We did. They claimed there would be no legitimate elections. The Iraqis had three national elections in a row, all certified as legitimate by international observers, not even counting the local elections that were held before that.

They claimed we'd do everything possible to get out of the country "before the next elections"--they claimed that before the 2004 elections and again before the 2006 elections. It didn't happen. Now these same people in many cases are cheering for a Congress that's trying to force us out of Iraq even though the war supporters consistently say "no, that would be morally and strategically wrong."

Time after time the naysayers have proven themselves both morally and intellectually incoherent, and yet they never have the introspection to acknowledge this.

He's less than impressed with the vanguard of the so-called insurgency.
You either sit around pretending that a vicious, murderous, fascist "insurgency" that routinely cuts people's heads off and shoots children in the face is the "legitimate voice of the Iraqi people," or you recognize that there is in Iraq a government elected by the Iraqi people working under a Constitution written entirely by Iraqis that recognizes human rights better than any in the Arab world.
The vanguard is so consumed with rooting out false consciousness that it has to re-enact the Western Front in its former haven of Fallujah. Insta Pundit gets off a zinger.
Al Qaeda used to posture as heroic resistance against the West. Now they're gassing Muslims.
But has there ever been a vanguard that didn't turn on its own?
REAL BEER IN THE BIG APPLE. When the Brewers beat the Mets, Mets fans can drown their sorrows with the same beer I'll hoist.
Sprecher is selling several brands, including Black Bavarian, Dopple Bock, Bourbon Scotch Ale, India Pale Ale and Special Amber, through a small number of restaurants and stores, said Anne Sprecher, marketing director. The company's accounts include a Whole Foods supermarket in Manhattan's Union Square area.
Memo to New York readers of Cold Spring Shops: stock up on the Dopple Bock now, as it's seasonal. (Who knew that spring cleaning could taste so good?) The Black Bavarian goes well with any event.
CREDIBLE COMMITMENTS. There's value in requiring college applicants to enclose a handling fee with their application.
For example, NIU was the last state school in Illinois to add an application fee, which was an action taken by NIU in response to the committee's advice, [vice provost Earl Seaver said. The action was taken in response to an overload of students deciding to attend NIU very late, which caused incidents where students were only able to sign up for six credit hours, Seaver said.
We know the type.

hey i need ur class to graduate.

Right. Such a supplicant comes with better than average odds of being a source of trouble, either in the form of requests for exceptions, extensions, or favors or in the form of whining about how unfair the class is. It's Pareto-improving to price such individuals off the market.

28.3.07

20-20. That refers to free throws made and free throws attempted by Wisconsin in the semifinals of the Women's National Invitational Tournament. They excused Western Kentucky and will next play at either Kansas State or Wyoming. The Badgers earned a spot in the round of 22 by rallying from double digit deficits twice to defeat Virginia. I suspect the critics of playing tournament games at home will point to that game. I'll just enjoy the moments.
MODEL RAILROADING IS FUN. I've been hacking on the rail-road/All the live-long night.

Model railways may not be the apotheosis of cool, but some may disagree. Alan Cox, Linux kernel hacker, likes to use his hacking skills to repair N scale locomotives just for fun. Bruce Springsteen and Donald Sutherland are fans of miniature trains, and more surprisingly, the erstwhile Godfather of Grunge, Neil Young, holds US Patent 20050110653 in a digital command and control system for model railroads.

"It's meditation for me", he has said. "It's such a relief to escape music making and the pressure of music, to release it all in algorithms and theory of operations."

I know this story has made the rounds of the model railroad discussion lists previously. The Superintendent deems it of sufficiently general interest relay it.
CARNIVAL CALL. The Education Wonks host Carnival of Education No. 140(8). It appears the ringmaster liked this post (which Matthew Tabor interprets one way and A Shrewdness of Apes another) although my submission was intended to draw your attention to this post highlighting the winning and honorable mention entries in this year's Economics Concepts Poster Contest. Thanks, in any event, for dropping in, and feel free to wander around.

I've also noticed a lot of hits looking for assorted pictures (the Statue of Liberty in Madison appears to be particularly popular.) Come for the pictures, stay for the commentary, which will probably be more frequent once a few review documents are filed and the nets are cut down in the various basketball tournaments.

25.3.07

THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO. The year graduates of Milwaukee Lincoln and Milwaukee North started their alumni game, a team from Milwaukee Hamilton won the state basketball championship (so far, for the only time.) At five year intervals, team members who remain in the Milwaukee area have a party, and they were kind enough to let the alumni club know about it. The Saturday of the party was a day on which you wouldn't want to drive, and couldn't fly.


Cab signals and automatic train stop can be a great comfort under such conditions.

The Hiawatha had to make a very careful stop to set passengers down at Mitchell Field. Apparently maintenance on the east main was in progress.


The temperatures were almost warm enough for shorts, and the sun came out enough to permit some good outdoor pictures, here including players, coaches, parents, spouses, and children.


Sometimes it's good to have the opportunity to hoist a beer or three and then leave the driving to Amtrak.
THE SECOND TIME AS FARCE. An Irish-American President names his brother the Attorney General. Both have the propensity to diddle ladies not their wives. Some of the ladies are also being diddled by men with connections to La Cosa Nostra. The President's father made his fortune as a bootlegger. Despite all of those reasons for the administration to be friends with Cosa, the Attorney General very publicly pursues what he calls "the Mafia." Out of this plot, author and Florida State professor Mark Winegardner contrives The Godfather's Revenge, which is going to get an unfriendly Book Review No. 5. I'll leave the completion of the plot to the reader as an exercise. (The degree of difficulty is ln(1.5)) The writing is not Mario Puzo. It's not quite Tom Wolfe, and it's not quite an academic novel, but the depictions of the crimes committed (and there are many) do not measure up to the pacing of Tom Clancy's similarly active combat passages. Too often, Professor Winegardner appears to be projecting his views of today's world onto the rolling up of "the Mafia" during the American High. As a commenter at the Amazon site notes,
[T]he reader learns in a jarring nod to Osama bin Laden that "the most powerful nation on earth had deployed skilled intelligence and law enforcement personnel to conduct a gigantic manhunt for a powerful and resourceful leader of a secret criminal society—a tall, imposing, bearded man with a chronic, withering disease—and somehow failed to find the cave where he was hiding." Godfather fans might prefer getting reacquainted with the original novel and the two better of the three films it inspired.
Exactly. (Among other anachronistic references scattered throughout the book, the expression "spider hole" comes quickly to mind.) I will give Professor Winegardner props for his digs at academic culture. One of Don Vito Corleone's granddaughters is a professor of English, quite possibly attempting to pioneer literary "theory," by including in her work in progress digs at a subliminal male desire to be the first to take a leak on the Moon and the total absence of female love interests in the early episodes of Bonanza. She's later depicted thinking of her male colleagues as "pudgy, pasty, bearded, obsessive on three or four narrow subjects, dominated by his mother, either a virgin or deviant or a sad, sour-smelling combination of both." It is a shame that such a stirring call for a reclamation of the academic culture should be hidden in such a blatant rip-off of any of the legion (and specious) conspiracy theories about President Kennedy's assassination.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. It's from Right Wing Nation, in a post recognized by the Watcher's Council.
Students are people, and people respond in kind to the way you treat them. If you treat your students with respect, they will be more likely to treat you and their peers with respect.
That's the first part of the quote. As with any principle, it must be tempered with another principle.
Like it or not, you are an authority figure. With authority comes responsibility, the responsibility to set an example for your students. Hold yourself to the highest ethics and morals, or find another job.
It's useful also to understand the self-selection argument offered here.
Just because "we" as faculty were of a certain sort as undergrads does not mean we should expect all, or even most, of our undergrads to be of that sort. Were our fellow undergrads as eager and enthusiastic and full of initiative as we were?
Go. Read. Understand.
MORE TO OVERCOME. For years, graduates of Milwaukee's North Division and Lincoln High Schools have held an alumni basketball game to raise money for academic scholarships.

After 35 years, no one wanted to miss the last chance to relive the glory days back at North Division and Lincoln high schools.

To see former basketball players duke out the intense rivalry on the court again.

To watch former cheerleaders, drill team members and dancers perform routines they first learned when Lyndon B. Johnson was president.

In those days, Milwaukee was a canonical example of de facto residential segregation, although everybody had the same school lunch program.
Fred Brown, a Lincoln High basketball star who went on to play for the Seattle Supersonics from 1971 to 1984, returned to Milwaukee with his wife and sat in the bleachers during Saturday's reunion. Just being there made him think of the "mock chicken" in the cafeteria. And fish stick Fridays. And sloppy joe Wednesdays.
Ah, yes, s*** on a stick. Funny, but in those days nobody viewed those fish sticks as a violation of the Establishment Clause. And, yes, the menu was the same at South Division and Hamilton as it was at North Division and Lincoln.

This alumni game will pass into history, thanks to a restructuring of the schools.
In its 35 years, the North-Lincoln alumni basketball game raised more than $100,000 for student scholarships for 100 students. But in recent years, the game had become too taxing on the aging alumni's bodies. Because Lincoln High School closed in 1979 and North Division was reconfigured last year into four schools, there were no young alumni to replace them.
The great basketball rivalry of this era would be Milwaukee Rufus King and Milwaukee Harold Vincent. Perhaps some of those players will pick up the torch. Some of them might benefit from the advice of longtime Seattle Supersonic Fred Brown, Lincoln 1966.

And, yes, he does close his eyes and cover his head with both arms while watching the bricklayers masquerading as shooting guards in the NBA these days.

"It is a lost art," Brown said. "It's almost like (Michael) Jordan, as good as he was for the game, they took one element of Michael's game and everybody became a dunker.

"Every thing you had to do, had to be a dunk shot. Therefore a lot of the other fundamentals were lost."

Brown suggests that younger players work on all facets of the game, including developing a deadly jumper.

"Shooting is an art," Brown said. "It really is an aesthetic art. More young people should learn the basic fundamentals of shooting. If they do that, they would have longer and more prosperous careers."

Mr Brown is currently a senior vice president with Bank of America, also a career path for the apprentices to emulate.

23.3.07

IT'S OFFICIAL. Huskie Stadium will be one of the soccer fields included in the Chicago Olympics portfolio.

Officially announced Thursday after weeks of speculation, the Board of Trustees approved what it called an "intergovernmental agreement with the City of Chicago."

This agreement makes NIU the host of the preliminary rounds of Olympic soccer. However, this will only occur if Chicago is selected to host the 2016 summer Olympics.

There are unspecified upgrades to the athletic facilities, as well as unspecified sources of money for those upgrades, still to be worked out, that is, if Chicago becomes the site for the 2016 Games. Los Angeles, as well as unspecified cities in other countries, are also chasing this event.

If Chicago is chosen as the Olympic host, those improvements would be discussed, [athletics director Jim] Phillips said.

"That's coming, if [Chicago] gets the bid," Phillips said of facility upgrades. "That's the next round of conversation."

As of the Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee meeting Mach 8, expenses pertaining to the event had not yet been discussed, [vice president for finance and facilities Eddie] Williams [U.S.N.R.] said.

"It has not [been discussed]," Williams said. "I don't know if I want to make any public comment, but we are looking at a mutual beneficial agreement."

Can we put some indirect cost return into the proposal for upgrades of classroom buildings?

A PRIMER ON THE SAY AGGREGATION PRINCIPLE.

Reason's Nick Gillespie responds to worries about that vanishing middle class. I'll leave the policy inferences to the reader as an exercise and take this opportunity to address, in formal detail, a canard I have frequently complained about. Mr. Gillespie quotes a well known talking head who could use a primer in the laws of conservation in economics.
There's Lou Dobbs, the CNN host, self-described "lifelong Republican," War on the Middle Class author, and free enterprise fan who has never met a U.S. industry he didn't want to protect or a foreign worker he didn't wanted to deport. He ponders daily why it takes so many families two incomes "just to get by."
I would like to have an answer to that question that does not require a fairly advanced knowledge of economics. Suggestions are welcome. The problem, dear reader, is that the injection of additional productive resources into an economy implies that those resources will produce goods and receive income, either in the form of goods or in the form of claims to goods. Suppose, for the sake of discussion, that additional productive resources get injected into an economy in the form of women. At this level of abstraction, it matters not whether these women come from the ranks of stay-at-home wives seeking some income and some intellectual stimulation, or from the ranks of collegians discontented with the traditional education and nursing majors or with the notion of the M.R.S. degree. What matters is that their presence in the work force affects the potential output of the economy, as well as the equilibrium price ratio. (There are other, less intuitive propositions that are not germane to tonights talk.)

The first law of conservation to keep in mind is an accounting identity we call Walras's law, under which the value of aggregate excess demand must be zero in equilibrium or out of equilibrium. The intuition appears in the figure below: there is a positive excess demand for labor, L, at the current input prices, and a negative excess demand for capital, K, at those prices. The blue arrow indicates the direction of a rearrangement of the same resources at which neither input is in excess demand, and total output of both goods increases.


It will also be the case under this accounting identity that the value of excess demand for produced goods must be zero in and out of equilibrium. That's the story in the following figure, in which the existence of excess demand for L implies a smaller total output of produced goods X and Y. Equilibrium in all markets involves identifying and acting on all possible gains from trade, an abstraction that can be interpreted to mean "recognize that women employees have babies." But in or out of equilibrium, the aggregate value of excess demand is zero (do you see my sign error?), or the value of the goods purchased equals the value of the goods produced plus the value of endowments, which includes payment for the use of time female participants have injected into the market.


In competitive equilibrium, the accounting identity bites with full force. E. J. Mishan's "Say's Law and Walras' Law Once More," Quarterly Journal of Economics 77, 4 (November 1963: 617-25, on JSTOR) argues that the accounting identity ought be applied only as an equilibrium condition, and that whether it is known as the Say Aggregation Principle or Walras's Law is immaterial as they are the same theorem. See page 623. But what the condition does say is that the value of outputs in equilibrium must equal the value of inputs in equilibrium. Thus, to hope that a family can "get by" on one income with current levels of labor force participation by women is to hope that the laws of conservation in economics don't work.
THE DEER AND THE ANTELOPE WON'T PLAY. Michael Munger makes improvements to the dacha.

We get to the property, 30 acres of forest plus a baseball field. Every man needs his own baseball field, but I actually have one. YYM mowed and ran the aerator behind the tractor, while I spread 400 pounds of Milorganite. Organic fertilizer, made from sewage in Tofe's new adopted home town. (Nice video on the link, don't
miss it).

The grass had a little dew on it. In no time the aroma...well, let's just say I love the smell of composted, dried, and pelletized human excrement in the morning.

The Mungers might be happier to note that critters prone to nibble on vegetables and other growing things do not love the smell of dried activated sewage sludge (to be pedantic about it) in the morning or any other time.
WHY THOSE NONCOGNITIVE SKILLS MATTER. Laura at 11-D has neighbors in difficult circumstances.
Even though they weren't a happy couple, happy relationships are a luxury for the middle class. The state should have helped them stay together for financial reasons. Because the state didn't step in earlier, now they have a bigger mess on their hands.
Might something have gone wrong in the government schools, or in the broader culture, to transform happy relationships from something people could aspire to into "a luxury for the middle class?"
COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS TEND TO DO WHAT THEY DARN WELL PLEASE. That's true of contemporary insurgencies, which have shed the vanguardism of the Marxists of last century.
In contrast, the Iraqi insurgency is a constantly shifting network of disparate organizations.9 There are currently three main armed groups: Tandhim al-Qa’ida fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (al Qaeda’s Organization in Mesopotamia), Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna (Partisans of the Sunna Army), and al-Jaysh al-Islami fil-’Iraq (The Islamic Army in Iraq). There are also a number of smaller groups.10 The International Crisis Group has suggested that each of these is “more a loose network of factions involving a common ‘trademark’ than a fully integrated organization.”11 Each group is composed of many small, compartmented or autonomous cells, some as small as two or three people.12 Many cells specialize in one particular function, such as mortar attacks, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, assassinations, surveillance, or kidnappings.13
The absence of a vanguard raises the possibility of insurgent-on-insurgent conflict.

For this loose organization, consultation, coordination and consensus must substitute for central direction. But far more than simple coordination is required if these organizations are to be effective. Networks need what John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt called shared narrative and doctrine to maintain their cohesion and focus.16 The narrative is the story the network tells to communicate a sense of cause, purpose, and mission and to engender a sense of identity and belonging among members of the network and potential recruits.17 The insurgents’ narrative centers on the fact they are patriotic and pious freedom fighters battling to expel a foreign occupier and overthrow an illegitimate regime. By simultaneously emphasizing nationalism and Islamism, this narrative offers something for everyone and bonds groups who have little in common.18

Shared doctrine enables the network to operate in an integrated manner without central control.19 For example, the insurgents share information about IED operations: techniques, tactics, enemy vulnerabilities, and target priorities. This allows groups acting independently to conduct IED attacks in a coherent pattern.20 In short, the insurgents “compensate for lack of [central leadership] by emphasizing operational and ideological cohesion.”21

The insurgents appear to understand the problem.
First, there is no preliminary political mobilization.27 In fact, the Iraqi movement is characterized by a lack of any political program related to the future of the country. This is a deliberate strategy of the insurgency in an attempt to avoid divisive issues.28 Second, the Iraqis do not conduct large-scale guerrilla operations. Viet Cong main force units usually fought in battalion strength or greater, independent guerrilla units in company strength.29 Iraqis often operate in groups as small as three men and rarely more than 50.30 Third, the Iraqi insurgency does not seek to control territory. The lesson it learned from the siege of Fallujah in 2004 was not to fight from a static position. Finally, the Iraqis do not aspire to win a conventional military victory. Their strategy is to maintain a barrage of terrorist attacks on coalition forces, the Iraqi government, and collaborators, with the goal of inflicting enough casualties to cause the Coalition to withdraw and the government to cease to function.31
Although the article does not propose specific strategies for defeating this insurgency, it does note that an adaptive system still has stronger and weaker parts.
A network’s vulnerability to disruption lies in what netwar expert Phil Williams calls critical nodes. A critical node is a person or cell whose function has a “high level of importance and a low level of redundancy.”41 This could mean a person with an important but rare skill. For example, British intelligence believes that there are only a handful of bombmakers producing the bulk of the IEDs.42 Or, it could mean a node which serves as the sole link between two organizations. Although these individuals may not be high-ranking, they play a vital role in the network, and their elimination will degrade the insurgency’s ability to operate more than the removal of its ostensible leadership. This understanding is key to combating a networked insurgency. A network may be hard to destroy, but it can be disrupted.43
The article, which offers extensive footnotes, goes on to consider some possibilities. (Via Milt Rosenberg.)
SILLIEST QUESTION OF THE DAY. The usually sensible Coyote Blog asks, What About Productivity? He questions news reports about a teacher shortage.
I will ignore the fact that the first half of this statement goes entirely unproven, and in fact no evidence that classes are not being taught is offered. My question today is this: Whenever the question of "teacher shortages" is discussed, why is only the salary portion of the equation ever put forward? Why doesn't anyone ever put forward the solution "increase their productivity?"
A shortage does not have to manifest itself in Soviet-style lines of frustrated buyers, it can manifest itself in larger class sizes or in greater teacher turnover. (I don't know what the situation is elsewhere. Something like half of our College of Education graduates who enter teaching leave within five years.) "Why not increase their productivity?" is a silly question because a strategy that makes working conditions even less tenable will move that half-life in the direction of four years. (In higher education, the strategy of treating faculty in all disciplines as if there is a reserve army of unemployed Ph.D.s eager to produce the credit hours of a community college adjunct, the senior theses of a professor at a posh private college, and the research of a future Nobel Laureate is backfiring.)

Some of the comments at the post consider a different dimension of productivity: good teachers follow good students. The districts that have parental involvement and something resembling academic standards tend to succeed at retaining teachers. (Often those districts have richer residents: perhaps there is more to being rich than having more money.) The policy mistake is in expecting schools to accomplish more with less: haven't many businesses learned the hard way that letting much of their institutional memory go and frazzling the people that remained was a recipe for short-term frustration and long term failure?

21.3.07

THE YOUNGSTERS WHO STUDIED. I am pleased to offer for your viewing pleasure the winning and honorable mention entries in the 2006-2007 Northern Illinois University Economics Concepts Regional Poster Contest.


I've noticed a growing influence of anime cartooning in these posters: check the eyes the older students are drawing.
MOCK THETA FUNCTIONS. Is the secret to Ramanujan's quip about the number 1729 in the following formula?



Sometimes the secret comes in making connections.
Ken Ono was reading an article by George Andrews in which the Pennsylvania State University professor listed six great problems for mathematicians to solve in the new millennium. The last two problems referred to the baffling functions first described in 1920 by Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan on his deathbed.

As with much of the work in his short life - Ramanujan died at 32 - he set down the mock theta functions without showing how he knew they were true, without even showing the trail of thought that led to his discoveries. For decades, mathematicians have regarded the functions as tantalizing clues - but to what?

Now, as Ono read the article, he realized that he knew how to solve one of the problems. Some of the formulas needed were similar to those he and colleague Kathrin Bringmann had been using for a theory they were developing.

He rushed down the aisle to Bringmann's seat.

"Kathrin," Ono said, "you have to read this. They look exactly like our functions."

So far, that high-altitude flash of insight has led to three papers by Ono, 38, and Bringmann, 29. In the first, they solved Andrews' fifth problem for the millennium. In the remaining two, they solved Problem 6, "more or less," Ono said.
Professor Andrews may be too busy to create his own web page. This sketch provides some information about his work. He had a good start.
Ironically, it was outside his mathematics courses where Andrews was first exposed to partition functions. His then-fiancée, Joy, now his wife of 44 years, gave him a four-volume set of books called The World of Mathematics, which contained Godfrey H. Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology (2). Buried in a footnote was a comment about a surprising mathematical formula that Hardy and Ramanujan had uncovered together in 1916. The elegance of the formula struck Andrews. "I thought it was just stunning," he says. This fundamental formula in partition theory expresses the number of ways an integer can be broken down into natural number summands. For example, there are three partitions of the number 3 (3, 2+1, and 1+1+1) and five partitions of the number 4 (4, 3+1, 2+2, 2+1+1, and 1+1+1+1). What Hardy and Ramanujan had found was an exact formula for the number of partitions of an integer. "It doesn't seem like you'd need an exact formula," Andrews explains, "but while there are only five partitions of 4, there are almost 4 trillion partitions of 200." Even computers could not handle this task as well as an exact formula could, he says, so this result was as useful as it was elegant.
There's more to his discovery of Ramanujan's lost notebook than sheer serendipity.
He took advantage of the trip to Europe to visit Trinity College (Cambridge, U.K.), where he browsed through papers from the estate of the late mathematician George N. Watson, which were housed there.

What Andrews found among the dusty papers grabbed his attention. In one box lay about 100 loose pages filled with, of all things, equations in Ramanujan's handwriting. And there, Andrews realized a few minutes later, were more of the legendary mock theta functions that Ramanujan had hinted at. "It was a gold mine," Andrews says.

Merely recognizing Ramanujan's handwriting was not the key to Andrews' discovery, his colleague Askey explains. The real detective feat was spotting, in row after row of unlabeled formulas, equations fitting the bill of those enigmatic functions Ramanujan had described. "There were certain identities that George [Andrews] recognized as mock theta functions," Askey says. "No one else would have spotted them instantly. George has done many things, but this is what will make the history books."
(And thus my gripe with "Social Justice Lego." Resources that happen to be lying around are of no value unless somebody recognizes the value. Many others might have leafed through the Ramanujan notebook without understanding what they were seeing.)

As the Journal-Sentinel report puts it,
In a 1920 letter to his British mentor and collaborator G.H. Hardy, Ramanujan said he had discovered a new class of theta functions and set down 17 examples, the mock theta functions. More than 50 years later, a half-dozen or so additional examples surfaced when Andrews, then a visiting professor at UW, stumbled upon 140 pages of previously undiscovered Ramanujan work - the so-called "Lost Notebook" - in the library of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. Until now, so little was known about these functions that mathematicians have yet to explore all of their uses.
Professor Ono (also a Ramanujan scholar, in his spare time working on modular forms) and Professor Bringman (modular forms and partition functions) have made the paper available as .pdf. (As is the case with many marvelous proofs, this one is too large to fit in the margin.)
THE ROCKIES WILL TUMBLE, GIBRALTAR WILL CRUMBLE. The women's basketball tournament isn't quite the "them that has gets" show I feared at the announcement of the field. In the round of 24, for the first time, none of the regionals will be {1,2,3,4}. Despite the practice of using the home courts of the higher-ranked teams (if it really has nothing to do with money, is it necessary to get more fans in the seats?) in the first two rounds, the visiting teams had their moments, with Notre Dame holding a lead most of the way against [North] Carolina, and Wisconsin-Green Bay playing well at Storrs, Connecticut for 22 minutes. In East Lansing, just off the Midwestern Axis of Evil(TM) [U.S. Highway 23 - ed], Bowling Green became the first Mid-American team to get out of the first weeked alive, excusing Vanderbilt (better known as the home of the American Economic Association).

The home court advantage again eludes Stanford. (Truly truly, I say unto you, a No. 16 seed can defeat a No. 1 seed if the former is Harvard and the latter is Stanford, and this isn't a "Clue" tournament either. See also "Hockey, Minnesota.") The honor this time goes to Florida State, where onetime Northern Illinois and Wisconsin assistant Sue Semrau gets a postgame rinse.



Florida State were in a tough neighborhood during 1996-1997.
It takes a lot of courage to come in here and win. I had a lot of players that believed we could turn this program around. 11 years ago this program was 0-16 in the ACC and it took a lot of players to believe the Florida State could be a basketball school and not just a football school.
The perspective from Palo Alto, is, well, glum.

18.3.07

RUNNING REBELS DON'T SKATE. Badgers do.
Wisconsin (36-1-4), the top seed in the tournament, completed the season with a 26-game unbeaten streak and 12 consecutive victories. Its only loss was to Minnesota Duluth on Nov. 24.
These kids play tough.

Playing with two broken ribs, senior Sara Bauer led the Badgers with a goal and two assists. She was named the Frozen Four's most outstanding player for the second year in a row.

Minnesota Duluth (24-11-4) defeated Mercyhurst College in the quarterfinals and beat Boston College 4-3 in double overtime on March 16, despite injuries to five players.

Badgers understand defense.

Emmanuelle Blais deflected a shot from Noemie Marin past Wisconsin goaltender Jessie Vetter on a power play at 14:23 to end the Badgers' shutout streak at 422:36. It was the first NCAA playoff goal that Vetter and the Badgers had allowed since a victory over Mercyhurst in a 2006 quarterfinal.

Ten seconds later, Wisconsin responded with a goal by Jasmine Giles on the rebound of a shot by Lawler.

Good going, kids.

SIEVE!
ALABAMA-HUNTSVILLE?? The pairings for the NCAA men's hockey tournament are out. Although defending champion Wisconsin won the third-place game in the Western tournament, St. Cloud State had more wins during the regular season, and they join Minnesota and North Dakota in The Best Is The West. At most one of Minnesota or North Dakota will make the semifinals. Boston College and Boston University have separate opportunities to be The Heck With The East in the semifinals. Chad the Elder rates the Minnesota-North Dakota regional as a tough one to open in. Mitch Berg has a few general comments on the tournament as well.
THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT MATTERS. One and done, and Washington women's basketball coach June Daugherty is also done.

We just need to have a positive buzz in our community about our team. And it just wasn't there," athletic director Todd Turner said, after he announced he would not renew the contracts of Daugherty or any of her assistants, including her husband, Mike, following her 11th season at UW.

Daugherty's teams made six NCAA Tournaments, but the final one ended Saturday when No. 11 seed Washington lost to sixth-seeded Iowa State 79-60. The Huskies went 18-12 in the regular season finished fourth in the Pac-10 at 11-7.

The positional arms race in sports facilities puts a lot of pressure on coaches and players to get fans in the seats. Those revenue bonds have to be amortized.

Attendance at remodeled Hec Edmundson Pavilion decreased from almost 5,000 per game to just above 2,500 in five seasons.

In 2003, Washington posted its first 20-win regular season under Daugherty and led the Pac-10 in attendance with a school-record 4,981 fans per game. The Huskies tied for second in the league with their best conference record during Daugherty's tenure, 13-5. That team set a single-game attendance record when 8,408 fans saw Washington crush UCLA.

There's apparently some interest in having local players perform for local fans.

Turner also didn't like seeing top recruits from what he called a "fertile" home state leave. The latest was Regina Rogers, the star center from Chief Sealth High School in Seattle has committed to UCLA.

"Quite a few kids have left our state to play elsewhere .... That is troubling," Turner said.

The money paragraph, as it were, comes at the end.
He also said the Huskies should be producing more for what Washington is paying into the women's program. He noted "hundreds of thousands of dollars" spent to improve practice gyms, meeting rooms and training rooms for both the men's and women's teams and an increase in coaches' salaries.
The article appears on ESPN, a service not noted for contemplating the information content in university administrations' revealed preferences for improved sports facilities while enrollment-impacted departments struggle with deferred maintenance in the classrooms.
MY BRACKET IS BUSTED. Ouch. That pretty well shoots round 21 and 22, although I still have some possibilities at rounds 23 and 24.

In games that still have play value, a different Wisconsin team had its way with Arkansas State, and I'd be keen to see them get a crack at Ball State next. Wisconsin-Green Bay continues a long winning streak, with Connecticut up next. (Is anybody else as tired of Connecticut-Duke-North Carolina-Tennessee every year as I am? Go Phoenix.) Bowling Green carries the Mid-American into the second round.
CHICAGO IS FOR O SCALE. The March Meet has just concluded, with a few bargains to be had at the show, and lots of renewing acquaintances at the show and on the layout tours. Some of the train running is just for fun.

First up, Friday afternoon at the Fox Valley O Scalers prototype operating session. The eastbound meat must get through!


Saturday evening featured a members' day (with out-of-town visitors trickling through all evening.) I borrowed a Milwaukee Road 2-8-0 and tested some of the new baggage cars.


Model railroading is supposed to be fun. Thus a West Virginia-style mining town with C&O-pattern station clinging to the Mississippi River bluffs somewhere south of Marquette, Iowa. So why not test out the New Haven and Pennsylvania baggage cars too?


Another member got into the spirit of things. Here, just after the merger, a Chicago and North Western grain extra enters Marquette from the west. (Something must have gone wrong somewhere between Oelwein and Dubuque.)


Yes, there is more stuff for the workbench.

17.3.07

PERSEVERANCE. Nancy Armour of the Associated Press profiles Wisconsin's Bo Ryan.

Whatever job he's had, he considered himself the luckiest guy in the world to have it.

"I moved to Wisconsin and fell in love with it. Fell in love with the state, fell in love with the people," he said. "I was never really interested in leaving. I never worried about the next job. The rest took care of itself."

For every young coach who thinks he has to sell a part of his soul to get ahead, Ryan is proof you don't. You may not know much about him, but with a career record of 525-157, everyone else in the profession does.

He understands the first rule of productive people.

Loyalty comes naturally to Ryan. Growing up outside Philadelphia, in Chester, Pa., his father was a pipefitter and his mother worked in the business office at a local college.

His father's job wasn't easy -- years of inhaling asbestos fibers eventually forced him into retirement -- but he did it day after day, spending most of his life with the same company. His mother worked her way up to become the school's business manager despite not having a college degree."Having parents that worked that way, if they enjoyed what they were doing, (you) stick with it," he said.

It helps, sometimes, to be noticed by practitioners elsewhere.

Two years later, Dick Bennett stepped down at Wisconsin and Ryan returned to Madison.

"Sure, it was in the back of my mind," Ryan said. "But I didn't sit at Platteville going, `When am I going to get to Madison?' And I didn't go to UWM thinking, `When am I going to get to Madison?' But I got to Madison, and now we're trying to make the most of it."

And in so doing, perhaps reclaiming the game.
And doing a little better than that. His teams aren't flashy or explosive, making their living on defense instead. It isn't always pretty, but it's effective. The Badgers are 141-54 in Ryan's six years in Madison. They won their first Big Ten title in more than 50 years his first season, and added another the next year.
Here's the secret to my bracket: I weighted it towards teams that understand defense and team play. It's about time people who should know better (are you listening, Billy Packer?) stopped referring to showboating against defensive breakdowns as "athleticism." That Wisconsin-Michigan State semifinal in 2000, contrary to the Conventional Wisdom, was one of the best games I've watched, outcome notwithstanding. The press coverage of this year's tournament has made some mention of defense frustrating opponents. That's the way it should be. Nothing defeats a team quite like its own failures to score.

In other basketball news, rumors swirl about the succession at Northern Illinois. As far as I know, there is not a special stove in the Convocation Center that will produce white smoke when the hiring is done.

15.3.07

A BUSINESS MODEL IS SUPPOSED TO PASS A MARKET TEST. Pretending there's a reserve army of unemployed faculty willing to work for peanuts, and pretending to become an athletic powerhouse, makes the college administration look foolish.

The average salary for a full professor at [Northern Colorado] in 2004-05 was $68,583, according to a faculty study, which is about 40 percent less than what a full professor makes at CU-Boulder.

Many say the decline in salaries began when [Kay] Norton took over as president in July 2002. Norton - whose background is in law - led a reorganization of the university based on a business model to cut costs.

The university also opted to move up a step and become a Division I school in athletics. That, critics say, has led to a $604,000 loss in the athletic budget this year.

(Via University Diaries.)

The economists figure prominently in news accounts of the troubles. Northern Colorado offer a B.A. in economics, no B.S., no graduate programs, and theirs is a relatively small faculty which, as one might expect under the circumstances, is not highlighting its presence in Journal of Economic Theory or Oxford Economic Papers. All the same, the economics job market is not so miserable that faculty members cannot secure better pay for primarily teaching gigs at institutions with similar or higher selectivity. At headquarters, the "business model" apparently includes a planning obsession. It's possible to erect a locomotive with fewer plans than these.
SOMETIMES THE STRATEGIC PLAN WORKS. I have had nothing but scorn for visions of higher education that blend open admission with athletic success. That Central Connecticut State have earned a tournament bid (their third in seven years) while the Connecticut men's team is watching ESPN changes nothing. By the end of March, Central Connecticut will still be perceived as a safety school. (As if MooConn isn't?)

The approach of Central coach Howie Dickenman merits mention.

Dickenman requires his players to wear ties to games. No cell phones are allowed in the basketball facilities. Detrick Gym, he says, is a workplace. He asks his recruits what they think of their high school coaches. If they say something disrespectful, the recruiting process is over.

"Coach works us to maximum of our abilities, and prepares us for life," [guard Tristan] Blackwood said. "He works us like we're in last place, and that pays off. We work for each other, and it's paying off."

That approach deserves consideration and implementation by the faculty, safety school or selective institution alike.
WHY I DISLIKE THE EXPRESSION "SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED," PUT SIMPLY. Some "constructions" are not evolutionarily stable.
Given its unprecedented material wealth — and the green light it generally receives from parents and educators to indulge any and all appetites — this generation of students (not to mention their elders) needs to be morally awakened to (as listed recently by David Brooks) what Thomas Sowell calls the Constrained Vision, what Steven Pinker calls the Tragic Vision, and what E. Q. Wilson calls Existential Conservatism. (“Human Nature Redux,” The New York Times, 2/18/07) This worldview includes the belief that the wholesale discarding of social conventions and institutions based on a respect for legitimate authority, and on self-restraint, can be dangerous.
Amen.
PERHAPS THE SELECTION COMMITTEE GOT IT RIGHT. Janet at SCSU Scholars observes a convincing Minnesota win over Illinois-Chicago, a team I conceded should be in that tournament, and notes,
Because we don't know a number of the teams in the WNIT, each game is partially unknown. There are four Big 10 teams (Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin) in the tournament. Next game is Monday, March 19 at Western Kentucky. One game at a time but this could become a fun ride and great experience for the young squad.
Several previous winners, including Wisconsin and Kansas State, are in the field.
IN PLACE OF THE PARTY LINE OPERATOR. Tom Maguire, pinch-hitting for Instapundit, discovers a service that could go over to either side of the Force.
Finally have just one number that reaches you everywhere: you decide where you want to pick up your calls. Save on your wireless minutes if youre [c.q.] at home or work and never miss a call, even if you move or change jobs.
Bleah.

David Pogue at the New York Times introduces the service this way.
If you have only one telephone with one phone number, this column won’t be of any interest to you. Skip to another article, you eccentric you.

But first, count your blessings. Millions of people have more than one phone number these days — home, work, cellular, hotel room, vacation home, yacht — and with great complexity comes great hassle. You have to check multiple answering machines. You miss calls when people try to reach you on your cell when you’re at home (or the other way around). You send around e-mail messages at work that say, “On Thursday from 5 to 8:30, I’ll be on my cell; for the rest of the weekend, call me at home.”
Sometimes it's nice to be rich enough NOT to have to be on call all the time, although I suspect there are more than a few Really Useful People who could put a stop to this on-call-all-the-time-everywhere nonsense simply by refusing to participate, either as receiver of calls or as placer of calls.

There is one feature of the new service that intrigues.
GrandCentral maintains a database of telemarketer numbers that is constantly updated by reports from its own subscribers. Your phones don’t even ring when a telemarketer in that database tries to reach you.
Such developments have the potential to take the profit out of telemarketing. There is, however, an eccentric way to deal with the problem: simply do not take any calls at meal time. Yes, that goes for families with kids too.
RUNNING OUT OF MONEY? Chicago's commuter rail, heavy rail, and bus operators face money problems.

Illinois Auditor General William Holland said in his first ever report that mass transit in northern Illinois is in a serious financial crisis.

Holland estimates the CTA, Pace, and Metra together are almost $6 billion away from meeting their needs for new equipment and maintenance.

He says expenses have risen at three times the rate of income.

Elsewhere, the story reports a doubling of fares wouldn't solve the problem. Er, that's particularly true as long as road tolls and parking charges are impounded in ceteris paribus.
AS GOD, AND FIELDING YOST, WOULD HAVE IT. College football is for Saturday. At Northern Illinois University, for once, it will be.
Northern Illinois is scheduled to play all 12 of its 2007 contests on Saturdays, marking the first time the Huskies will play exclusively on Saturday since the 1996 season.
I encourage the powers-that-be to keep it that way. Tuesday night is for studying, Wednesday night is for concerts, Thursday night is for writing, and Sunday night is for cramming.
IN CASE ANYONE WANTS TO KNOW.


(Click image to see it full size.)

There will be 112 points scored in the title game.

14.3.07

PRIOR RESTRAINT. Not at my college paper.
COUNT' EM. Name all 50 states in 10 minutes. I finished the job with 0:47 to spare. (Via Jay Solo. Is it really that difficult to come up with only Arizona and Texas in five minutes? Apparently so.)
CARNIVAL CALL. Carnival of the Capitalists goes on the road with Small Business Trends.
TAKE CARE OF THE O RINGS AND THE SPACE SHUTTLE WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSELF. The integrity of an academic program requires similar attention to detail.

The students were less concerned over being accused of plagiarism and more that I was having the temerity to actually punish them for their actions. They were perfectly aware of the policy, but had never heard of it being applied. It seemed entirely unfair to them.

And it was - not because there shouldn't be consequences for academic misconduct, but because it's unfair for some students to get away with something when others don't. You can complain about the lack of respect students have for their work, their classes, and you - but it doesn't help to make things easy. You're digging yourself deeper.

Amen.
PATH DEPENDENCE. Author Larry Beinhart's Capitalism 104 makes the case for the welfare economics paradigm. He also notes the value of emergent order.

Everyone is stupid sometimes. Some people are stupid a lot of the time and a few, all the time. If one person is in charge of everything, then his or her stupidity affects everything. That’s the seed of the failure of planned economies.

But in a capitalist society – at it’s best – if someone has a stupid idea and convinces some people to invest in it, only he and his investors lose. It’s also important to remember the random part, because we are in a changing world, and the ideas that won last year may turn out to be stupid for this year’s world.

There are supposed to be sequels to this essay. I will follow up as required.

13.3.07

THE END OF CROSS-SUBSIDIES. Amid news of the demolition of the Stardust casino hotel is evidence of the changing economics of legal gambling.
Bob Boughner, Echelon Resorts' chief executive, said while the Stardust was a favorite of the nostalgia crowd, it was missing out on younger patrons and those who come to Las Vegas for conventions.

For many, the Stardust represented the most accessible place to stay in a city that gives VIP treatment to the biggest gamblers. But the concept of discounting rates to keep people coming is rapidly fading from the Las Vegas Strip as many casinos nowadays make more revenue from hotel rooms, clubs, shows and cuisine than from gambling.

"There was this implicit idea that invisible high rollers came in and funded everything, so that Mr. and Mrs. America could have a steak for $2 and see Frank Sinatra for the price of a drink," said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

"Now you can build a 7,000-room hotel and charge $300 a night for rooms," he said. "With slots being so big, it is all the people losing $200 per trip that are driving the growth."
The casino hotels might have been able to engage in such cross-subsidies as long as legal gambling was confined to Nevada. With the proliferation of small-stakes casinos on reservations and the belief of many governments of obsolete cities that a casino strip was a way to reverse economic decline, the small-stakes gambler has ample substitutes closer by. The nature of a Las Vegas hotel is sufficiently different today than it was at the beginning of the Jet Age that there is a Casino Death Watch mourning the end of those historic properties.

The article does not mention whether the 7,000 room hotels are offering the equivalent of a $500 room for $300. The hotel that is to replace the Stardust, however, clearly envisions a different sort of customer mix.
The Echelon is to open in late 2010 with more than 5,000 hotel rooms, a production theater, concert venue, shopping mall and more than 1 million square feet of meeting space.
We're seeing a variation on the shipping the good apples out phenomenon. If low-stakes gambling is as nearby as the closest reservation or rundown city, there is no incentive for the low-stakes gambler to spend a lot of money going to Las Vegas. Those people who are willing to spend the larger sum of money traveling are, consistent with the incentives of a fixed access fee, willing to consume the experience more intensively, either in the form of higher-stakes gambling or more expensive entertainment.
THE JOYS OF SHODDY SERVICE. The major credit card companies are not making many friends, either among their cardholders or in Congress.

Americans use credit cards to pay for everything from groceries to speeding tickets. But they're increasingly besieged by colossal fees and interest-rate increases that seem to hit them without warning or justification.

Now, though, banks are under scrutiny from the Democrat-led Congress, which held hearings on credit card practices last week. Banks also are feeling competitive pressure to become more consumer friendly.

One practice, known as "universal default," is of particular interest.

Ever wonder why your card's interest rate spiked, even though you've always paid on time? The most likely reason is a practice known as universal default. That occurs when card issuers raise rates for those who made a late payment to some other company. Issuers may also raise your rate if your overall debt has increased. Nearly 45% of banks used universal default in 2005, according to Consumer Action, an advocacy group.

Credit card issuers defend this practice.

They argue that borrowers who are having trouble with other debts are more likely to fall behind on their credit card bills. But many consumers say the practice is grossly unfair.

The practice is of particular interest in that without the central clearing houses known as credit bureaus, a creditor only knows which of its own customers are slow to pay or nonpayers. The credit bureaus provide a potential efficiency-enhancing function in enabling any lender to discover which borrowers have bad histories elsewhere (it's more objective than asking your current squeeze's former boyfriend). At the same time, the credit bureau can serve as a facilitating practice for collusion (as .pdf; the shared information relaxes the "incentive compatibility constraint for collusion, in the absence of an explicit agreement among creditors to raise rates in response to the same evidence.) Thus there is a public policy tradeoff: is the public interest better served by expediting the discovery of delinquent and deadbeat borrowers or by making rational cooperation in an already cartelized industry more difficult?

The article also suggests that cardholders make use of the customer service department at the credit card company.

If you've been hit with a high fee because your payment was a day late, call your card issuer and ask for a reprieve. If you've been a solid customer, there's a good chance the issuer will waive the fee, says Linda Sherry, director for Consumer Action.

Getting your interest rate reduced is harder, [Card Rating's Curtis] Arnold says, but not impossible. Even if your bank won't give you your old rate, it might agree to reduce the new rate by a few percentage points, he says. A report by the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group found that more than half of customers who complained to their card issuer about their interest rate succeeded in having the rate reduced.

Yes, call, but expect to be frustrated. I had a small error to straighten out, and rather than write a letter, I rang the customer service line. The problem was cleared up. In fifteen minutes. After I had spent two minutes working through the "enter this information" nonsense to get in. After I had spent three minutes dealing with an agent who was unable to solve my problem and unwilling to transfer me to a supervisor without requesting irrelevant information. After I spent another five minutes getting the supervisor to concede that the agent was in error. After that supervisor asked me to confirm my mailing address (IT'S ON THE STATEMENT. I RECEIVED THE STATEMENT. ARE YOU TELLING ME THE REST OF YOUR RECORD KEEPING IS AS BAD AS YOUR TRANSACTION POSTING?)

I will be forwarding a complaint about the "customer service" functions at credit card companies to the House Committee on Financial Services, should Members be interested in pursuing further abusive practices. I will also report the facts to the Comptroller of the Currency, with the request that the complaint be held for a reasonable time in their files, should the Committee expand its inquiry.