30.5.09

STRAINING CREDULITY. Rick Moran used to post a weekly 24 plot synopsis, until the responsibilities of his day jobs intervened. He recently posted a meditation on the most recent day.
For six seasons, Fox’s fictional action hero Jack Bauer from the series 24 battled terrorists, American turncoats, and stupid bureaucrats with a single-minded determination and fanatical devotion to duty that made him an American legend. His iconic stature in our culture was established in tandem with the war on terror and the war in Iraq — real time events shaping Bauer’s character and the plot threads on the series.
Now comes the Oprahfication of the show?
What’s significant is that for the first time in seven seasons, we discover Bauer actually has a conscience. He may not regret anything he’s done, but he is perfectly cognizant of his transgressions and is willing to pay the price for them. While some may see this as liberal blather (indeed, it is hard to see Bauer saying this in the first few seasons), it shows a growth in his character that makes him seem far more real than the slam-bang action hero in the early days of the show.
But if, as many observers suspect, next year's show will be the last, there are a number of unanswered questions. Several episodes have featured mysterious Americans directing the terrorists, if they're not actually ordering the President of the United States about. One day included Jack Bauer's brother as a leader of those mysterious Americans, with their father either in league with the mysterious or playing some double game of his own. (Both died before they could explain.) And the most recent day ends with a female FBI agent and potential Bauer successor about to demonstrate unpleasant methods of persuasion to yet another mysterious American who has been in charge of several of the previous days' plots. I'm hoping that next season's episode will give her the opportunity to obtain some answers, although something about the very premise that there is somebody in charge bothers me. Tom Clancy fans know the reason: the likelihood of a secret being blown is proportional to the square of the number of people in on it. Yet here we have some powerful cabal, with operatives in every part of the law enforcement and the military, and with Congressional staffers in their pay, and yet more effective than the government. And nobody's considered operational security.

Or, like Dallas, will it all prove to be a dream, with Mr Bauer waking up in a state hospital?
OSKEE-KOWTOW. The Chicago Tribune releases more information about Rezko U's clout admissions.

University officials faced criticism from all corners Friday: Rejected students and their parents questioned whether less-qualified applicants won their spots. Faculty and student leaders said they planned to question administrators. And the spokesman for a national admissions group criticized the university for allowing such a practice to occur.

It's unknown how many of the Category I students would have qualified for admission on their own, but their acceptance rate is higher than the average for admitted students even though the group had lower average ACT scores and class ranks.

That was disturbing news for Stevenson High School parent Howard Teplinsky, whose daughter was denied admission to the U. of I. this year. She plans to enroll at Illinois State University in the fall.

"When it's so competitive to get into the university and there are so many qualified students who are disappointed, maybe their credentials just don't stack up to the person sitting next to them," Teplinsky said. "But to add another perhaps unfair level to the consideration process just is appalling. It's not fair."

The problem, as the Tribune's editorial notes, is that the clout list is one of several thumbs on the scale.
Admissions officers legally can choose applicants on the basis of grades, athletic skills or certain other variables. But have officials defrauded tens of thousands of applicants by hiding from them a shadow enrollment system that secretly penalizes those without clout?
The Diversity Boondoggle gets its special admits, and the athletic program, which has been a candy store for a long time, gets its. Something in the Tribune's concluding paragraph reminds me of Spencer Tracy's concluding remarks in Judgement at Nuremberg: the evil began when you first jailed an innocent man.
And if [Illinois president B. Joseph] White is correct that this sort of thing happens at other public universities, we hope someone will ask tough questions at those schools, too. Students who apply for admission at the U. of I. or elsewhere don’t deserve entrenched and systematic mistreatment from officials they trust to be fair.
That everybody else is following the same orders doesn't change that.

University officials contended that it's not uncommon for selective universities nationwide to receive admissions requests from donors, alumni, friends and others. And although some influence peddling may occur, Barmak Nassirian, spokesman for a national admissions group, said it compromises the integrity of the process.

"The more subjective the admissions process becomes ... the more critical it is that there is credibility with the public," said Nassirian, of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. "Because if the public believes it is a rigged game ... then the whole enterprise might be at risk."

I intend to keep this story in front of people for a while, as it offers an opportunity to question all the other riggings of the admissions game, no matter how dressed up they might be as inclusion or holistic evaluation or rewarding strivers. Too often, it's admitting unprepared students and calling it access. Look closely at the first sentence. Such behavior, on the part of a sports fan approaching a coach, is contrary to the sports cartel's recruiting rules.

The reaction of elected officials is instructive.

While the practice is common among legislators, they don't all do it.

"It's completely inappropriate," said state Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Hinckley), a member of the House Higher Education Committee, who said he refuses to push applicants. "You're being unfair to people who apply expecting an equitable system. It's clearly something that needs to be ended."

Northern Illinois University is one of the larger employers in Representative Pritchard's district. He's certainly in a position to be able to engage in favor trading, and I commend his principled stance.

[Senator Chris] Lauzen (R-Aurora) contends his recommendation of the U. of I. applicant reflected his commitment to good constituent service. The state senator said the candidate, who opted not to attend U. of I. and has graduated from another law school, was highly qualified and deserved admission.

He said the only upsetting parts about Dean Hurd's exchange with the chancellor are her tone in the e-mail and that she said she would remember the favor.

"If it were me, I'd fire her, maybe for insolence," Lauzen said. "If she doesn't believe the person is qualified, she should say no. Instead, she asks for a quid pro quo. Where are her ethics?"

Senator Lauzen is thin-skinned for a politician, and he's been no friend of the state universities. But then, neither has the Democratic establishment. Perhaps somebody in Urbana had intentions of winning over a hostile politician. Appeasing bullies simply induces more bullying.

John Kass's column, which also deals with the Oskee-kowtow, conflates the clout list with the legislative scholarships.

If the Tribune's series on political clout influencing University of Illinois admissions hasn't made you angry enough, try this one:

Kurt Berger is a corrupt former Chicago Buildings Department supervisor now in federal prison for taking bribes. A couple of years ago, he had a problem. It wasn't just the FBI.

In 2007, Berger's son was a student at a state school, as Berger was facing time in the federal pen. The feds shut down his bribe operation, and he needed some extra cash for the tuition.

But he didn't have enough. So he gladly accepted the gift of your cash. That's right, yours. And who helped him to your cash?

Why, none other than state Sen. James DeLeo (D-How You Doin?), the eminent philanthropist.

Under a little publicized program called the Illinois General Assembly Scholarships, DeLeo provided a year's free tuition for the son of the bribe-taker at Northern Illinois University.

The program is available to all Illinois legislators. Each lawmaker receives the equivalent of two four-year scholarships (actually tuition waivers) for state schools every year. Legislators may parcel these out in any way they wish.

That's also true of congressional nominations to the service academies. The difference is that a legislator's recommendation becomes a tuition waiver. Not all nominees to the service academies make muster. (There's something cute in that tuition waiver part: that rules out fees, which at Northern Illinois include a deferred maintenance fee, an athletics fee, and a Convocation Center mortgage fee. Thus the scholarship recipient is on the hook for the legislature's failure to pass a capital bill, as well as for the state government's incomplete attempt, about fifteen years ago, to defund intercollegiate athletics.) Mr Kass notes that the legislative scholarship program is different from the clout list, although it, too, can be tainted.

The Tribune investigative series "Clout Goes to College" -- by reporters Jodi Cohen, Tara Malone and Stacy St. Clair -- has been detailing a different aspect of political influence in higher education. Politicians, lobbyists and university trustees frequently use clout to win admission to the U. of I. for students who wouldn't otherwise qualify.

But what of high school seniors with top grades and exceptional ACT scores who aren't accepted at U. of I. because somebody's somebody who doesn't belong got their spot? DeLeo and his obedient sidekick, state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano (R-Jimmy), are big players in the admissions game. Sunday's "Clout Goes to College" installment shows that in the last five years alone, the two have backed at least 50 students who ended up on the admissions clout list.

That list is called "Category I."

But the one I'm writing about today -- the money part -- also needs a cool name. How about we call it the "We Don't Want Nobody Nobody Sent Scholarship Fund?"

I figure that, for some clout kids, the two lists intersect.

His column suggests it is sometimes the case that the lists intersect. It is not always the case. I have had occasion to write at least one reference letter for an applicant for such a scholarship who had a solid academic record.

29.5.09

THE IVY LEAGUE HAS LEGACIES. The Illini have a clout list.
Hundreds of applicants received special consideration in the last five years, according to documents obtained by the Tribune under the state's Freedom of Information Act. The records chronicle a shadow admissions system in which some students won spots at the state's most prestigious public university over the protests of admissions officers, while others had their rejections reversed during an unadvertised appeal process.
The list serves the same purpose as legacy admissions.
Since 2005, about 800 undergraduate students have landed on the clout list for the Urbana-Champaign campus. It's unknown how many would qualify for entry on their own, but their acceptance rate is higher than average. For the 2008-09 school year, for example, about 77 percent were accepted, compared with 69 percent of all applicants.That's in spite of the fact that patronage candidates, as a group, had lower average ACT scores and class ranks than all admitted students, records show.
I'll keep that in mind the next time somebody snarks about Northern Illinois being where Urbana's rejects go. Some of Urbana's rejects might otherwise have qualified.

High school counselors and admissions experts said letting clout affect admissions compromises the integrity of the university.

"Whether it's [a Rezko relative] or any other kid who takes a spot, he typically takes a spot of someone who is more qualified. That's the part that gets my blood boiling," said Jim Conroy, a New Trier Township High School college counselor. "This is not a private institution. This is yours and mine. Our flagship state university should not be part of any political shenanigans."

Keeping in mind that public higher education has been a political shenanigan. It is no accident that President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act establishing the land grant universities and chose a more northerly route to California for the Pacific Railroad. Blest be the ties that bind. Keeping also in mind that people who get the thick envelope from Harvard probably don't see their future degree as compromised if there are a few Kennedys and Cabots in the endowment entering class.

The response of university administrators is what I'd expect.

President [B. Joseph] White said it's not unusual for selective universities to receive input on applicants from interested parties, and it's important to have a system to track the requests. The additional information can help the admissions office make a more informed decision, he said -- though the university discourages applicants from sending letters of recommendations, saying on its Web site that "sending unsolicited materials can be distracting."

He declined to discuss specific cases, including the Rezko relative, but said: "I would never support admission of a student over better-qualified students simply because of connections and pressure."

Tony Rezko's kin just appeared, a nameless number on a list that was later misplaced.
But the Tribune review of about 1,800 pages of documents shows politically appointed trustees and lawmakers routinely behave as armchair admissions officers advocating on behalf of relatives and neighbors -- even housekeepers' kids and families with whom they share Hawaiian vacations. They declare their candidates "no brainers" for admission and suggest that if they are not accepted, the admissions system may need revamping.
I've learned that Urbana's economics faculty is currently the size of ours 23 years ago, in a university with twice our enrollment. You'd think this favor-trading would have paid off. (Perhaps it has: they'd otherwise have an even smaller economics faculty? We are currently at less than half our faculty 23 years ago, with comparable enrollments.) The clout-mongers have even learned the language of affirmative action.

For example, this spring an applicant described as having "terrible credentials" by the undergraduate admissions office was denied admittance. She sought help from Trustee Frances Carroll, who encouraged her to appeal the denial -- an option not mentioned in rejection letters or any university literature. Carroll forwarded the appeal to University Chancellor Richard Herman and sought his help. The applicant was admitted.

Then, to avoid drawing attention at the applicant's high school, where her acceptance could raise eyebrows, documents show the university planned to wait until the end of the school year to notify the applicant.

Carroll said the Lincoln Park High School senior, whom she didn't know, had a 3.2 grade-point average, participated in many extra-curricular activities and deserved a spot at U. of I. Carroll said she likes to help disadvantaged students who may not understand the system.

Next we'll discover special hard-currency stores where the nachalstvo can get books, closed-class permits, and special tutoring. All part of the system, comrade.

Patronage has become such an entrenched part of the admissions process that there's even a name for the applicants with heavy-hitting sponsors: "Category I."

While some trustees and lawmakers said they didn't realize there was a separate category for their requests, the records showed they needed only to forward a name and a few vital statistics to have the student placed in it.

And many did so without reservation.Trustee Kenneth Schmidt referred to his repeated forwarding of applicant names as an "epidemic" in one 2006 e-mail and asked the chancellor when he could "check up on my crop en masse." Schmidt did not return a call from the Tribune.

Abel Montoya, who oversaw Category I applicants for about five years until he left the university in October, said he watched as denial decisions were overturned.

In a 2008 internal memo, Montoya refers to some Category I applicants as "students who can't get in on their own credentials."

Montoya told the Tribune: "I don't really know the reason or rationale why some decisions were changed. I just knew that it came from someone above, and I wasn't in the position to ask questions."

Mr Rezko knows Mr Blagojevich, who will defund you, which he did anyway, and Mr Obama, who will fire you and put your university in receivership, when he finishes destroying the car companies to save them. Keep a low profile, tovarisch.

At Urbana, however, the rationale is straight out of third grade.

The university denies that Category I candidates receive extraordinary treatment.

But the man who oversees the undergraduate admissions process acknowledges the system's flaws.

"I do try to work very hard to maintain the integrity of the admissions process," said Keith Marshall, associate provost for enrollment management. "The whole Category I process is a bit of a challenge to me, but I don't believe it is unique to this university."

There is good news: the faculty is still able to provide quality control.

The system has affected the quality of the student body, records show. In 2006, the Law School's admissions dean argued that admitting a Category I applicant would require the admission of two additional students to offset the impact it would have on the school's ranking.

"There is no track record of success and when [the applicant] is faced with the rigor of our program there is absolutely no reason to expect anything other than failure," wrote Paul Pless, the law admissions dean.

The faculty has a lot of quality control to do: the story does not disclose whether that student is still in law school.

The article continues with multiple examples of legislative interference, although with 160 cases in an applicant pool of 26,000, the foreclosure of other students' opportunities might be of second-order smallness. On the other hand, once the athletic department's requests and the diversity managers' requests combine in the mix, there is a critical mass of underprepared and disengaged students at Urbana.

28.5.09

AN ESTABLISHMENT, BY GOD, AND NO APOLOGIES. This advertisement is inside the April 26, 1936 New Haven Railroad timetable (a recent acquisition as part of the research for the abuilding model railroad.)


Compare with contemporary thinking about Passenger Rail, in which some of the early debates about Amtrak envisioned no sleeping car or daytime first-class service, as such would be inconsistent with equal treatment under the law, and in which the Acela Express takes stick for resembling an exclusive club on rails.
LAWS OF CONSERVATION. The Congressional Budget Office (.pdf) explains why government-provided health benefits do not provide competitive advantages.

The equilibrium level of overall compensation in the economy is determined by the supply of and the demand for labor. Fringe benefits (such as health insurance) are just part of that compensation. Consequently, the costs of fringe benefits are borne by workers largely in the form of lower cash wages than they would receive if no such benefits were provided by their employer.

Replacing employment-based health care with a government-run system could reduce employers’ payments for their workers’ insurance, but the amount that they would have to pay in overall compensation would remain essentially unchanged. Even though changes to the health care system could have various effects on the supply of labor, the underlying amount of labor supplied at any given level of compensation would hardly be affected by a change in the health care system. As a result, cash wages and other forms of compensation would have to rise by roughly the amount of the reduction in health benefits for firms to be able to attract the same number and types of workers.

Via Greg Mankiw, who warns readers, "This fallacy [the legacy car companies unable to compete with producers in countries with socialized medicine] may well be rearing its ugly, and illogical, head in the days to come." Consider some corroborative evidence: there has been a common market in automobile parts for years, and Canada has socialized medicine. The legacy car companies have not been moving productive capacity to Canada.
MIDWESTERN PRAGMATISM. The right answer for this era, or any era.
When I walked into undergraduate finance classes and asked, "How many want to go get a kick-ass job on Wall Street and make a ton of money?" not a single hand was raised. The students are mostly kids from Wisconsin studying the basics—management, accounting, corporate finance.
Via Newmark's Door, where a commenter quips, "Wall Street doesn't have fish boils or cheese curd."

Superintendent's disclosure: BBA in public utilities and transportation, conferred May 1975, before the College of Business received all those new buildings.
WE'D BELIEVE YOU IF YOU DIDN'T SHOUT SO MUCH. I made time for the premiere of The Goode Family last night. The producers apparently view their audience as in need of a lot of repetition. Do they see their audience as Beavis and Butthead made flesh? South Park does a better job capturing the smug the new show wishes to lampoon. That said, the show ought be required watching for the academy's self-despising near-men and the humorless harpies that marry them.

27.5.09

THE FARCICAL SIDE OF THE COLD WAR. I recently came across an English Russia feature of an experimental jet railcar.



English Russia photo from koblokov.net

The car is the control unit of an ER22 elektrichka with a pair of engines from the YAK-40 passenger jet on the roof.

The article says little about the purpose of the car, which may still exist somewhere in Russia. It was created a few years after the New York Central put a pair of B-36 jet engines on a Budd Car.


Photo courtesy Dark Roasted Blend

The New York Central built the car as a test car, to evaluate the effect of high speeds on track-train dynamics. Both held together at speeds up to 180 mph. The test engineer subsequently wrote a book about it. There's a shorter version at American Heritage. Shortly after the test, New York Central announced a restructuring of its passenger service away from overnight long-distance trains in favor of shorter hauls, up to about 200 miles. The Empire Service of upstate New York is the only restructuring to be delivered. Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, all of which offered comparably close population centers, never saw the augmented service, a decision that had knock-on effects when Amtrak became the passenger train operator, generally offering a reduced service on the existing network.

Although the New York Central's car was a test bed put together on the cheap, and the Soviet car probably also was (or perhaps the Ministry of Imitate and Claim to Inwent First had a hand in it) the French experimented, at about the same time with jet-powered monorails. Here's some English-language discussion of them.

NO SECRETS TO SUCCESS. Book Review No. 14 features Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success. The content is either mundane enough, or tamed enough, to show readers whatever they wish to see. Advocates of the fair go will see the accumulation of small advantages by people already advantaged in the emergence of the current crop of personal computer millionaires (many of whom were born about the same time I was, in neighborhoods that valued intellectual life, with sufficient disposable income to be able to put in thousands of hours programming while their less fortunate contemporaries were throwing newspapers or tending crops) as entranching existing hierarchies. On the other hand, advocates of libertarian social orders will point to the concentration of commercial fortunes established by U.S. capitalists in the 1870s and 1880s as the outcome of a relatively laissez-faire environment subsequently hamstrung by antitrust laws and fiat money.

One message that does stand out, leaving aside the Big Policy Things, is the importance of an environment that does not punish achievement (more Vulcan nurturing and less Romulan yobbishness?) Mr Gladwell correctly notes that nobody succeeds alone, everyone relies on the support of others. I leave to the reader as an exercise the origins of the maxims "Why should we plant, when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?" and "If God does not bring it, the earth will not give it" and "No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich" and "God helps Thofe Who help Themfelves" and the prosperity, or lack thereof, that accompanies those maxims.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)
MORE VULCAN AND LESS ROMULAN? Today's Observation for the Era comes from Ross Douthat with the New York Times.

There’s no necessary reason why feminists and cultural conservatives can’t join forces — in the same way that they made common cause during the pornography wars of the 1980s — behind a social revolution that ostracizes serial baby-daddies and trophy-wife collectors as thoroughly as the “fallen women” of a more patriarchal age.

No reason, of course, save the fact that contemporary America doesn’t seem willing to accept sexual stigma, period. We simply don’t have the stomach for permanently ostracizing the sexually irresponsible — be they a pregnant starlet, a thrice-divorced tycoon, or even a prostitute-hiring politician.

In this sense, ours is a kinder, gentler, more forgiving country than it was 40 years ago. But for half the public, it’s an unhappier country as well.

That "unhappier" reference is to a new NBER working paper by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers (currently pay-only) with the provocative title "The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness." At The Atlantic Business Channel, Conor Clarke suggests the underlying correlation isn't instructive.
A world with less crime certainly comports with my intuitive sense of justice, even if that world won't make us any happier. And if you think the women's movement was just, I wouldn't worry too much about its consequences for happiness.
It's the justice I wish to address. Imagine (as long as we're contemplating black-hole-in-a-bottle and other time travel tricks) a second-wave feminism that asked men to take seriously the concept of gentleman, the way the civil rights movement asked public policy to take seriously the concept of created equal and endowed with unalienable rights. (There would be no snarking at the humorless activist who got angry at a man who held a door open for her, because the humorless activist would save her anger for the batterers, bounders, and cads.)

Perhaps in such a world we would not see the continued navel-gazing about those missing men in higher education.
Research show[s] lower rates of enrollment, persistence and graduation among college men in comparison to college women; the underrepresentation of men in campus leadership positions, in study abroad, career services and civic engagement programs; and their overrepresentation among campus judicial offenders.
And the problem appears to be too much Romulan in the men.
“When we think about acts of violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment on college campuses, overwhelmingly the perpetrators of those acts on our campuses are men. When we talk about how to convince our colleagues that we need to be engaged in these discussions, these are some of the ideas we need to share with them, particularly this last one,” said [Frank] Harris, an assistant professor of postsecondary education at San Diego State University.
The state of the art, however, diagnoses the problem differently.

“The men in both studies really described external pressures to perform hegemonic masculinity,” said Harris. In other words, they felt external pressure to be unemotional, calm, cool under pressure, to be competitive, aggressive, self-assured; to not be gay, feminine or vulnerable.

Furthermore, “It was not manly to put a lot of time and effort into academics," said [Macalester's Keith] Edwards. It’s not cool to study, to read the book: “Sometimes it’s not cool to even buy the book. But you’ve got to ace the test. You’ve got to make the grade,” continued Edwards, who described male students studying on the sly, telling their buddies they were spending the evening with their girlfriends and then hitting the books instead. “The script to be a manly man means you’re good at everything and you don’t have to work at it," he explained.

I want to return to that "girlfriend" reference later, as is suggests the behavior might be evolutionarily stable. First, though, the alleged concept of maleness, which appears to have emerged spontaneously.

Edwards and Harris also reported finding that the students had limited relationships with other men, particularly their friends and fathers, and experienced a loss of self. “It’s sort of for me the most poignant part of all this,” said Edwards. “I lose my authenticity when I pretend I’m someone I’m not.”

“And there’s a loss of humanity when you deny who you really are.”

In terms of strategies and recommendations, Edwards and Harris suggested first giving college men permission to stop performing and to be themselves. “It’s really about creating some kind of balance to the external pressure,” said Harris. “We talk about challenge and support, challenging the negative behavior.”

Perhaps a different environment, one in which serial baby-daddies and deadbeat dads were cads and bounders, not the starting lineup of the Cleveland Cavaliers, might help those young men. So might more Vulcan in the young men.

Rather than postulating Grand Unified Theories of Masculinity, the line of inquiry I think might actually be useful would involve figuring out how to improve the chances that the growing cohort of young minority men on campus will succeed. This is the group with the historically-highest rates of attrition, so the payoff from successful interventions could be quite high.

Going out on a limb, my first guess is that the most successful interventions won't be particularly based on gender. If anything, they'll be based on developmental math. That's where the attrition bloodbath always hits. (Women's Studies has little, if anything, to do with it. Basic algebra is the killer. Attrition is highest in the first semester, when nobody even takes Women's Studies.) Get past that, and all things are possible.

Science and math first, preferably beginning in elementary school. I wonder, though, whether even the Vulcan Academy can get past the power rule that describes the incidence of mathematical talent. Probably easier to force the men to get in touch with their inner girl.
Edwards and Harris also recommended providing opportunities for critical self-reflection about what it means to be a man – “to disrupt the functioning of hegemonic masculinity” – including through facilitated student affairs programming and academic courses (a course in women’s studies, for instance). They recommended a need to build "cultural competence" for faculty and staff in issues of gender. While many in the audience lauded the transformative impact of small group discussions among men, one common point was the need for a facilitator who really understands gender dynamics.
I'm not sure of the logic by which self-organized hegemonic masculinity apparently enabled by girlfriends but not handed down from fathers (who are missing, particularly in underserved populations) entrenches itself, and I'm not persuaded that a bunch of yobs is going to sit in a circle and get anything constructive from a self-despising facilitator, which is depressingly frequently true of the type of academic male who takes an interest in gender dynamics.

It will make additional work for the therapeutic types in student affairs, never mind that it's contrary to San Diego State's speech codes.

And as long as the girls enable the yobbish behavior, nothing will change.
Liberation always included an element of sexual libertinism. It’s one of the few things that made it so appealing to men: easy sexual access to women’s bodies.
That's Linda Hirshman, making some of the sisterhood angry and bringing amusement to 11-D.

The conclusion is left to the reader as an exercise.
LOGICAL. The economics reference in Star Trek was deliberate, although there's more than one interpretation for why it is there.

25.5.09

MEMORIAL DAY. Pause to honor those who put their cookouts on hold in order that you can have yours.

24.5.09

PROPAGATION AND SELECTION. The last time I posted a book review was March 19. I had intended to post a first-quarter summary in early April. Here it is, late May, and no first-quarter summary. (The joys of being a substitute teacher... Admittedly, it was all on-load work, and all in my field, but a lot of it is covering for people who retired or got caught in visa problems.) Might as well put up a few more reviews, and perhaps a first-half summary in early July.

Book Review No. 13 recommends Andrew Roden's The Duchesses: The Story of Britain's Ultimate Steam Locomotives. The Story is not about the usual technical material with engineering diagrams, three-quarter views of each member of the class, and tables of shed allocations. (That's just as well: a recent Backtrack article explained the style and title of the women who were recognized on a few of the locomotives. And people say a constitutional republic is complicated.) Its focus is on the challenges preservationists faced in keeping a few survivors in steam, and the rivalries that have emerged among the crews of those engines. Cheerful stuff.

The Duchesses are some of the Stanier Pacifics of the London Midland and Scottish. Mr Roden characterizes them as Mr Stanier's enlargement of a Great Western King to provide for a bigger firebox and better riding capabilities. Pretty impressive stuff in a package slightly smaller than a Boston and Maine P-4. The P-4 can outpull a Stanier Pacific, although the British might consider it unsporting to compare a stoker engine with a booster to a four-cylinder hand-bomber. (Too bad the Steamtown railroad is relatively short. All that reading about Duchesses on the Long Drag gives me visions of an excursion on Tunkhannock Viaduct.) The Staniers also had speed. Although any discussion of steam speed begins with One, Two, Three, and Four, and ends with 100-105, Britain's Depression era railways had some fast tests and some fast running, and the Staniers held their own, in Mr Roden's estimation better than the Gresley Streaks.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)
PRICES ALLOCATE RESOURCES. A Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist makes an odd suggestion. We must not treat water as a privately owned commodity. Right. Make the ownership so ambiguous that everybody can stake a claim to it and nobody can use it.

Great Lakes advocates cannot afford another diversion - of their own attention from a giant loophole in the [Great Lakes] compact that could render the entire document null and void.

A few voices in the region, including U.S. Rep Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), pointed out that loophole during last fall's celebration. As Stupak noted, the compact could be interpreted (and will be exploited by private water interests) as defining the waters of the Great Lakes to be a product once extracted and packaged. It exempts the shipment of such water from its diversion and export restrictions.

The compact originated from a Canadian firm's proposal in 1998 to export 50 tankers per year of Lake Superior water to Asia. Groups such as NWF worked tirelessly to craft an agreement they hoped and believed would prevent the depletion of the lakes.

But that doesn't mean the compact prohibits proposals to take Great Lakes water. While it is now illegal to export 50 tankers per year of Lake Superior water without permission of all Great Lakes governors, it is perfectly legal to export 50 tankers per year of bottles or other containers holding Lake Superior water.

To put it another way, the compact appears to open the door to wholesale capture of Great Lakes water and its sale for private profit. All of the work that went into crafting detailed rules defining whether and when water should be diverted or conserved is thus undermined.

The specter of large-scale private claims on the Great Lakes is not mere worry. The scarcity of water not only in developing nations, but in the southeast and southwest United States, could make it supremely valuable on an open market. If T. Boone Pickens is buying Texas groundwater in the hope of selling it to parched Texas communities, how long before tycoons snap up Great Lakes water rights?

It's not 50 tankers, but once upon a time several freight trains a day hauled refrigerator cars loaded with Milwaukee beer in barrels to points south, southwest, and west. Perhaps municipal water authorities could price water for use in bottling plants differently from water for use in other manufacturing. Environmental assessments of industrial operations that buy waterfront property in unincorporated areas pose a different kind of problem. The point of a price system is precisely to enable people to calculate the valuations on water. The columnist fails to grasp this point.
Correct the intentional oversight in Michigan and other Great Lakes states' laws that fails to assert water is a public resource that cannot be privately owned, any more than the air can.
Both air and water are subject to pollution precisely because establishing ownership is costly. To say that water cannot be privately owned suggests that metering its use is wrong. Or I don't get the argument. Or the columnist framed it poorly.

There's clarity at Milwaukee's Shepherd Express. Proposed Waukesha Water Rates Encourage Conservation.

Under the revised agreement, singlefamily residences that use less than 10,000 gallons of water per quarter would pay $2.05 per thousand gallons; residences that use up to 30,000 gallons per quarter would pay $2.65 per thousand gallons, and those who use more than 30,000 gallons per quarter would pay $3.40 per thousand gallons. Duplexes and triplexes have a different rate structure than single-family homes.

[Waukesha water utility manager Dan] Duchniak said that the new rates will “absolutely” encourage conservation because many residents are in the middle tier but could easily reduce their water consumption and pay the lowest rate. Duchniak suggested that residents water their lawns only when necessary and fix leaky plumbing to save water.

Lifeline rates, forsooth. Peak load pricing may be next.
LET'S DO THE TIME WARP. The latest Star Trek movie depicts the formation of the original Enterprise crew. You have to suspend judgement about a few fundamentals of the space-time continuum, but it is summer, and it is a move. And if Star Trek made Star Wars possible, perhaps it's not surprising that some Star Wars-like elements make their way into this Star Trek prequel. (Ah, for the days when we could start with Rheingold and wait for Gotterdammerung.)

The movie offers intriguing symbolism for these times. There are well-scrubbed and generally well-behaved Vulcans busy with their studies. Yes, I really did hear somebody say "nonrivalrous and nonexclusive." In the Vulcan academy. In a movie. There are also scruffy Romulans with a black hole in a bottle. (There's an intriguing weapon of mass destruction.) The skinhead haircuts, stubbly beards, and tattoos are straight out of a rough neighborhood. I was waiting for the rumbling bass to blare from the ports of their starship.

23.5.09

IN THE HEART OF 400 COUNTRY. I recently caught a news report about a softball team from St. Mary Central High School in Neenah, Wisconsin. The team name is Zephyrs, and their mascot is a train that would not look out of place in Galesburg (where the teams are called Silver Streaks).


The school is part of the Twin City Catholic Educational System. These Twin Cities are Neenah and Menasha. Why a Zephyr for a mascot, not that I'm objecting?
A REFLECTION ON THE ERA. The Wall Street Journal moves headquarters from Ground Zero, prompting an apt Bret Stephens observation on life in general.
At Ground Zero, there is a pit. With broad slabs of concrete and some rust-colored steel. Testifying to a society in which everyone gets their say and nothing gets done. To a system run by craven politicians and crass developers and an army of lawyers for whom gridlock is profit.
There's thematic material for a freshman cluster in that paragraph, but by the time a curriculum committee got done with it, the icecaps would have melted, if they hadn't covered Minneapolis.

17.5.09

MARKING OFF. High speed railroading as C. H. Bilty and K. F. Nystrom intended. The first two minutes show Hiawathas at the Everett Street Depot, Cut Off, and at speed at Howard Avenue on the south side of Milwaukee.


There's also footage of a meat train getting a wheel out of Freeport, Illinois. The commodities might have gone faster in those days too.
SPEED IS A MILWAUKEE ROAD THING. Instapundit quotes at length from a Tom Vanderbilt essay in Slate inspired by analyzing old railroad timetables.
The trip from Chicago to Minneapolis via the Olympian Hiawatha in the 1950s took about four and a half hours; today, via Amtrak's Empire Builder, the journey is more than eight hours.
I'm glad to see people with a bigger readership than mine recognizing the high speed rail we once had, even if they've souped up the Olympian in the process. Four and a half hours gets you from St. Paul to Milwaukee, and that if you're recovering time.
(It pains me to contrast the Olympian Hiawatha listed on the same page with today's Empire Builder. Olympian off St. Paul 7.10 am, Winona 8.40, LaCrosse 9.15, Tomah 9.51, Portage 10.42, Milwaukee 12.20 pm, Chicago 1.45. Builder off Midway Station 7.50 am, Winona 10.11, LaCrosse 10.47, Tomah 11.28, Portage 12.27 pm, Milwaukee 2.07, Chicago 3.55 including a 30 minute recovery margin Glenview-Chicago.)
Advantage, Cold Spring Shops.
STRENGTHENING THE FORMATION IS A MILWAUKEE ROAD THING. Racine Post columnist Julie Jacob discovers standing room only on the Pioneer Limited.

I have been a daily commuter on the Amtrak Hiawatha since last September. Many times over the past nine months, I have wondered why a $1.9 billion bill to repair and expand I-94 from Mitchell Airport to the state line can breeze through the Wisconsin legislature, but finding the money to increase the number of daily Amtrak Hiawatha trains and expand the service to Madison seems an impossible task for our state and federal legislatures.

I am not an expert on passenger rail service. But I can tell you this: During the 15 years that I lived in Chicago, I often took the Amtrak Hiawatha or Metra train to Wisconsin to visit my family in Racine. Years ago, the Hiawatha and Metra trains were half-empty. Over the years, however, I saw the trains become steadily more crowded as more and more people who worked in Chicago moved to Wisconsin, attracted by the state's lower housing costs and more relaxed lifestyle.

When I moved to Racine last fall, and began commuting daily to my job in downtown Chicago, I discovered that those almost-full Hiawatha trains had become jam-packed trains. According to the Amtrak website, Hiawatha ridership is up 24% compared to last year. Ridership has climbed every year for the past several years, in fact.

The problem she has is there's no Traveler after the Pioneer and before Twelve, and there are no older coaches available to strengthen the formation.

This is what I hear: Wistful comments from the regular who say, “Oh, if only there were another train in the morning between the 6:43 a.m. and the 8:23 a.m.” Or “I wish there were another train between 5:08 p.m. and the 8:05 p.m.” or “Why isn’t there a late night train so people can take Amtrak back after an evening baseball game or dinner or festival?” Or, “Why doesn’t the Amtrak Hiawatha run every hour?

Actually, there once was a train service that ran every hour between downtown Milwaukee and downtown Chicago from early morning to midnight. It was called the Chicago North shore and Milwaukee Road, and for decades the electric train zipped along at 80 miles an hour between the two cities. The North Shore was fast, cheap, and reliable.

The North Shore also had spare cars: they'd strengthen the hourly limiteds with older coaches for commuters or boots at liberty. Those cars would be added southbound and cut northbound at Waukegan. If they had been provided for boots, the cleanup crew faced a busy night.
PUNCTUALITY IS A MILWAUKEE ROAD THING. Professor Munger has been posting stories of his adventures in Bavaria.
The DBahn should have a disclaimer on their tickets, for the sake of full information. To wit: "The traveller should be warned, because of our combination of simple imcompetence and aggressive indifference to your need for timely travel, that you should completely ignore any ticket with a connection of less than 20 minutes. You will not make the connection, because we will probably dawdle and delay without warning or explanation."
That disclaimer is probably on the tickets (or in the timetables) but it's in German. The official Interstate Commerce Commission approved formulation ran
The schedules, fares, and other arrangements in this folder are subject to change without notice. Every effort is made to have all information accurate, but the [Railroad Company] does not assume responsibility for errors in time-tables, or for inconvenience or damage resulting from delayed trains or failure to make connections.
That noted, a twenty-minute connection on a regional railroad ought to be taken for granted. Six minutes on an inter-city connecting to another inter-city is a bit much. But the best timekeepers in railroading migrated to Chicago years ago.

14.5.09

THANK YOU FOR LOOKING IN. Semester's end, summer maintenance. Here's last year's traffic report. It's been a relatively quiet year.


Readership tails off in the summer, but it usually rebounds in the fall. Maybe I'm running out of new things to post.
THEY ARE BEGINNING TO CATCH ON. Trains for America picks up the torch.
We can afford conventional improvements on existing tracks. It is a beginning on a longer term plan. This time last year, nobody would have considered it possible to even have this discussion.
Amen.

The post references a Minneapolis Star-Tribune article that recognizes a fundamental truth.
But even a train that reached only 110 mph would significantly shorten a trip from Chicago to the Twin Cities, cutting the time from roughly eight hours to about 5 1/2.
That's a proposed Milwaukee Road schedule from 1939 (never implemented because neither the North Western nor the Burlington could match it) that involved a reduction of the Chicago - Milwaukee time from 75 to 60 minutes, and another 15 minutes shaved between Milwaukee and La Crosse.

The comments to the post include a link to a Wilson Quarterly article on the Zephyrs. I might have referred readers to it before. It's worth a look.
PENDOLINO PULCHRITUDE. Professor Althouse embedded a Virgin Trains commercial.


The comments suggest Britain's privatization and fragmentation have something going for them. Up to a point, yes. The rolling stock sometimes stays with the current franchise holder, and sometimes it gets repainted, at great expense. The operating companies aren't free of subsidy, either. I don't know if the Inter-City services receive any subsidies, but there are several Passenger Transport Executives (British for Regional Transportation Authority) that purchase service from one of the several less-well-known operators that maintain stables of railbuses.
TAKING POLLUTION TAXES TOO FAR? The mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, seeks revenue from collegians.
The mayor of Providence wants to slap a $150-per-semester tax on the 25,000 full-time students at Brown University and three other private colleges in the city, saying they use resources and should help ease the burden on struggling taxpayers.
Undoubtedly, enforcing the underage drinking code and the noise ordnance uses resources. Paging A. C. Pigou, and all the advocates of helmet laws and smoking bans. On the other hand, it might be fun to see the establishment at oh-so-transgressive Brown discovering the wisdom of "No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unlefs in Proportion to the Cenfus or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken."

(Via SCSU Scholars.)

13.5.09

WHY IT MATTERS. At Minding the Campus, Patrick J. Deneen takes on, once again, the positional arms race for prestige colleges.

In recent years the stakes for entrance to the nation's most prestigious colleges and universities have risen to absurd heights, with students (or, their families) not only now paying significant sums for private school tuitions (or the entry cost into good school districts, namely expensive housing), SAT training, and coaching for application writing, but increasingly specialized services such as student "branding" - in which students (or, their families) hire "branding" professionals to develop a marketing strategy for "selling" a student to the top universities - and even such morally damnable practices as anonymously informing schools about the reprehensible qualities of competitors who apply to the same university. Clearly things have gotten out of control, but there are very few people - whether inside or outside the university system - who are willing or even desire to rock the boat by pointing out the absurdity of the current state of affairs.

The reason for this conspiracy of silence is that the current system benefits those who are best positioned to take advantage of the root causes for these absurdities: namely, families with the background, wherewithal and education to know how to "game" the system, and the elite colleges and universities whose denizens benefit in all sorts of financial and professional ways from their placement at these exceedingly small number of desirable schools.

Read the essay if you wish, for introspection on the grafting of new substance onto symbolic structure. I must react to that accusation of complicity in the existing hierarchy of prestige. It's really very simple. Northern Illinois is in the same business as Northwestern, or as Reed, and it ought to act accordingly. That means offering the more income-constrained or place-bound or ill-connected Illinois residents who come our way the same intellectual challenges their counterparts at the better-known U.S. News-listed universities. To do so, however, requires standards and resources. Judge for yourself. I spent some time exploring the Wesleyan site. Here is Wesleyan's economics faculty listing. Here is the Northern Illinois economics faculty directory. Our enrollment is eight times Wesleyan's, and it attends in two shifts. (And somehow our senior majors do a senior thesis, although we call it by the faddish capstone project nomenclature). Do the math.
GETTING THE FOUNDATIONS RIGHT. The thesis of the day is nailed to Newmark's Door.
This is consistent with my conviction: education, particularly education and a good environment before age 5, as James Heckman has emphasized, should be our focus.
The Habits of Effective People matter. Professor Newmark obtains reinforcement from this abstract (the paper is not yet available even for money).
I emphasize a human capital path, noting in particular, that far too many young individuals attend college without attaining any degree, and I discuss the important role community colleges can play in enhancing the human capital of low-wage workers. In the final part of the paper, I discuss educational reforms at the high school level that target at-risk populations, including a return to vocational education and the rise in charter schools, both of which might offer important opportunities for students to excel in school.
Getting those vocational tracks right matters. This article has been Instalanched. Although the Instapundit points to a paragraph that emphasizes reality's steep grading curve, he misses a more important message deeper in the article.

Among career and technical education instructors and administrators in Tennessee, many proclaim the same message: What we are offering today is not the same shop classes your parents took.

"Essentially, vocational education had a stigma that it was for students that couldn't do," said Knox County Career and Technical Education Director Don Lawson.

Now, the name has been changed from "vocational" to "career and tech" in an attempt to mitigate past stigma and better reflect current offerings, according to Ralph Barnett, assistant commissioner of career and technical education for the state of Tennessee.

More CTE classes now cater to students who are interested in going to college, as well as students who aren't.

For example, at Oak Ridge High School, the health sciences program attracts students who are interested in a wide range of health-related careers, from pharmacy technician work to medicine and dentistry. In the clinical internship class, students get the chance to rotate through field placements.

Regular readers will know what's wrong with that. The schools reported on appear to be getting it. (Face it, you can't send Tennessee's sub-literates to Warren to work in a Chrysler plant any more. It was no accident that they went to Warren and not West Allis to work at Harnischfeger.)

Beginning with next year's high school freshmen, all students will share a set of graduation requirements, including four years of mathematics and taking three classes in an area of concentration, whether it's within career and technical education or another field, like art or science.

According to Barnett, students who complete a three-class career and tech concentration graduate at higher rates than students overall, so the hope is that by making an area of concentration a requirement for high school students, more will stay in school.

A common bag of tricks, and skilled blue-collar or college options. Imagine that.

For all that career and technical education has been expanded, educators are still trying to accommodate students looking to find a job right out of high school.

One aspect of that is training students in high-demand skills like carpentry, welding and cosmetology.

According to Loudon County CTE director Tom Hankinson, high school training in these areas can make a big difference.

A carpentry student "concentrator" who has taken three courses in the subject area should be ready to take and pass a National Center for Construction Education and Research assessment.

Passing that test can mean increased wages and job opportunities in an otherwise bleak market.

Carpentry and welding are demanding trades. Those skills are useful for patternmakers.
LIFE IMITATES TOM CLANCY. Sergei Golovko faxed an intelligence estimate to Jack Ryan.
A Kremlin policy paper says international relations will be shaped by battles over energy resources, which may trigger military conflicts on Russia's borders.
Just kidding, here's the real source.
The National Security Strategy also said that Russia will seek an equal "partnership" with the United States, but named U.S. missile defense plans in Europe among top threats to the national security.
In The Bear and The Dragon, Russia obtains membership in the Atlantic Alliance just in time for the Air Force to lay waste to all manner of Chinese armor attempting to secure the Northern Resource Area. Read the book yourself to see the role of missile defense.

"The international policy in the long run will be focused on getting hold of energy sources, including in the Middle East, the Barents Sea shelf and other Arctic regions, the Caspian and Central Asia," said the strategy paper that was posted on the presidential Security Council's Web site.

"Amid competitive struggle for resources, attempts to use military force to solve emerging problems can't be excluded," it added. "The existing balance of forces near the borders of the Russian Federation and its allies can be violated."

The balance does not, at the moment, involve a United Islamic Republic, the provider of sacrificial tanks in Executive Orders.
PIGOU ACCEPTS QUARTERS. The latest government revenue enhancements include new corrective taxes.
If you make big bucks — or enjoy alcohol, cigarettes and Coke — the government might hit you up to pay for fixing the nation’s health care system.
Leave aside the editorial position inherent in that "fixing". The tax is a standard issue externality tax. Chicago has such a tax on pop by the cup (one reason self-service pop dispensers are rare in city limits) supposedly to cover the cost of emptying the rubbish bins. The article sees the revenue potential.
Still, it’s easy to see why the bad-habits tax was so tempting: Taxing tobacco, junk foods and alcohol could raise $600 billion over 10 years.
There's an attractive technical reason as well. If the goods have relatively inelastic demands, the excess burden of the taxes will be less than that of taxes on more price-sensitive consumption.

The article doesn't go there. It notes that the taxes might be sacrificial decoys, proposed now to be laughed off, before the politicians come up with compromise proposals likely to have greater excess burdens as well as greater illusions of fairness.

10.5.09

WHEN I GET OUT OF GRADING JAIL. The Sprecher is cooling off.
Still, the Brewers finished a gauntlet of 20 games in 20 days with a 14-6 record, allowing them to finally enjoy a day off Monday with the comforting thought of heading in the right direction.
Including two of three wins over a neighboring team.
IT TAKES SOMETHING TO BEAT SOMETHING. An American Thinker post notes that change for its own sake is not always an improvement.

All in all, one would need to be a numbskull not to see banana republic written all over the current administration and its intent.

If asked for a word to describe an Obama voter, there is only one that any sentient person could offer: SUCKER.

You have to wade through even more polemical stuff, the gist of which is the voters are sheep. Perhaps.

On the other hand, the voters had cause to be fed up with what the Opposition had on offer. Mahablog links to some of the Opposition polemics, then summarizes.
Republicans are not addressing these issues at all except to call for continuing the failed policies that created the current reality. This is not to say Democrats will do a better job of addressing these issues, but at least Democrats seem to have a clue.
No, the Democratic message was "Not Bush." What's missing is a real choice, something different from New Deal 3.0 on one hand and Credit Mobilier 4.0 on the other.
ROUTINE KILLS. The operator of a Boston trolley gets too close to the car in advance.

The operator of a Green Line trolley that slammed into a train stopped at Government Center was apparently text messaging his girlfriend when the crash happened, said MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskus.

“Two detectives have interviewed the operator of the train in the hospital and in the course of that interview he admitted to texting at the time of the crash,” Grabauskus said. The crash happened in a tunnel between Government Center and Park Street stations, sending more than 40 people to area hospitals with cuts, head wounds, and neck and back injuries. None of the injuries was life threatening.

We'll know what happened once the inquiries are finished, in about a year. It's possible that the car ahead is usually well into the station, with the follower able to close in yellow for yellow at the intermediate signals. It becomes routine enough that the operator can disengage between stations, devoting full attention to the situation on approach to the station. He gets away with it until, one day, the car ahead is delayed in its block, and he's coming up on an unexpected red.

6.5.09

SAD NEWS FROM WESLEYAN. Lovers' disagreement. Bad ending. Red and Black Cafe. Small campus, extremely active rumor mill according to the comments. Wesleyan is not yet to final examinations. The university cancelled the rest of Spring Fling. The cafe is closed for now.

Stay strong, Wesleyan.
DANGERS FOR PIRATES. Sail clear of:
  1. German supply ships.
  2. U. S. Navy SEALS.
  3. Milwaukee Brewers.
That is all.

3.5.09

MORE REASON TO BE TIRED. The Modern Language Association investigates differences in the time-to-promotion of male and female professors, primarily in English. The investigation stumbles across a fundamental truth.

Women who are married or in marriage-like relationships reported earning full professor promotions after 8.8 years, compared to 6.8 years for men. Single or divorced men or women earned promotion a bit earlier, but still with the gap evident: Single or divorced men earned promotion after an average of 6.0 years, while the figure was 7.7 for women.

Both single men and single women saw their lack of partners as an advantage professionally -- even if this was not their desire personally. The comments that survey participants submitted draw this out. One man said, “Being single and having time to devote myself obsessively to my writing, teaching and service” was the key to his success. A female associate professor said that "the cost of getting ahead professionally has been almost entirely personal. I’m single with no kids; I’ve worked more or less unremittingly for the past six years and my family and friends have not gotten the love and attention from me that they deserve."

I ask again: what is the sound of Atlas, shrugging? In economics, we understand that our Ph.D. is relatively unattractive because of the M.B.A. It takes less time to earn, there's less intellectual challenge, the hours are no better, and the money can be much better.
MORE ON THE NEW SOCIALIST DETROIT AUTOMOTIVE PROJECT. I characterized Our President's stance. "He is chastising some of the creditors for insisting on being paid in accordance with the seniority of the obligations the company incurred." King Banaian elaborates.
Many bought the debt knowing that bankruptcy was possible. They did so under the expectation that the rule of law would apply in America, that their place in line under bankruptcy law was purchased with that debt. President Obama's ire over their unwillingness to give away that place in line -- a place purchased by those endowments and foundations and pensions not for themselves but for students, pensioners and grant recipients -- is an indication that the president thinks his noble ends are superior to theirs.
Mahablog attempts the case that Our President's ends are superior.
The White House strong-armed Perella Weinberg Partners into signing on to the $2 billion deal in order to leave something left of Chrysler to restructure. This in turn will, it is hoped, save thousands of jobs (you’re saving not just Chrysler, remember, but also suppliers) and at least some portion of employee health and retiree benefits. And this is good not just for the employees and retirees, but for the state and local economies in which these businesses are located.
Left unsaid: this is bad for employees of other companies that will not grow as rapidly as resources those companies might otherwise have claim on flow instead to the legacy car companies; this is also bad for younger employees of the legacy car companies, who will have to face yet another round of difficulties thirty years from now. We see the people spared termination notices at Chrysler. We do not see the job offers from employers that never start up. We do not see the tax collections from those businesses, in the states that are more conducive to business than Michigan. Betsy's Page places more emphasis on those losses.
What sort of precedent does it set for future investors if the government starts ignoring the established rules of bankruptcy in order to benefit favored supporters such as the UAW? Who is going to want to invest in the future?
What is the sound of Atlas, shrugging?
WE LOST LESS MONEY THAN NORTHERN ILLINOIS. Thus does Ball State explain away the bottom line from their recent GMAC Bowl loss.

Ball State's bowl expenses fell in the middle for Mid-American Conference schools.

Central Michigan University spent less than Ball State - with a net loss of $67,227 for the Motor City Bowl in Detroit. Northern Illinois University spent more than Ball State - with a net loss of $158,792 for the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.

The University at Buffalo and Western Michigan University did not provide financial records from their bowl games.

The article suggests that Mid-American teams do better with bowl games close to home.

Central Michigan University led the MAC with 12,000 tickets sold for the Motor City Bowl [in Detroit] while the University at Buffalo sold 10,300 for the International Bowl [in Toronto].

Northern Illinois University sold 2,000 for the Independence Bowl and Western Michigan sold 2,000 for the Texas Bowl.

When Ball State played in the International Bowl for the 2007-08 season, it sold a little more than 2,000 tickets.

Perhaps that should not surprise, as the Mid-American universities are regional comprehensives, often serving nearby students with little disposable income.

The article also suggests the arms-race properties of football success.
The extra funds from the bowl payout helped prevent Ball State from losing even more money this year than last year. Without the payout, Ball State would have lost more than $492,000 this year.
The article doesn't spell out what the team would have lost had it not gone to the bowl. The coaches, however, prefer to get a bowl bid, as it means two additional months of (official) practice. Ball State officialdom, perhaps with visions of a mineshaft gap, see spillover benefits from the visibility.

While Ball State spent more than $100,000 to play in the GMAC Bowl, university officials said the cost was well worth the investment."I think the benefits from the visibility well exceed the investment of the dollar figure that you see there," said Tony Proudfoot, associate vice president for marketing and communications.

The bowl game was the eighth nationally televised game of the season for the Cardinals, which greatly increased the university's visibility, Proudfoot said. The added visibility made more prospective students aware of Ball State and renewed alumni involvement, he said.

On campus, the bowl game not only improved the experience for football players, but it also improved the college experience for the student body as a whole and increased institutional pride, Proudfoot said.

The evidence suggests something else.

"I think I can say with confidence that interest in attending Ball State and the quality of students that we are getting that are interested in Ball State and the number of students that are interested in Ball State has grown every year over the past several years," Proudfoot said. "Does our participation in bowl games play a role in that? Yes. Can I quantify exactly how much? No, and I'm not sure that any university could."

From 2002 to 2006, Ball State's applications for admission remained within a consistent range of 9,683 at its low to 10,826 at its peak. Since 2006, though, the university has seen its applications for admission increase almost 20 percent.

However, other universities across the state have seen similar increases regardless of their athletics programs.

From 2006 to 2008, Indiana State University saw its applications for admission increase almost 45 percent - from 5,230 to 7,572. During that span, Indiana State racked up 26 consecutive losses on the football field.

Indiana University, Purdue University, IPFW and IUPUI also have seen a 10 to 25 percent increase in applications since 2006.

"I don't think anybody chooses the college to go to just because they have a football team, although there may be a few, I don't know," [Ball State assistant treasurer Randy] Howard said. "But I do think that maybe a student that hadn't really heard a lot about Ball State and then hears about them, generates some buzz about them and then they started looking and say, 'Wow, they've got a great architecture program,' or whatever.'"

While Ball State's applications for admittance have increased in recent years, the number of students enrolling has decreased.Ball State's enrollment numbers have decreased every year since 2003, according to the Ball State's Fact Book. During the 2003-04 academic year, Ball State had 17,447 full-time students. In 2007-08, Ball State's enrollment decreased to 16,493.

A regression analysis of changes in enrollment would have trouble capturing the effect of the football program in the presence of the recession beginning with the 2008 application season, which induces a substitution toward cheaper institutions, and in the presence of lower birth rates from 1990 onward, which is turning up in college-age cohorts.

Thanks to University Diaries for catching the story.

1.5.09

METES AND BOUNDS. I recently completed a sale of property described as The west 40 feet of Lot x ... . In the 1898 subdivision of the area, each lot had frontage of one chain on the arterial street. The houses and lotlines, more or less, antedated the survey. Thus, the house to the east would have a description resembling The west ? feet of Lot x+1 and the east 26 feet of Lot x ... .

Why chain? Do the math: 80 chains to the mile, 6400 square chains to the section, 640 acres to the section, 36 sections to a township. Thus, 10 square chains to the acre. The "lower forty" is 20 chains on a side, and it's one-quarter of a quarter-section. At the time of the initial survey, a quarter-section would be a good-sized farm.

The system of land measure is intuitive, once one understands it.
Before the age of pocket calculators and computers, surveyors used chain measure to measure land because it simplified the calculations. The length and width of a rectangular tract of land could be measured using a chain measure with the area expressed in square chains. Since there are ten square chains to an acre, the conversion from square chains to acres could be done mentally. Odd shaped tracts of land could be divided into smaller parcels each representing a standard shape (a rectangle, a triangle, a trapezoid, and full or part circle) and each parcel could be measured using a chain-measure. The area of each parcel, in square chains, could be added and then divided by ten to report total acres in the field.
Forget about all those annoying conversions. (Did you know that the wickets of a cricket pitch are a chain apart, that British railways express distances in miles and chains, and that at the Kentucky Derby and any other horse race, a "furlong" is ten chains?) A rod is a quarter-chain.

That's where, I suspect, teaching about measures goes wrong. From the same article:
CONVERSIONS — To convert from hectares to acres multiply
hectares by 2.47. To convert from acres to hectares multiply acres by 0.4047.
This is precisely where middle school teachers lose students. If you're going to teach the MKS measures in science class, simply say "We will use these weights on the balance and these lines on the graduated cylinder and this thermometer and the second hand on this stopwatch" and turn the students loose. The equivalences can come later, or not at all.

I sometimes suspect that a lot of pushback against MKS as the default standard (it is the legal standard) of measures in the United States came when Major League Baseball put those home run distances to the nearest decimeter on the fences. 315 becomes 96.0 and more than a few beer-swilling widebodies in the stands developed instant flashbacks to misery in science class. (As an aside, ten chains is 201.2 meters: might the French survey that gave us what became MKS have prerevolutionary antecedents?)

The author of the article on land measurement appears to have been indoctrinated by his middle school teacher.
HECTARE — In the metric system the standard unit of land area is the hectare. A hectare is 10,000 square meters. Ten thousand square meters to a hectare is an intuitive quantity. It is easily remembered, measured and computed.
That's the usual line of middle school teachers, Europhiles, and related lowlifes. Ten thousand, however, is no more intuitive than 100, and keeping track of four zeroes is a bit more challenging than keeping track of two. (You've also got to keep all the deci- and centi- and deka- and hecta- prefixes straight.) I wonder if a French strip farm (and there are a few of those in the surveys of the Midwest, established before Independence) approximates one-fifth of a hectare, ten meters along road or river and 200 meters back? Commentary on the implied pulling ability of a yoke of French oxen is left to the reader as an exercise.
MAY DAY. First, comrades, a musical interlude.




We next recognize a comrade of long standing. Singer Pete Seeger celebrates a 90th birthday. Another comrade hails him as America's Teacher.

The January concert at the Lincoln Memorial celebrating the inauguration of President Barack Obama offered many stirring moments, but perhaps its highlight was Pete Seeger leading a chorus of hundreds of thousands of people singing "This Land Is Your Land." This is where Americans expect to see Pete Seeger, raising his voice for change, even when it’s cold outside.

Seeger has been singing folk music for change for more than 70 years now, sometimes in the middle of storms, sometimes causing them. Defiantly leftist, pacifist, and for a decade or so, Communist, Seeger has embraced almost every major reformist cause of the 20th century.

That is, if one ignores lowering marginal tax rates, introducing tradable permits for pollution, calling on Comrade Gorbachev to tear the wall down, putting the public pensions on an actuarially sound basis, or deregulating the railroads as reformist causes.

It is no accident that the author is raising his own red diaper baby.
These days I like getting my daughter, KC, into the same room with Pete Seeger whenever possible. My theory is that hanging around with incorruptible people is a character builder. KC’s first Pete Seeger concert was a 2007 benefit. Pete walked on stage that night after being introduced, and hundreds of people popped up to give him a standing ovation before he sang a note. I've been talking to KC (who was then 8) about that ovation in the months since, about how the audience was saying "Thank you for living your life the way that you have, and for making the choices that you did." I’ve suggested to her that getting an ovation like that is better than being rich, since you can't buy it. What better reward is there for a teacher?
It is also no accident that the columnist is a professor of literature.

Reason's Hit and Run addresses the false consciousness, with questions about the cult of personality.
In honor of yet another Pete Seeger birthday, a roundup of previous Reason pot-shots at the cuddly old commie's politics, awful back catalog of NLF ballads, and his difficult 2007 decision to denounce Josef Stalin.
Gosh, that's growing in old age, to come to a conclusion that Leon Trotsky might have reached around 1927. But perhaps "America's Teacher" is not completely wrong. It was Mr Seeger who convinced me to give up on All Things Considered. It was not a difficult lesson at all. On Labor Day, 1990, the program let Mr Seeger close it by singing The Internationale. Let's do a quick rewind: during the summer and fall of 1989 the Hungarians, Poles, East Germans, and Czechoslovakians saw off their Communist masters. The Roumanians used more extreme measures around Christmas of that year. All Things Considered's coverage of these major reformist causes was amusing: the reporters had to cover it, because it was newsworthy, but the reporters didn't sound too enthusiastic, and the five-minute pieces with interviews of insurrection leaders and guitar music that regularly came out of Latin America in those days never originated from Poland or Hungary or Czechoslovakia, this despite the rich musical traditions of those lands. Letting Mr Seeger close the Labor Day broadcast epitomized denial. That's why radios come with tuners. Adios, All Things Considered.