Friday, December 31, 2004

Outta there! 

Viktor Yanukovych, still pursuing legal challenges of his defeat in the Ukrainian presidential election, has announced he will tender his resignation as prime minister.

"I have made the decision and am formally submitting my resignation," he said in a televised address.

However, Mr Yanukovych refused to admit defeat in the country's re-run presidential election, which was called for Western-leaning Viktor Yushchenko. He is preparing an appeal to Ukraine's Supreme Court.

"We are still fighting but I don't have much hope," he said in his New Year's Eve address.

His threat of going into "harsh opposition", I predict, will fade to black in short order. The whereabouts of his compatriots is still unknown.


I'm off to write the last set of charitable contribution checks for 2004. Captain Ed is proposing your first check for 2005 should come January 12th for World Relief Day for the victims of the tsunamis in Asia. Join him, Mitch, the Fraters and me in contributing generously for this worthy cause.

For those in need of deductions still for 2004, you can drop your dollars at World Vision right now.

Qualified and credible 

Henry Farrell has started a debate on whether the blogosphere can replace the MSM and about whether the blogosphere is full of "slavering right-wing hacks". Instapundit and PowerLine, whom I will guess Farrell considers part of that group have responded. I need to tell a story to get to my point, centered around an observation I made at lunch yesterday.

This struck a chord because of a conversation I had yesterday with a regular lunch partner, a fairly mainstream liberal Democrat (which is to say, among our faculty at SCSU, he's a saner part of the dominant paradigm.) He has been confounded by my blog and radio-hosting because to him I'm not the Republican he envisions. He comforts himself thinking I am libertarian and that therefore I must not also be Republican. (If he reads this, he will be truly disconcerted by that last sentence.) He had read Coleman's swipe at Powerline and wondered if I knew those guys. Of course, I said, we're on the same show and in the same alliance. He confessed at that point he simply doesn't get blogs.

Now, this guy is smart, very smart. He reads a great deal. He is not argumentative by nature but he's quietly passionate about his politics. And he knows no more about blogs than I've told him, even though he and I are about as close as I am to anyone in St. Cloud outside my family. No curiosity to explore further. Smart people are curious by nature, so this struck me as odd.

As we were walking back to the office, I pointed out to him a flyer. It is titled "Share the Love" and its purpose is to suggest behavior that confronts racism and homophobia. The flyers are all around campus. They are a little reminiscent of Soviet-era posters to exhort workers to forget the fact that they are cold and hungry and make more tanks. But this one contained the following bullet point.

Be informed. Don't accept stereotypical characterizations and beliefs. Read reliable sources and talk to qualified persons.
I asked my friend, what is the meaning of that last sentence? Who decides who are reliable sources and qualified persons? I am not trying to ascribe ill intent to the writer of this flyer; I am saying that this is an odd thing to write. It seems to suggest that you can't trust sources other than those already accepted, i.e., the MSM.

He gets information from MSM because those conform to his views. We all watch news through the filter of our beliefs and experiences. The blogosphere exists as a phenomenon because for many MSM reporting causes dissonance with our filters. Of course, that explanation is also there for Fox News, so to me there must be more to the explanation than that. And I think there are two other demands of the information market that bloggers meet which even a network like Fox does not.

Blogs have always had two purposes, and not necessarily to watchdog the MSM. That is a byproduct of the other two functions. The first, so wonderfully illustrated in Rathergate, was the Hayekian dissemination of specific knowledge. My own Instalanche centered on specific knowledge of Ukraine. I disagree with Reynolds that "Big Media organizations have an enormous advantage in gathering hard news" unless he means the first AP reports from places like Aceh about tsunamis. On that he'd be right. But blogs get a huge payoff for gathering a piece of information that helps shape stories other bloggers and the MSM are gathering. It does so in an efficient fashion: Spontaneous order occurs because those blogs able to gather good information draw eyes, Technorati rankings and NZ Bear love. In contrast, the marginal value to an MSM organization of getting a particular piece of data is small; ad rates and subscriptions will not be affected by coverage of one particular story nearly as much. As the mainstream media comes to understand that order in the blogosphere, it will rely on blogs more and more to help with the information gathering -- rather than compete, there will be some desire for cooperation between the blogosphere and the MSM. See, for a current example, the reliance on Sharkblog's coverage of the Washington governor's race by the Seattle Times. I think this absorption will only grow.

The other purpose, though, is more insidious to this discussion, and that is to assemble and analyze the information gathered. Powerline's advantage in the Rathergate story wasn't just that it had good readers providing information about IBM Selectric II's but also that it has three writers of high quality able to assemble and present the information in a persuasive manner. One of the great advances in macroeconomics, rational expectations, was first written about by John Muth in 1963, but it took another eight years for someone to write about it in a way that economists could grasp.

My personal problem with mainstream journalists, as a profession, is that they are badly trained in economics. Let me give you an example of a good one: James Gleick, longtime science writer for the New York Times, actually understands the science about which he writes. My field has practitioners who use chaos theory, but none of them explained it to me in the way Gleick did. He created none of the research, he only explained it in a way intelligent people outside of physics could understand. Good journalism should be able to do that. (And Gleick is certainly not conservative.) I do not see economics writers who provide that same thing on a reliable basis in the MSM. In the blogosphere there are quite a few, though. Enough that I don't feel the need to add many articles to the 'sphere in that area.

The blogosphere reduces the cost of people who are able to write such stories reaching a market. It is full of "qualified and credible" people, and full of unqualified and not-credible people as well. Just like the MSM. Caveat lector.

Written without any idea what Hugh wrote, because Amazon is pokey and some of us don't get comp copies. Ahem.

Why floods? 

I have the bad habit of talking back to my car radio, which usually has on talk or sports talk. (Littlest thinks I'm nuts, but I'm sure this is not the only reason for her belief.) The other night I'm flipping through channels and someone is guest-hosting for Savage, and callers are talking about whether the Asian tsunamis shake one's faith in God. I, a proud Armenian and consumer of Ararat brandy, am fairly screaming at the radio "Noah's ark, you idiots!" A much more articulate answer comes David Hart. The paragraph that strikes home:
Perhaps no doctrine is more insufferably fabulous to non-Christians than the claim that we exist in the long melancholy aftermath of a primordial catastrophe, that this is a broken and wounded world, that cosmic time is the shadow of true time, and that the universe languishes in bondage to "powers" and "principalities"--spiritual and terrestrial--alien to God. In the Gospel of John, especially, the incarnate God enters a world at once his own and yet hostile to him--"He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not"--and his appearance within "this cosmos" is both an act of judgment and a rescue of the beauties of creation from the torments of fallen nature.
I recall Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions and think that the conflict even exists among Christians. One of the items I am thinking about right now for long-run development of my thoughts and faith is how to reconcile Sowell's "constrained vision", one based on Hayekian or Friedmanite principles, with such thoughts in the church as a "theology of abundance" or Martin Luther's two kingdoms and antipathy towards reason .

But I see no reason to believe that the tsunamis prove anything about God or His love. Just as after the Flood, there will be rainbows after the tsunamis. 7.5 million of them, and growing.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Blowing a wrong note 

In yet another article on how conservative students are making liberal faculty lives harder, I find these paragraphs:
Once, it was liberal campus activists who cited the importance of "diversity" in pressing their agendas for curriculum change. Now, conservatives have adopted much of the same language in calling for a greater openness to their viewpoints.

Similarly, academic freedom guidelines have traditionally been cited to protect left-leaning students from punishment for disagreeing with teachers about such issues as American neutrality before World War II and U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Now, those same guidelines are being invoked by conservative students who support the war in Iraq.

To many professors, there's a new and deeply troubling aspect to this latest chapter in the debate over academic freedom: students trying to dictate what they don't want to be taught.

"Even the most contentious or disaffected of students in the '60s or early '70s never really pressed this kind of issue," said Robert O'Neil, former president of the University of Virginia and now director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

That seems wrong to me. Many Vietnam-era protests were directed against ROTC programs on campuses, which is "trying to dictate what they don't want to be taught." Those protests were "really pressed" on many campuses by taking over buildings and staging sit-ins.

Nor do I really understand the difference between asking for balanced treatment of the issue of American involvement in Vietnam and asking for balanced treatment of the issue in Iraq.

Articles like this one conflate an image with reality. David Horowitz and the Academic Bill of Rights carries an image that the MSM and liberal critics encourage of trying to silence anti-American speech. The article uses this case from Students for Academic Freedom and says the facts are in dispute. But there is little dispute that a faculty member in the music department is teaching "peace studies" and talking about economics and political science. That explains, for example, the cover of this pamphlet. The school is supporting this faculty member without addressing that concern. (They only say he has a doctorate in "higher education" and that he's taught "peace studies" before.)

It's not really a question of academic freedom. The questions here should not be viewed as legalistic, which to me is a continuing problem with ABOR. It is a question of whether the professional ethics of a faculty member should include an attempt to provide balance in the classroom. What conservative faculty are calling for is a re-assertion of those ethics.

It isn't the right that is calling for speech codes. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education owes its existence not to calls for suppression of free speech but to its encouragement.

(Hat tip: Scholar Jim.)

Are we being too harsh? 

As Joe Carter notes today, the blogosphere has been almost united in its criticism of ankle-biter-in-chief Nick Coleman's attack on PowerLine. One voice in the wilderness has been Penraker, who suggests NARN has baited him.

Nick Coleman is a very small, very unusual man. But his rantings did not arise in a vacuum. There is a reason and a history behind his spewings.

The Northern Alliance took after Coleman with a particular zest. They have savaged him for weeks on the air - and it sure seemed personal to me. (I don't have transcripts, but I remember thinking "Why are they ripping this guy a new one in such a personal manner?"). If I recall correctly , they called him a coward, etc. As far as I was concerned, they went a little too far. Coleman is probably not worthy of much respect, and he probably let his ego start the whole thing - But if you are doing things right, you retain a certain minimum level of respect for even the nuttiest liberals. All human beings deserve a minimum level of respect - even Star Tribune columnists. The Northern Alliance shifted into a juvenilely mocking tone whenever discussing Coleman.

So it's not surprising to see they have pushed him over the edge into pure insanity.

A few points need addressing. Has NARN gone after Coleman? Sure we have. Part of the third hour of every show is media criticism. I call it Mediot of the Week; Coleman could retire the award in my opinion, even in a city with some real competition from his wife or any regular writer of the City Pages.

Is it unfair to characterize Coleman as a coward? He has been invited to the show several times. Up to this month he ignored these invitations. This month he says he "might consider" being on if we pay for the interview with a contribution to Maxfield School. Paying for interviews is a poor policy and we do not do so. His voicemail to Mitch Berg, which I heard, was genuinely vile in my opinion. And then he sends an email suggesting he might wish to sue us for making false statements about him.

That makes all the more interesting his editor's statement to Big Trunk at Powerline yesterday, when Scott called to ask how the StarTribune could print Coleman's fact-free piece.
Among other things, the editor advised me that Coleman's attack on us involved no reporting, and that the column's factual misrepresentations were to be read in that light. Moreover, certain of the misrepresentations were to be construed as sarcasm rather than taken at face value.

Now I've been accused of being irony-challenged, but since the beginning of all this folderol was the sarcasm practiced in the Newspaper Newlyweds, in return for which Coleman is smearing the wrong people (at least his wife sort of got it right), the StarTribune's defense of yet another ad hominem attack on Scott and John strikes me as, well, ironic.

(UPDATE BELOW MODIFIES THIS PARA.) As to "juvenile mocking", I suggest Penraker simply read Fraters. Their on-air style fits their blog style. They are who they are. We have different styles, and that comes through on the show; some of us are lawyers, some are academics, and some are younger than others. That melange works on-air for reasons I still don't fully grasp. It is not at all surprising, though, that when we go to the topic that touches FL most, we go into their style. Listen to us talk about Ukraine when I sort of control the discussion, and the tone is different. So what?

As I do not live in the Cities and do not read the StarTribune because it's irrelevant to me, not because of my disgust with its editorial policies, I've tended to stand on the side of this debate. (There are certain writers in the St. Cloud paper about whom I could bloviate mightily, but since nobody outside central MN reads that paper, who would care?) But given what I've seen of Coleman's behavior here, and the apathy with which the STrib's editorial board editors deal with personal attacks on Powerline, I'm not sure I can muster up much in the way of minimal respect for Coleman. I will try, certainly, particularly if he should drop his demands and come on our show with no preconditions. But you have to get respect to give respect, and I'm still waiting to see if Coleman can show any.

UPDATE: I've received a bunch of email about this story (for those who aren't familiar, the address is comments at scsuscholars dot com). First, some suggest I've agreed with Penraker over the comment on juvenile mocking. I wrote that paragraph poorly and have to say that I agree with the criticism. I profusely apologize to The Elder and Saint Paul for my mistake. They have a different style and use more satire -- heck, they're just funnier than I am -- and that was the point I was trying to make in that paragraph. But I completely disagree with Penraker that their pieces are juvenile. Nor would I call the on-air presentation this either.

Second, Linda Seebach, a writer at the Rocky Mountain News (and, IIRC, a former MN Daily writer) writes that because Coleman is a metro columnist and not on the editorial board, so that he's not edited by the editorial board as I suggested. I apologize for that misstatement; in his post Big Trunk says he spoke to "Coleman's editor" and it was me that read that for "editorial board". Thanks for the correction, Linda!

Another one goes missing? 

Reader Ron C notes in a comment that Serhiy Tihipko, Yanukovych's previous campaign manager, has come up a cropper too. Again from Maidan, a Yushchenko press outlet:

Information circulating in Kyiv is not joyful and is unpleasant for Tyhypko himself and for Ukrainian society.

An important and influential person actually has disappeared, and is not in contact with anyone. There are rumours of his death, of an attempt at suicide, and of him being in critical condition. There is an absence of clear refutation from Tyhypko himself, although logically this should occur, and obviously Tyhypko would be obligated to do this at least in regard to the reputation of his TAS-Bank.

...As of now, we have information that a few days ago Tyhypko tried to leave Ukraine with false documents. He was detained at passport control, but was released when he was recognized at the former head of the National Bank.
Who knows what this means; just because a guy doesn't return calls and doesn't respond to rumors does not mean necessarily that something bad has happened to him. But with the loss of Kirpa and Lyakh and the disappearance of others like Stasiuk and Bakai, one can't help but wonder if there's a pattern to it all.

UPDATE: Yanukovych loses last appeal 

According to Maidan, he's out.

Today, December 30, 2004, civil court judges of the Supreme Court of Ukraine dismissed the last of the four complaints filed by Yanukovych about the violations that, in his opinion, occurred during the re-voting held on December 26, 2004.

Today, civil court judges of the Supreme Court of Ukraine who were deciding on the case filed by Yanukovych reached a decision for the case to be dismissed and returned to Yanukovych. In his fourth complaint, Yanukovych disputed the election campaign rights, election funding, provision of public measures before and during the election day.

Particularly, in its statement, Supreme Court of Ukraine established that complaint filed by Yanukovych does not contain clearly stated claims about the inactivity of the Central Election Committee. Also, Yanukovych did not explain in his complaint what actions established by the legislation of Ukraine are supposed to regulate organization and implementation of the presidential elections in Ukraine. The complaint also does not contain suggestions on how to reinstate rights and legal interests of the petitioner.

Down to his last strike Struck out 


Captain Ed notes that Viktor Yanukovych has lost most of his appeals in the Ukrainian courts and before the Central Election Committee. He has one appeal still before the Supreme Court; he also will be able to appeal the CEC's decision.. From Radio Free Europe today

The court refused to review complaints alleging that the Central Election Committee failed to enforce voting law and failed to ensure that all disabled voters received home-voting rights.
Since it was that law that was challenged and changed over the weekend, the significance of this decision by the court is great. It too deals with procedural issues rather than evidence of actual fraud at the ballot boxes. His CEC complaint as well was a broad-brush attempt to paint the process as flawed. The CEC and its territorial subsidiaries are mostly interested in hearing of specific examples, so that particular tactic was unlikely to go far.

(UPDATE: From the last graf of the NYT this morning, quoting Yanukovych's campaign manager:
"We can predict what will happen," Mr. Chornovil said. "No solution in our favor will be made.")

I think we are witnessing the death throes of Yanukovych's political career. But there's more intrigue happening; another post coming on this today.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Let a pro handle this 

Spitbull says the Northern Alliance blogs have not announced the next gathering of the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers.

Guess I should change that.

Where: Keegan's Irish Pub.
When: January 22, 5-9pm.
Why: To toast Nick Coleman disguised as an empty chair.

Pray for weather warm enough for outdoor cigars.

My opportunity costs of blogging and chairing 

Somebody has written the book I wanted to do.
South-Western, a division of Thomson Learning, proudly presents Economics in the Movies. This collection of twenty film scenes highlights many important economcis principles, theories, and concepts. will help you learn core ideas through the magic and power of film.

Here's a demo from The Family Man. How they missed the shareholders meeting in Other People's Money is beyond me.

I still want to do the book looking at economics in 18th and 19th century literature.

Taxing bags, and bags for a fee 

John Palmer wonders whether a 17 cent tax on plastic grocery bags in San Francisco is efficient.

I'm all in favour of considering user fees when an activity imposes negative externalities, but this seems extreme. First, I'm not sure how big the externalities from grocery bags are -- where I live, most people recycle the plastic grocery bags, and it is difficult to think of re-cycled bags as meriting a user fee.

Second, I suspect the price elasticity of demand for plastic garbage bags is so high that a 17-cent charge is much higher than the efficient charge. My ad hoc observations from stores that charge only two cents per bag is that LOTS of people bring their own bags when they go shopping.

We have a per bag fee for putting out garbage in St. Cloud; a green, labeled Hefty costs $2 each. This has encouraged a great deal of recycling, and more than a little searching by some for dumpsters at apartment buildings and businesses. A couple of grocery stores which have you bag your own groceries sell tote boxes; these are not very popular items as best I can tell.

The other thing I notice is that most people here do not choose plastic. Paper bags dominate when choices are offered. The bags are used by people to sort recycling ... and as bags for garbage to put in the green $2 trash sacks. I suspect that where the option is offered, paper will dominate plastic in SF too; the elasticity is probably quite high.

My favorite comment of the year 

Maybe of my lifetime.

It is somewhere close to the year anniversity since I began reading your blog every day.

I have decided that one major reason I keep reading is your total lack of a sense of irony.

Michael, thanks. I've been giggling for two days about it. Ironically, of course.

A few Ukrainian notes 

Some scattered thoughts:

Tulip Girl has linked to Amy Ridenour's piece on Kateryna Yushchenko, which is excellent. One of TG's commenters asks why we keep referring to her as Kathy Chumachenko, and that's because that's how Ridenour knew her and how I knew her. It was common for the local workers in our office in Kyiv to call her Katya, and Kateryna would be how you translated her name to Ukrainian, just as my Armenian friends will sometimes call me "Takavor" instead of "King" (though it's rather silly, since the name is from my non-Armenian mother's side of the family.) But to suggest that somehow Kathy is not engaged in her husband's campaign is to misunderstand her. When I worked with her -- when she is described in her post as having trained a number of economists at Yushchenko's national bank, I was one of the trainers -- she opened doors for me to be successful without imposing herself in the work. (There was resistance to training -- too long a story to get into here.) The one criticism I ever heard of her was that she was too much a "true believer". I thought it was pretty neat that a western advisor actually thought of the concerns of the counterpart country Ukraine as much as she thought of those of the USA. So when TG replies that she's seen very little of Kathy, I can only think that she's working the same quiet effective way she did when we worked together. Who exactly do you think is helping to write those opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times? Maybe not her pen, but I'm sure her voice.

The squirrelly Yanukovych apparently played hide and seek with protestors, who are trying to keep him out of government offices while he still acts as prime minister. Kuchma is cooperating by suspending the acting PM, which allows Yanukovych to resume duties, "as a matter of principle" in his words. The appeals on the repeat voting from Sunday are at the Supreme Court, with one appeal already thrown out. There are reportedly three more to be considered. There are rumors that Yanukovych may quit, and another that the rest of the cabinet met in a different building (if it's the one I think it is, that's at least half a mile from where the blockade was supposed to happen). It appears the blockade is of only one person, however.

If all goes well for Yushchenko the inauguration will be January 10th or shortly thereafter. As I noted before, the calendar interferes, with Orthodox Christmas a week from tomorrow.

Scott Clark has more speculation about the Kirpa "suicide". Dan McMinn has links to some great articles in Zerkalo Nedeli with analysis. Dan's links are the best way to see them all. Go there.

Last, Terry Rogers:
The Orange Revolution proved the old saying that freedom is when the people can speak, but democracy is when the government listens.

Media advisory 

I will be on the Ruth Koscielak Show at 1:35 CT this afternoon talking about Ukraine for around 15 minutes. Not exactly CNBC, but a guy's got to start somewhere. Attention Radioblogger...

The homeless are still shivering... 

...because Nick Coleman is still obsessed with attacking bloggers. Powerline responds twice, and Captain Ed follows suit. Two quick thoughts: First, Coleman keeps confusing Powerline with Fraters Libertas, which is good for FL. Second, if Time gives an award it never gave before in Blog of the Year, and an award it never announced it would give, wouldn't it be "unpredicted" by definition? Just wondering.

I thought it was pretty neat we got under his skin, but we now clearly have Coleman's undies in a twist. That's more cool than words can express.

Does it occur to anyone else that Nick is now riding on NARN's coattails rather than the other way around? Year of the blog, fool!

UPDATE (12/30): It occurred to Chris Muir!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A pattern emerges, or, it's dangerous to be around Yanukovych these days 

An article in the Kyiv Post suggests that Heorhiy Kirpa's death reported yesterday could be connected to another death of a high-ranking official in a party aligned with losing candidate Viktor Yanukovych.

Yuriy Lyakh, chairman of the Ukrainian Credit Bank founded by Presidential Administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk, died on Dec. 3 after allegedly using an envelope opener to inflict fatal neck wounds. ...

In a live televised interview on Dec. 27 with television station Era, Our Ukraine deputy Mykola Tomenko said the deaths could impede investigations into illegal activities related to the 5-month presidential election campaign. Tomenko added that Kirpa and Lyakh could have served as key witnesses in investigations into financial wrongdoing by President Leonid Kuchma�s regime.

On Dec. 28, Tomenko called upon President Leonid Kuchma to provide protection for three figures that have been influential in recent years: Medvedchuk, former head of the Presidential Administration's department of affairs Ihor Bakai, and Volodymyr Satsiuk, former deputy head of the State Security Service (SBU).

Tonight we learnd that Bakai has been relieved of his duties and is reported to have fled the country. Satsiuk was sacked ten days ago. I'm guessing he left no forwarding address either, given what's happened to his compatriots. Satsiuk, you may recall, was the person reported to have hosted the dinner where Viktor Yushchenko was allegedly poisoned.

A report on Maidan details some of the possible abuse of Kirpa's position with the state railway.

UPDATE: I'm glad I didn't read this with coffee:
I've heard reports that Kirpa died from multiple gunshot wounds. In which case, these suicide reports will be like something from the files of Police Squad -- "He was stabbed in the back 28 times. The worst case of suicide I've ever seen. . ."

Weird thought of the day 

Now that he's lost the election for president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych has returned to be prime minister. He was voted out by parliament, but under the old rules the order had to be signed by Kuchma, who has let him take this "holiday" instead. Yushchenko has called for a reinstitution of the blockade of government offices.

The over/under number for Yanukovych's duration in office is seven days. I might move that out a bit because Orthodox Christmas may intervene.

Words our campus needs to hear 

Freedom of speech that does not embrace the right to offend is a farce. The stipulation that you may say whatever you like so long as you don't hurt anyone's feelings canonizes the milquetoast homily, "If you can't say anything nice. . . ." Since rare is the sentiment that does not incense someone, rest assured that in that instance you don't say anything at all.

The concept of religious "tolerance" seems to be warping apace these days, and we appear to forget that commonly one tolerates through gritted teeth. It is rapidly becoming accepted social cant that to "tolerate" other people's religions is to accord them respect. In fact, respect for one's beliefs is gradually achieving the status of a hallowed "human right."

I am under no obligation to respect your beliefs. Respect is earned; it is not an entitlement. I may regard creationists as plain wrong, which would make holding their beliefs in high regard nonsensical. In kind, if I proclaim on a street corner that a certain Japanese beetle in my back garden is the new Messiah, you are also within your rights to ridicule me as a fruitcake.

From Lionel Shriver, in today's Wall Street Journal.

Trust but verify AP courses 

Another excellent Jay Matthews column, this time covering carefully a study on whether advanced placement (AP) high school courses help students succeed in college. The answer is not terribly surprising. From the study,

AP is increasingly emphasized as a factor in admissions, particularly at selective colleges and universities. But while student performance on AP examinations is strongly related to college performance, merely taking AP or other honors-level courses in high school is not a valid indicator of the likelihood that students will perform well in college.

That is, if you don't verify that a course has truly prepared someone for college, it's not likely that the course has transmitted something that is in fact preparatory.

Most AP courses include the best students, and students will be counseled into those classes, so there is the real possibility of there being a third factor that moves both success on AP exams and success in college. Matthews makes an excellent point about whether we could in fact generalize anything about the usefulness of AP (or International Baccalaureate or IB) courses for students of more modest talent levels.

...we cannot learn much from this study about the effect of AP and IB on the chances of average or below-average high school students graduating from college because there are almost no such students in the Geiser-Santelices sample. UC campuses accept only the top 12 percent of California high school graduates, the A and high-B students who are not the least bit average. Those students have already gotten, in many cases, good doses of the college trauma necessary for them to graduate when they get to the university of their choice, and many are skilled and motivated enough to get through college even without that extra high school preparation.

But as Geiser and Santelices make clear, there are an enormous number of average students who are not in their study, but who want to go to college, need that high school preparation and are, nonetheless, denied even a taste of those challenging courses. The study looked at the 117,650 college-bound seniors who took the SAT I test in California in 2002 and found that 54.9 percent of them, a total of 64,577 kids eager to get to college and graduate, had been given no AP, IB or honors courses -- that's right, zero, nada, none -- either because such courses were not offered by their
poverty-stricken high schools or because they were tracked out of such courses by their clueless high schools. Mike Riley, superintendent of the Bellevue, Wash., schools, called this fact "perhaps the most significant in the study. Kids heading to college without a college-prep high school program are headed for failure."

If I had a dollar for every time I had a student in my principles of economics course who said "I cannot understand why I am getting a C- with you, because I got nothing but A's and B's in high school," I could retire today. What predicts success at any school isn't grades but verified performance in classes that are preparatory for college work. My son got great grades in high school math but he was not tracked into AP courses and thus was not prepared for college algebra. It was a shock to him to find out he wasn't prepared.

In California, where the study was done, grades in AP carry an extra point in determining GPA, so that on a nominally 4-point scale the average score of an admitted freshman to Berkeley was 4.31. That may need to be re-adjusted in light of this study.

For those interested locally, SCSU has the policy of accepting AP for college credit if one takes a 3 or better on the AP standardized test. So we do verify for use in college credits, but we do not adjust GPAs. Admission is on the basis of either class rank (top 50% are eligible) or scoring 25 on the ACT or 1140 on the SAT.

One-way dialogue 

Powerline reports on an article in Commentary this month on the Palestinian Solidarity Movement conference at Duke University. PSM has been known to be, um, less than agnostic about terrorist attacks in Israel, with one of its organizers confessing a desire to "strap a bomb to his chest and kill those Zionist racists," and another to openly support the intifada.

None of this was of concern to Duke president Richard Brodhead. He found the decision to host the pro-terror organization to be "an easy one" given "the importance of the principle free expression." It is true that after the PSM's statements and deeds were spelled out in detail for Brodhead, he modified his position. Now the "deepest" reason for hosting the conference was no longer free speech, but "the principle of education through dialogue."

The dialogue, as Adler and Langer show, was a one-sided and darkly anti-Semitic affair. Keynote speaker Mazin Qumsiyeh (a Yale professor of genetics) presented a short history of the virulent Zionist "disease." Israel was pronounced "racist" and a greater abuser of human rights than South Africa in the days of apartheid. One speaker defended the terrorist acivities of Hamas. At a workshop, Huweida Arraf of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) urged students to join her group, which she acknowledged cooperates with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and offered them tips on how to enter Israel surreptitiously. Thus, in the name of dialogue, did Duke University assist in the recruitment of accomplices to terrorism.

Duke's own coverage lauds the fact that the conference went off peacefully. As if that were the only issue. One wonders how much additional "dialogue" has occured since then.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Riding the rails in Ukraine 

Nothing is ever straightforward in CIS countries like Ukraine, and the reported death of transportation minister Heorhiy Kirpa is a beauty. Kirpa is suspected of helping shuffle around the voters that helped stuff ballot boxes back on November 21. Captain Ed calls it the suspicious "suicide" of a Yanukovuch supporter, but Orange Ukraine says Kyrpa wasn't a supporter any more. Yanukovych reported responded with a swift kick in the family jewels. He was also upset that Kirpa had allowed so many protestors to reach Kyiv and the Maidan. Foreign Notes says the kick was a little higher, up in the mouth.

So we cannot be sure if perhaps this was revenge, covering tracks for electoral fraud, suicide, or even distress over financial difficulties around its supposed revitalization of the nation's railways.

Diversity credits as a threat 

Our students are required at SCSU to take nine hours (out of 120 required for graduation) from a set of courses labeled "diversity" credits. We have several nice study abroad programs, including a popular one at Alnwick in England. Faculty teaching in the program think that studying abroad should count as part of one's cultural diversity and that they should get diversity credits. The diversity warriors, however, don't believe this is the proper understanding of diversity.

During the debate we had on the discussion list last week about Christmas decorations, the current director of the program -- a position which rotates each year and this year even between the semesters -- reacted to the post supporting the no-decorations position with a simple "Bah, Humbug!" Miss Median, who can't help putting her foot in it even from Arizona, responded with a threat.

What does this mean? The SCSU British Studies Program has recently claimed that students doing studies abroad under their auspices ... should receive "diversity" credits for at least one course (the original request was to eliminate all three (9 credits) MGM requirements).

Does the director of this program understand or not understand the meaning of valuing diversity? --and if not, I'm wondering how much cross-cultural education that merits such credits students participating in study abroad in Britain do acquire.

Power really goes to some people's heads, doesn't it! If you do not agree with her view of Christmas decorations, you must not ever teach diversity in the way she approves, so your students must be required to undergo remediation in a manner of her choosing.

Here's how she chooses.

Tsunami strikes: Women, Minorities Affected Disproportionately 

Dave Huber:
Got "Crossfire" on while surfing ... guest "on the left" host Al Sharpton asked an earthquake expert about the tsunami that hit southern Asia: "Is global warming somehow involved?"

She won't be majoring in women's studies 

At another regional state university, transfer student JMPP is looking over her list of student groups to see how to make friends.

The Vagina Club. Hey, I have one of those! But, is it for vagina owners, or vagina enthusiasts? Or perhaps vagina owners who are also vagina enthusiasts? Let's see what the club description says:

"To provide an empowering, positive environment for women. To have a place for women to talk about current issues, and have them understand that they are not the only person to share certain views."

Hmm. Pretty vague. Also, I wonder what these "certain views" are that I'm supposed to share with my fellow vagina owners?

You know, though, I think the focus of The Vagina Club is a little too broad. I'd really prefer to specialize more. Fortunately for me, there's Tampaction!

"The Tampaction Campaign aims to eradicate the use of unhealthy, unsustainable tampons and pads, institutionalize sustainable alternatives into our schools and communities, and infuse healthy attitudes surrounding menstruation into our culture's consciousness. We're letting the world know that bleedin' can be everyone's issue. In doing so, we work to destroy patriarchal taboos, end environmental degradation caused by disposable tampons and pads, and promote vaginal and menstrual health."

I really hope they schedule their club information tables for AFTER the lunch hour.

I wish she had transferred here instead. I would be happy to get this woman ready for graduate school.

(Hat tip: Michael Munger.)

Watch what you say, dear student 

Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy wonders whether students know faculty read their blogs.
If you are a student and you blog about a professor, you should always assume that the professor will read the post and will know who you are. Even if you blog under a pseudonym and don't refer to the professor by name, you're probably leaving enough information behind to identify the professor and yourself. Even if you keep your own identity secret, there aren't that many professors out there: particularly critical or juicy posts are likely to lead to someone recognizing the professor and tipping off him or her to the blog. The professor may then take some effort to figure out who you are. You may never know about it, either: I know professors who regularly read their students' discussions of class on their blogs, and don't want the students to know it.
I have a similar problem, as students now tell me they listen to NARN. One came up to me on Monday last week and said how much he enjoyed listening to the David Liss interview with Trunk, Mitch and myself, and that he was a fan of Liss. This student and I exchange reading ideas often. Well, I never heard of Liss before Trunk set up the interview, but afterwards I mentioned it to my family, and Littlest went and got me A Conspiracy of Paper as my Christmas gift. I opened it up last night, and it's great. (I guess I'll have to buy Blog for myself. I hear it's pretty good.)

I have some alumni blogging (like Liz at A Blonde Moment -- it appears Kevin Ecker has stopped blogging) but I do not know of any of my own current students' efforts. Will Baude seems not too concerned about students blogging about professors and classes, because much of what is said in a private conversation with a student eventually gets around to the rest of the class. He's right, and sometimes we use that to send a signal to a class without making a public statement. I assume what I say as a department chair gets around to the rest of the faculty when I say it to some of my department members; others are known to be tightlipped. Good chairs and good faculty know the difference between them. Likewise on our campus, people know that what gets said on a faculty discussion list could show up on, say, this blog. Can we say some discussion is off the record? I suppose if it's in my office, but if you put it up on a discussion list you're stuck. (And yes, I have a new one today coming up.)

So if you are a student at SCSU, and if you have a blog, we're looking out for you. And it's not like you can say anything about me I haven't heard before. Or even printed myself.

A fond memory 

A friend from my National Bank days sends me a photo from the past. This was my sending off from Ukraine in November 1996. The woman second from the right is the then-Kathy Chumachenko, now Mrs. Katya Yushchenko. At that time she was the country manager for KPMG, for whom I worked that year. (John Fund has a nice article about her in OpinionJournal today.) The only fellow I do not recognize is the guy to the right of Yushchenko, who I thik was translating for him that day. The rest of them are all people I worked with or for.


It'll take a while 

We have about 99% of the vote in now, and as I had guessed we're at 52-44 Yushchenko -- the tightening with from the late counts in eastern Ukraine have now come in. Here are the official results, while Hotline is suggesting a few extra precincts counted. There will be a period now in which Yanukovych's people will challenge the results. Ukrainian Supreme Court Justice Stepan Havrysh has suggested that the Central Election Committee not certify the results until these appeals are heard. The law is pretty strict in Ukraine on how long Yanukovych has to file, but we can be pretty certain the appeals were ready even before the voting started, given the flap over absentee ballots. Scott Clark has a story from Donetsk of voter poisoning -- an obvious slam of Yushchenko's own case.

On the Ukraine List, Dominique Arel points out that most of the gains for Yushchenko come from increases in votes and vote share in his strong areas; Yanukovych felt declines in his regions that were never more than 3%. Dominique worries that this is a sign of increasing polarization. I don't think any comparison of vote totals in the regions is valid, since falsifications of the ballots were so widespread. Yushchenko's people think fraud still occurred against him. Or it may very well be that this latest result mimics the previous results sans fraud. But we'll never know. Yushchenko's best course is to not bring out fraud allegations, defend where possible the results as they are, and get his election certified.

I'd expect little movement here for some days yet.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Yushchenko opens a big lead 

Le Sabot Post-Moderne is live blogging between Yushchenko and Yanukovych headquarters. He reports here on a press conference by Yushchenko's campaign manager that indicates 80% of those approached by exit pollsters are answering this time compared to 25% in the first runoff. This may explain why the three exit polls reported give Yushchenko between a 15% and 20% lead.

Latest results from the CEC, reported by UNIAN: 25.4% of votes counted, Yushchenko up 58-39. (The remainder will be either spoiled ballots or votes for none of the above.) These are consistent with the exit polls. I'll check back periodically through the evening on results and kick this to the top as needed; I'll post other news from Ukraine between times.

UPDATE 1: Neeka says you can check the official results here, in English. She's got good pictures too. a nice picture of Yushchenko voting with his children.

UPDATE 2: 5:34pm CT: At 1:34am Kyiv time: 39.6% of the vote counted, Yushchenko still up 57-39.

UPDATE 3: 6:43pm -- Only narrowing a little: 57-40 with 54% of ballots counted. While you wait, TulipGirl has some greatest hits of the Orange Revolution going on. Go read.

UPDATE 4: 8:50pm 75.6% votes tallied, Yushchenko is still up 15% (55.6-40.6), according to UNIAN (in Russian.)

UPDATE LAST: 11:50pm, 92.25% of votes counted: Yushchenko 53.53% (14,150, 096); Yanukovych 42.69% (11,286,006).

Yushchenko's dioxin poisoning lasts for years 

And that's just the part we'll be able to see on his face:
Viktor Yushchenko has recovered enough from poisoning with a highly toxic chemical that, if elected, he should be able to serve as Ukraine's president, but he will need treatment for months if not years, his doctors and foreign experts said.
Still, they caution, his illness is virtually one of a kind, caused by ingesting a highly potent form of dioxin called TCDD. Under such circumstances it is difficult to predict with great certainty the course of his recovery, and most of the treatment he will need is at least somewhat experimental.

...The popular opposition candidate, who is still suffering from disfiguring cysts that cover his face, will need long-term treatment for his skin, Zimpfer said, since this condition, called chloracne, tends to persist for years.
He will need to take drugs to help his body get rid of the dioxin, which is normally deposited in the body's fat cells, and he will need close monitoring for cancers and abnormalities of fats in his blood - all aftereffects of the poisoning, Zimpfer added.
I've been wondering how his body can process and dispose of all that dioxin. Apparently, none of us can know the answer to that. And Yushchenko got a dose of TCDD that was pure, not put into some compound like normally you'd find this in environmental settings.
"There is no way you could get this kind of pure TCDD level from an accident - it's incredibly high," said Dr. Bharat Chandramouli, a dioxin expert at Eno River Labs in Durham, North Carolina, which tests samples of soil and water in the United States for the chemical.
Chandramouli added that TCDD is such a concentrated toxin that an amount smaller than a grain of salt could produce the levels found in Yushchenko's blood. This tiny amount would presumably be tasteless and odorless. Since TCDD dissolves readily in oils, the poison could be slipped into food, Chandramouli said.

Yanukovych's campaign sort of concedes 

The head of Yanukovych's campaign is now saying that Yushchenko will win, but that the victory margin will be small.

The final results of the Ukrainian presidential elections of December 26 will end with Viktor Yushchenko's victory, but the margin between the candidates' ratings will be small, said head of Viktor Yanukovych's headquarters Taras Chornovyl.

Chornovyl told a press conference on Monday morning that the work of many regional elections commissions in eastern Ukraine was halted due to the absence of the Our Ukraine bloc's representatives.

This, Chornovyl said, allows the Central elections commission to publish preliminary results of the voting that indicate there is a big margin between the candidates.

It's hard to see what difference it will make, though, as with 87% of the vote counted Yushchenko is up 54-42. Closing, like I thought before, but not by as much as I thought. The lead is more than 3 million votes with about 24 million counted so far. Four Yanukovych regions are still with plenty of precincts still to report (including Luhansk, Crimea, Mykolaiv and Odessa) but I will guess the spread comes in around 51-45 or 52-44 when it's all done by morning our time.

I'll hit the CEC site one more time before turning in later tonight.

UPDATE: A member of the CEC already agrees with Chornovyl.

"Today it is fashionable, stylish and beautiful to be a Ukrainian" 

LSPM and Orange Ukraine are heading to what looks right now to be a victory celebration in Maidan Nezhelemosti: Yushchenko has told them to assemble there in about ninety minutes.

"The first news is - it is done," Yushchenko said in his HQ on Monday morning. "It is a victory of the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian nation," he added.

Yushchenko noted that a new political year is beginning in Ukraine. "The era of Kuchma, Medvedchuk and Yanukovych is going away, a new era of great democracy is beginning. Dozens of millions of Ukrainians dreamed about it. Today it is fashionable, stylish and beautiful to be a Ukrainian," Yushchenko said.

Yushchenko thanked "free journalists for letting the whole world talk about Ukraine."

You're welcome Viktor, but don't count your victories before they're official. Cautious horilka in the meanwhile. The lead is below 16% (55.9-40.2) with 63% counted. And I don't trust the buggers not to try a little surprise at the end.

UPDATE: Abdymok has photos of fashionable, beautiful voting.

UPDATE 2: I guess Yushchenko gave his speech early; LSPM and Orange Ukraine report the crowd thinning at Maidan and a little silliness. I suppose at this stage denouement is a good thing.

"I think I won, I know I won, but if I lost..." 

That's pretty much what this article (in Ukrainian) on Yanukovych's press conference says. From a translation:

"I am expect to win, but if I lose, I believe that by now I have been sufficiently convinced that it is impossible to negotiate with people who have no morals and do not follow the law. That is why - no negotiations, if I lose - "harsh opposition" - he stated at a press conference at his Kiev headquarters.

Yanukovych stated that his opponents will "learn what opposition really means"

He emphasized that due to the changes to the law on the elections and as a result of the Supreme Court decision which came in too late, many people have not been able to use their right to choose/vote.

In his opinion, "the elderly, who are literally classified as not people by this law, who built this country, and thanks to whom we have the country as it is today" have been deprived of the right to vote.

"Let such a humiliating situation as well as alleged cases of "dead" people voting stay on their consciousness" - he said.

Yanukovych could not say how many people could not vote. "I am unable to count how many people were not given a chance to vote today, but this number is high" - he said.

According to him, his team does not yet have "hard evidence, [but] only hearsay".

Given the data I show below, the suppression level, if it exists, isn't high enough to change the results at present showing.

Al Gore could not be reached for comment.

Early returns likely to favor Yushchenko 

One thing to note in the electoral results by regions: the first precincts reporting are likely to be more pro-Yushchenko than the country as a whole. With 30% of the vote counted (and with Yushchenko holding still an 18-point lead) only 7% of Luhansk has reported, an area that went heavily for Yanukovych last time.

So expect that lead to close some as the evening progresses, though the question will remain how big a turnout in Donetsk and Luhansk will be, and the extent to which Yanukovych's people are going to claim vote suppression there.

UPDATE: Turnout overall this time (station readings from 8pm local time): 80.9% on November 21st, 76.9% this time. There will be claims of suppression, but 77% voting looks pretty darn good to me, and the difference could be accounted for by the allegations of ballot-stuffing last time. I'm kicking around the CEC website and drawing some comparisons in the regions. Compare these numbers to the maps I posted last month.

Pro-Yanokovych regions
"Oblast" Turnout Nov.21 Turnout Dec.26
Donetsk 96.7% 85.7%
Luhansk 89.5% 83.1%
Kharkiv 78.1% 73.9%

Pro-Yushchenko areas
"Oblast" Turnout Nov.21 Turnout Dec.26
Lviv 83.5% 83.3%
IvanoFrankivsk 82.4% 85.3%

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Last-minute change in Ukraine could disrupt polling 

The Constitutional Court has invalidated some of the restrictions against absentee voting in Ukraine. As Brendan Koerner pointed out, absentee ballots were at the bottom of many voting irregularities in the second round on November 26th. They believe 1.5 million extra absentee ballots were introduced illegally. The new law said that absentee voting certificates would be severely restricted, and homevoting would be limited to those with serious and permanent disabilities, and fixed the ratio of absentee ballots to those cast in polling stations. It appears from this report on Maidan News that this is the part that was ruled unconstitutional. Many other restrictions are still in place. I'll update with whatever more I find on this.

This is clearly a pro-Yanukovych move by the court. The result of this decision, coming the day before the election, is likely that there will be court appeals of the results regardless of who wins.

UPDATE: I am reading a translation of the law, and I believe this is the section that was invalidated.

Article 6.1. Voting outside the premises for voting shall be allowed only for
the disabled individuals of the 1st group, who can not move by their own. A
handwritten application for providing a voter with a possibility to vote outside
the premise for voting shall be filed with a polling station commission together
with a copy of a disabled individual's certificate certified in accordance with
the established procedure or a certificate of an expert medical commission no
later than on 12 AM of the day before the polling day.

2. Two members of the polling station commission representing different candidates shall organize voting outside the premise for voting. It is prohibited to use more than one mobile polling box at the same time.

I do not believe the limits on the ratio of absentee to paper ballots were lifted by the law, but I haven't seen anything more than news reports to this point.

Glad we measured up 

Littlest Scholar reports that she got the best gifts this year overall. Given the letter she sent to Santa, we better hope so.

We've been laughing about this for weeks. She's already into graphs -- must be an economist's daughter.

Hope your Christmas is everything you wanted, too.

Friday, December 24, 2004

She's locked in 

Littlest Scholar -- who at 10 still believes in Santa -- is holding out on Mrs. S's computer tracking Santa. She swears this year she'll stay up all night and track him to St. Cloud.

More Christmas tree assaults 

Penraker has the story of tearing down Christmas trees at the University of Illinois. The assistant housing director there is quoted, student complained about one of the trees. The issue was also raised by an employee in a housing staff meeting and an employee on the housing division's multicultural committee, both of whom noted that "the trees maybe weren't quite as inclusive as we wanted them to be," she said.
"We do want create a festive atmosphere in the dining halls this time of year," she said. "Some things that one person might consider secular, another might find meaning in. I don't want to be the decorations police, but we want everyone to feel comfortable in our spaces and that's the most important thing."
The Christmas tree debate raged again this week at SCSU, where a faculty member wrote to the campus list about his attempt to get greenery back into the student union building.
Pine boughs are not religious. Fir trees preceded Christianity. The display of such greenery is a regionally appropriate response to the bleakness of winter. If we eliminate our culture�s aesthetic displays, we will be left with nothing to decorate Atwood�s walls but commercial displays, and those are, I assure you, ready and waiting to fill such a vacuum.
But to no avail, and when one faculty member posted this story from Australia there was an outpouring of frustrated Merry Christmasers and one killjoy.
Has it escaped the discussants that each of the writers have suggested including everyone, but have highlighted or concluded with "Merry Christmas?"
Has it occurred to the writer that there are no restrictions on wishing someone Happy Hannukah or Happy Kwanzaa? Do you really want me to believe that a housing director somewhere would ask a Jewish student to take down a menorah because it make some Christian student "uncomfortable"?

Ukrainian view from Poland: slanging match between Putin and Kwasniewksi 

I've not spent much time thinking about Ukraine this week but this morning I got a translation of this article in Ukrainska Pravda, which is an intriguing interview with Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski from the Polish paper Polityka. Some selections with comments follow.
Q: Why were they looking to negotiate?

AK: They were confused. Both sides were in a risky situation for themselves. Uushchenko, backed by thousands of people on the Square, had no legal support. The only thing was that he was the opposition leader. The official results stated that he had lost the election.

Kuchma's situation was exactly the reverse. The fact that he was the acting president did not matter - Kuchma could not even get into his own office, he could not go anywhere, he was locked in some recreation facility in Kyiv's suburbs. Of course, the snowy park he was is beautiful, but I told him: "If you are stuck in the middle of nowhere, it means you have no power."
The effectiveness of the blockade against Kuchma has not been cited enough. The place in which he was isolated was about thirty minutes from the presidential headquarters, but he was effectively frozen. The virtual collapse of the economy surrounding Kuchma could not be stopped until the blockade stopped. Kwasniewski notes that since it was a spontaneouls blockade, there would have to a political solution. This political solution was complicated by the actions of the Russians and, interestingly, the Germans.
AK: I had several phone conversations: With Netherlands' Premier Balkenende, with Chancellor Schroeder, whom I constantly keep in touch with, with Czech President Klaus, with Austria's Chancellor Schussel, Chirac heard me out with interest and said important words: "Good luck, Aleksandr."

Q: What was Schroeder's reaction? The German sources are saying that after your conversation he called Putin, and Putin's response was firm - Yanukovych won the election, period.

AK: The first conversation was quite cold. I asked him, using his good connections, to explain to Russia that it is unacceptable to take such a firm and uncompromising position - it will lead to nothing good. We needed Russia to resolve this conflict.

Q: How about the US reaction?

AK: Washington has long been assisting us, it's been interested in Ukraine, probably it's been more interested in the democratic part/aspects of Ukraine since it didn't work out between Washington and Kuchma. I told Bush I needed his public support, which would give the mission more weight. Naturally, Bush, on his way to Canada, made a public statement saying that he was supporting my actions.

Q: Aren't Americans playing a double game? When Bush meets with Putin, he is using a different language, to say the least. After all, Russia is America's strategic partner.

AK: I understand the US President, but I am also trying to have good relations with Putin. Yet, I also know that for every great power Russia without Ukraine is better than Russia with Ukraine.

Q: That's the Polish thesis.

AK: No, it's the American thesis. Why would it be geostrategically interested in Russia having Ukraine within its sphere of influence? Russia is restoring its position in the world, and it's normal. Yet, why let it have control over 50mln. Ukrainians?
Why indeed? This remark appears to have infuriated Putin, and the slanging match that results should be fun to watch. It appears at last that Putin has decided to accept reality and work with whomever wins Sunday. Perhaps statements like this from President Bush has helped focus Putin's mind on the pressing issues. And Putin has fired back:
I repeat, we are not going to annex anyone. That is the first point. Second, if this is read as a wish to curtail Russia's scope for developing its relations with its neighbours, it means a desire to isolate the Russian Federation. I do not think this is the purpose of American policy, although we will have a meeting with President Bush, it is scheduled for the near future, in the New Year, and I will certainly ask him if this is really the case. If it is, then the position on Chechnya becomes more understandable. This means that there too they are following a policy to create elements rocking the Russian Federation.
Back to the Kwasniewski interview:
Q: Were Yanukovych's people refusing to admit that they had falsified the election?

AK: The first meeting with Kuchma was dramatic. Can you imagine - meeting the President of a large country, in the middle of nowhere? He was blaming the whole world, everybody, for everything that was going on. The election was not rigged, and if it was, then it was the US� well, the US was the focus of the meeting. There are falsifications in the US, their elections are not perfect either, what do you want from Ukraine?
Let that be a reminder to those who want to muck around in elections in Ohio and Washington that their examples are being watched and used for all manner of electoral fraud overseas. Though it now appears Yanukovych's people were hoisted on their own petards.
AK: Then, Gryzlov (the Russian representative of Putin) took the floor, he had before been the Interior Minister in Russia: according to him, the protests had been pre-planned, they were a provocation, the protesters are being paid. Secondly, Russia believes that the election was fair. The Central Electoral Committee announced who the winner was, period. Thirdly, in the US there were falsifications both four years ago and now. He was very involved discussing this last point. ...

Q: In other words, did Yanukovych agree with [waiting on the Supreme Court's decision to revote]? So easily?

AK: In that discussion his only support was from Gryzlov. Yet, he had earlier fallen into two traps, which was pointed out to him at the roundtable.

First was his own statement that in Western Ukraine elections were also falsified. Yushchenko submitted 700 appeals regarding violations in Eastern Ukraine, and, in response, Yanukovych submitted 7700 appeals from Western electoral districts. As a result, we had 7700 complaints, which meant that the election had been unfair.

The second trap was the following: if he believes that he had won, and that the election was fair and he gained a million votes more than his opponent, then what is he afraid of? Of the re-run? Yanukovych responded that he understood everything, but legally speaking the decision regarding the election results could not be changed.
Dino Rossi won't be so lucky in Washington, I fear.

Two other clips that are quite telling.

Q: Why did you need the second roundtable discussion?

AK: The main question was whether to have the re-run of the whole election or only of the second round. The government believed hat it should have changed Yanukovych for another candidate who could be able to take votes away from Yushchenko and who would not talk about separatism - the issue everybody was afraid of.


Q: Since everything was clear after the second roundtable discussion, why did Kuchma [subsequently] pay a visit to Putin? Was it a smoke screen?

AK: It was despair.
With Yushchenko holding somewhere between a 9 to 14 point lead in the polls currently -- a little more than what he had in the previous runoff -- Kuchma's despair may come to an end soon.

UPDATE: Le Sabot Post-Moderne makes the good point that Yanukovych could win by losing, because if the parliament stands as it is today he could end up the leader of a relatively united opposition force. Kuchma would have no supporters left in the parliament. Discoshaman notes that Koochie's people aren't standing still.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

(Some kind of) College for everyone, (eventually) 

Let me give a view from a different kind of institution than those of the two principals of this debate, David Adesnik and Matthew Yglesias. First a little economics: We know that if we add more of one input like higher education to an economy it will be subject to diminishing returns. That's more likely true in an industrialized country like the U.S. Increasing the share of GDP we spend on economics by 1%, by best guesses, would increase output by less than 0.3%. Adding more education is likely to reduce that return, just as was found by Alwyn Young for the Asian tiger economies ten years ago. I wrote last year that the returns to education in the U.S. are also probably falling to those who take the courses.

More thoughts at Cold Spring Shops and Shot in the Dark. In the latter, Mitch talks up vo-techs, which work for many people at first. I had this discussion with someone writing an article for MnSCU on how the system could help with jobs in manufacturing. The problem is that training for a particular job allows you to get ... a particular job. My son is learning to be a chef, and I suppose that's a job that will always be there, but the nature of jobs will change regardless because economies evolve. You would think my job is the same as when I became a professor in the mid-1980s, but I'm doing most of my work now on a laptop with a wireless connection sitting in a coffee shop or in my basement. In general vocational education will help with training for jobs that exist now; they are much less helpful with jobs that will occur. I tried to impress in that interview that there's a need for people to be trained for a flexible set of potential tasks.

If we're to "college-educate everybody" it is going to be at places like mine, and a school that pays lip-service to critical thinking while engaging in indoctrination isn't going to be much more help than technical training. Students still think reactively, waiting to be told how to fix a term paper to get an 'A' (of course they should all have 'A's, it's good for their self-esteem!) rather than exploring the boundary between knowing and ignorance. Mitch argues that we should "Encourage more of our society to seek further development of everything that makes them a person - their minds, their skills, and whatever it is that drives them." But I don't know that we are doing that here or at technical colleges.

Does re-sorting reduce the deadweight loss of Christmas? 

John Palmer has some great thoughts on re-gifting. There is a fairly well-known article by Joel Waldfogel in the American Economic Review that showed that giving Christmas gifts destroys 13-18% the cost of purchasing the gift (that is, the value to the recipient is about 13-18% lower than the price the giver paid.) John explains this here, and there's an older Economist article with the same thought. An article in from India has a very different take, citing other pieces that consider show an increase in welfare from giving. Waldfogel continues to argue his case using newer surveys.

Waldfogel also found that the gap between price and value to recipient is much greater between family members than between friends. In John's piece one of his correspondents refer to this as peer-relationship gifting, which is done with a "grim resolve". I had this happen the other day as I was trying to buy gifts for my nieces and nephew. All live back in my hometown in New Hampshire, and I see them no more than once a year. How to not destroy value? I confess that this is the year I broke down and bought a couple of gift certificates when I did not have the info enough to select something specifically. On the other hand, a friend and I who love Susan Tedeschi led to a gift of the new Austin City Limits show recording -- I was the giver, and it was more fun to watch him find a CD he didn't know about than anything else.

As my son's godfather always says, cash offends no one. And the proliferation of those gift cards that beckoned to me at Best Buy earlier today indicates that many people use them. But I think John has the last and best point:
I can remain civil and pleasant to someone who gives me a fruitcake (especially if I'm able to "regift" it), but if I receive something that adds to my utility, I'm pleased, especially if it is something for which (unlike Justin) I wouldn't have wanted to spend the money but which I am delighted to receive (e.g. an expensive bottle of bourbon). Furthermore, even though I know and teach the indifference curve analysis about how giving cash is better than giving subsidies in-kind, I still want some people to know how much I care for them, and I can signal that by, as Nicholas indicates, showing that I care enough to select something that will add a lot to their utility.
Bourbon is always welcomed here, btw.

Running in place 

Finally got the grades in for my senior thesis students, but now have to deal with all the kids' Christmas shopping. I'll blog tonight and tomorrow morning -- see you then.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Public funding versus public provision 

Craig Westover responds again to the Maxfield School debate (as discussed here Monday.) The important part today is his distinction between public education and school choice:

In short, "public education" is education in the public interest. It is a "public good" in the sense of "benefit to all." It is worthy of tax dollars. But "public education" is NOT the private fiefdom of the tenurial few. "Public education" is NOT equivalent to a government monopoly. It is NOT a specific institution.

"School choice" is committed to the concept of "public education" in the public interest, not to any specific method of delivering knowledge and skills. A vital "public education" system consists of a diversity of educational options � government-run schools, charter schools, private schools, religious schools and a plethora of other options.

Furthermore, "school choice" means that when any educational institution is not meeting the needs of any individual student, that student has an actionable alternative � a choice. A public education system has a moral obligation to both provide that alternative and make it actionable � for all students.

Craig and I both have libertarian leanings, so when he says public education "is worthy of tax dollars" you know he ain't just whistlin' Dixie. I agree with him in this assessment, but there's a strong difference here. Let me explain.

Like many economists of middle-age, I took my graduate public finance course using Buchanan and Flowers' The Public Finances. Early in the book they make a key distinction.

It is useful to distinguish between public or governmental support or financing of a particular service and the actual governmental operation or provision of a service. ...

Showing a particular service is indivisible among separate users and that exclusion is costly explains collective financing of the service. The actual operation may be carried out directly by government agencies or by private firms hired with governmental funds. This latter decision should rest solely on efficiency grounds. ...

The following examples illustrate this point. The Defense Department contracts with private firms for most of its weapons and equipment. No serious consideration is given to developing and constructing nationalized aircraft factories or rifle manufacturing plants. The bulk of defense "hardware" can be supplied more efficeintly by private suppliers. There is no reason why other public services cannot be handled similarly. A public school system, for example, is economically justified only if it can be shown to be more efficient than some alternative arrangement. (sixth ed., pp. 20-21)

If you want to think about this more, take a sheet of a paper and draw a 2x2 matrix or table. Over the top of the two columns write "financing"; call one column "public" and one "private". Along the side of the two rows write "provision", and label one "public" and one "private". The private/private box is the stuff you and I buy each day. The public/public box might refer to military personnel services -- though even there we find contracting firms. Some parks systems are run as private financing/public provision; one could imagine even contract enforcement being handled this way via bounty hunters.

School choice is simply asking: do you put public education in the public financing/public provision box or the public financing/private provision box? In the latter box lies vouchers, which is simply an accounting scheme for how private providers of education are compensated with public financing. You could have school boards contract directly with schools -- charter schools could be an example of this, though they're more complicated than that. How on earth someone could call this "bashing" by the "right-wing axis" is simply beyond me. What is there about government provision of public education that is sacrosanct?

And, to get back to Maxfield, if the problem with the school is inefficiency of its allocation of public financing, adding more financing doesn't solve the problem.

UPDATE: Mitch:
In a system that spends $11,000 a year on students, why do classrooms do without books, copier paper, programs that actually reach students (music, art, athletics) and impact the students and public, while the administration relentlessly expands? Cynics would say that it's because the district and its (DFL-dominated) board are passive-aggressively passing the pain for any "budget cuts" on to the parts of the system the public sees most immediately, the parts that affect the children as opposed to the Administraton of the Minnesota Federation of Teachers. Cynics say that. On that account, I've become one of them.
Moi aussi. It happened here during two failed referenda as well.

Two sides of the SUU debate 

Robert KC Johnson continues to provide coverage of the media reporting on the Roberds case at Southern Utah University. The discussion of Roberds centers on the f-bomb in class that I previously reported and an incident at a rally against gay marriage. Prof. Johnson's view is that much may have to do with the recent merger of two departments, political science and criminal justice, and the chair of the combined department is a criminal justice professor without at Ph.D. The head of SUU's faculty senate has weighed in, but Johnson is unconvinced.

...the president of the SUU Faculty Senate has said that his institution fired its 2003 Professor of the Year because he was uncollegial to the students who voted him their professor of the year; because he criticized a new Faculty Senate constitution coincidentally written by the same Faculty Senate president who now deems him uncollegial; and because SUU has a process in which all tenure candidacies are considered by multiple committees in a gentlemanly fashion. A piece of unsolicited advice to Professor Rees: the next time the idea of penning an op-ed crosses your mind, sleep on it for a day or two.

Update, 2.24pm: It turns out that the student who crossed swords with Roberds at the anti-gay marriage event was none other than Professor Rees' son. Funny how that doesn't get mentioned in his article.

While I think Johnson has blown Rees out of the water, I do not think he's found enough evidence to suggest why the heck SUU would do something which on the surface looks so foolish. Luckily, David Tufte, an economist there, is also blogging with a good bit of the rumors that are running around the campus. He says he knows more than what is in public but "I'm not dumb enough to spread the rumor further." He says,
The latter three he labels as rumors known on campus. I put very little stock in teacher of the year awards -- these can be purchased with easy grades and a good floor show. I've given a distinguished lecture, and thought little enough of it that I never listed it in my professional activities report to the university.

Prof. Tufte goes on to note that while he doesn't know Prof. Roberds well, he's known both as a liberal and a hothead. To which I think, big deal. We got a few of those around here and nobody is sacking them. Tufte ranks his administration quite highly, and then speculates on the motivations of the case, concluding
I wouldn't have voted against him based upon the facts that I know. But that's just me. But I can read between the lines and I know how I would've voted if the rumors I'm hearing are even half true.

Which is right where the rest of us should be. We don't know enough yet.

(Hat tip for Tufte reference: Newmark's Door. See also Erin O'Connor for why FIRE won't get into this case.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

My wife often thinks I'm too harsh with the Littlest Scholar, and says things like "you are going to ruin her self-esteem." I reply to her (when LS is out of the room), "she can have self-esteem after she actually accomplishes something like ____________." (fill-in the blank, like "keeps her room clean", or "walks her dog before the 'accident'," etc.) This is a constant source of tension.

Thanks to Mahalanobis, I just send Mrs. Scholar an email with this article from the new Scientific American. Of merit to Scholars:

At the outset, we had every reason to hope that boosting self-esteem would be a potent tool for helping students. Logic suggests that having a good dollop of self-esteem would enhance striving and persistence in school, while making a student less likely to succumb to paralyzing feelings of incompetence or self-doubt. Early work showed positive correlations between self-esteem and academic performance, lending credence to this notion. Modern efforts have, however, cast doubt on the idea that higher self-esteem actually induces students to do better.

Such inferences about causality are possible when the subjects are examined at two different times, as was the case in 1986 when Sheila M. Pottebaum, Timothy Z. Keith and Stewart W. Ehly, all then at the University of Iowa, tested more than 23,000 high school students, first in the 10th and again in the 12th grade. They found that self-esteem in 10th grade is only weakly predictive of academic achievement in 12th grade. Academic achievement in 10th grade correlates with self-esteem in 12th grade only trivially better. Such results, which are now available from multiple studies, certainly do not indicate that raising self-esteem offers students much benefit. Some findings even suggest that artificially boosting self-esteem may lower
subsequent performance.

An insert shows a study by Doneslon Forsyth and Natalie Kerr of Virginia Commonwealth. Two sets of students in a college psychology class who are earning D's and F's at midterm are created with equal GPAs. Once per week, one group gets a set of positive messages about "what causes good and bad grades" like:
Students who improved with each test were thinking:
  • I can be proud of myself
  • I can do this.
  • I am better than most of the other people in this school.
  • I am satisfied with myself.
This group is told the "bottom line" is to "hold your head -- and your self-esteem -- up." The other group of students received a set of messages that said
Students who improved with each test were thinking:
  • I need to work harder
  • I can learn this material if I apply myself.
  • I can control what hapens to me in this class.
  • I have what it takes to do this.

Its bottom line? "Take personal control of your performance."

The first group had its average grade in the psych class drop to below 50%, while the other group improved to 62% (which still stinks, but at least passed that course.)

We'll see if this argument helps me at home tonight. The authors of the Scientific American article do find at the end that people with high self-esteem are happier than those without it, and less likely to be depressed. And it seems to relate to persistence, something that we try to instill in LS. But they admit that there may be third factors, such as "occupational, academic or interpersonal successes" that cause both happniess and high self-esteem. The lesson plans I use always try to build on small early successes.

Now with 37% more whiskers! 

Apparently you get more beards as you move up the academic ladder. The Cranky Professor needs to work on his a little more. Steven Taylor calls it the "screw it, I have tenure" hypothesis.

Mine is simply due to my wife's aversion to my chin. In marriage, there is no tenure.

UPDATE: My students get hirsute, too!

Not sure which bothers me more 

I love reading Jay Matthews' columns on higher ed in the Washington Post, and today's has a couple of intriguing and annoying comments. The issue is how students and their parents file financial aid forms for getting help paying for colleges. There are two forms one fills out: FAFSA, a federal common form which pretty much every university will require, and PROFILE, which is a form that asks more detailed questions about family income and assets and offered by The College Board for a fee of $18 per college application. There are exceptions made to waive the fee for low-income students, but some feel it isn't sufficient. According to Matthews,
Some counselors have an even more radical suggestion, one that might not please either Poch or Brooks [the principals in the debate], who both like the information provided by the PROFILE form. Why don't colleges just drop the PROFILE and make do with the FAFSA, saving a lot of trouble?
The reason, of course, is price discrimination. The information needed to do it for private schools is more than public universities would require, so it doesn't appear on FAFSA. The Justice Dept. has already taken a dim view of this, and doing away with PROFILE would be another step in that direction. The problem is that price discrimination, while transferring money from families to universities, should lead to a great provision of higher education. As a matter of efficiency price discrimination should not be discouraged; the issue of equity remains, of course. If we cannot ascertain who has enough house equity, for example, to finance college for their children by taking a second mortgage, we are likely to reduce the number of students going to college. PROFILE more likely reduces the amount of (over-)subsidization of middle-class students to the benefit of lower-income students.

The another annoying quote comes from Bruce Poch, the admissions dean at Pomona College. In an email reported by Matthews about Poch's request that the College Board advertise the true costs of education -- which are overestimated by many students -- Poch says,
I likely rubbed salt in the wound by stating that while traveling in the country, I read the many obituaries of those young soldiers killed in Iraq in local papers and there was an enormous frequency of comment that they had enlisted to get educational opportunity and GI Bill support. I felt we had built our military policy on the backs of kids who thought the military was the only way they could afford college.
You can see where that goes. If he can convince students that university is less costly than they think, they won't volunteer for the armed services, and "military policy" won't take advantage of their ignorance. Do telemarketers build their business models on the backs of kids who think cold-calling isn't hard? Does someone take advantage of those who respond to ads for getting a real estate license by suggesting the rewards "can be" great? Dean Poch, whose campus is pretty liberal, is projecting his opposition to the war.

Dang! They're on to us 

Professor Plum has devised his own mission statement generator. Somebody should take the words and lay them into the Dilbert one, and send the result to our College of Edumacation. It would have to be better than this clusterfarg.

What am I missing here? 

I continue to read critiques of the U.S. role in Ukrainian elections. The New York Times carries a news analysis today. I have trouble understanding the claim that these expenditures constitute meddling. If it is right to promote democracy in Afghanistan, then it cannot be wrong in Ukraine as well, can it? USAID offered to spend $10 million on election observation (of course, it was up to the Yanukovych government to accept the grant and work with USAID.) Is that money wrongly spent?

Michael McFaul thinks not:
Did Americans meddle in the internal affairs of Ukraine? Yes. The American agents of influence would prefer different language to describe their activities -- democratic assistance, democracy promotion, civil society support, etc. -- but their work, however labeled, seeks to influence political change in Ukraine. The U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Endowment for Democracy and a few other foundations sponsored certain U.S. organizations, including Freedom House, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, the Solidarity Center, the Eurasia Foundation, Internews and several others to provide small grants and technical assistance to Ukrainian civil society. The European Union, individual European countries and the Soros-funded International Renaissance Foundation did the same.
The grants from USAID and NED are subject to a competitive bidding process (I know because I've been on bids for contracts for economic assistance from USAID, including the one that sent me to Ukraine in 1995-96). There is some cooperation between programs, as USAID projects often include different contractors meeting with USAID officials to discuss strategies to promote USAID goals, but there is also a fair bit of competition to get future contracts. And, as McFaul notes, these promotional groups often spread seed on fallow ground.
The combination of a weak, divided and corrupt ancien r�gime and a united, mobilized and highly motivated opposition produced Ukraine's democratic breakthrough. Westerners did not create or control the Ukrainian democratic movement but rather supported its cause on the margins. Moreover, democracy promotion groups do not have a recipe for revolution. If the domestic conditions aren't ripe, there will be no democratic breakthrough, no matter how crafted the technical assistance or how strategically invested the small grants. In fact, Western democracy promoters work in most developing democracies in the world, yet democratic transitions are rare.
I was contemplating this thought a couple of nights ago while reading the latest Imprimis, in which Charles Kessler from Claremont McKenna College -- I had the pleasure of working on the same floor with Charles, Jack Pitney and fellow visitor James Ceaser at CMC in 1988-89; they treat economists remarkably well -- about the difficulties the Bush administration face in their promotion of democracy.

It is, of course, very heartening to see elections in Afghanistan, with thousands upon thousands lining up to vote. But democracy is not just a matter of elections. Democracy requires that majorities accept and protect individual rights, observe due process of law, respect free speech and free exercise of religion, protect private property and observe the obligation of contracts. These tasks, in turn, require a willingness to trust one�s fellow citizens that comes very hard to tribal societies who are unused to trusting anyone who is not at least a cousin of some sort. That�s a hard thing to say, but it is true. How do you persuade people who are used to trusting only members of their extended families or clans to trust strangers who, in an electoral process in a democratic system, will be voting for laws that will affect their interests? How do you get them to trust people who are not related to them or not known to them in some intimate and familiar way? How do you introduce them to the idea of being fellow citizens?

That too is a problem in Ukraine, though certainly not to the extent that it is in places like Iraq. The story is far more complex that east-west, what with post-WW2 annexations, Cossacks and Tatars and Volga Germans and the like. But as McFaul noted, the opposition was motivated: whether or not it was the Georgian example or the Gongadze murder or the Melnychenko tapes is a question to be left for my political scientist friends. It certainly is a corrupt place, but it takes more than that to turn people towards democracy. If the U.S. is guilty of spreading seeds that changed the election towards a fuller expression of popular will, it should cop to the plea. Those who will seek to pass sentence will stand as impediments to freedom.

(UPDATE: See also this analysis comparing the uprisings in Georgia, Serbia, and Ukraine.)

Monday, December 20, 2004

Help! I've been Voleked! 

In sports you can sometimes do little well and still win and other times you can do everything well and lose. Unfortunately, we did the latter in the playoffs. Despite having touchdowns from all but one player who played on my team (excepting the kicker, of course), I ended up losing -- unless Randy McMichael catches four TDs against the Pats -- to a team that had this lineup and stat lines:

QB Volek (492 passing yards, 4 pass TDs and 1 rush TD)
WR THolt (6-95)
WR Burleson (5-134-2 TD)
RB LaJohnson (151 rushing yards, 2 TD)
RB CMartin (138-2 TD)
TE Heap (4-58-1)

Given the matchups I could see it coming. I was sure Heap, Volek, Holt and Burleson would have big games and it was only whether the running backs would be good that mattered. I countered with Trent Green, Randy and Marvin at wideouts (since you get a point per catch and six per TD and per 20 yards, I had played a draft strategy to take them first), but had nothing left at RB except Thomas Jones, Julius Jones and an injured Chris Brown, who if healthy would have made this a game. Even a great performance again from the Redskin defense didn't offer enough balance.

But the Volek line reminds me of a game earlier this season where I survived a 5 TD outburst by Peyton Manning. There's some luck in these things certainly; I ended up facing a buzzsaw this week. I had tried a few weeks ago to get Larry Johnson off waivers, but because of other claims I missed getting him. That in no small part was the difference here.

So hats off to Kevin Holtsberry, owner of Collected Miscellany the team and the blog of the same name.

You can call it wonkery if you like... 

...but I didn't agree with the decision during the third hour of NARN to steer the discussion of the Coleman-Westover-Maxfield controversy away from accountability and towards the media flap. The flap, of course, continued yesterday with Coleman referring to Westover as "Captain Fishsticks", so I guess I am going to go even further afield. Mitch and Fraters and the Blog of the Year will take that side of the debate, and good for them. I prefer to practice my comparative advantage.

I thought Brian "Saint Paul" Ward of Fraters had said something profound in pointing out that Coleman and Westover actually agreed over the state of Maxfield Magnet School. They agreed that it was wrong for there not to be books in the classrooms. I'll get back to this debate on textbooks versus "reading material", for therein lies a key point about the production of education, but that wasn't what Brian was saying. He puts Westover's point to be that the absence of books was not due to a lack of funds but due to budget decisions -- St. Paul schools are fairly well funded. Indeed, here are the per pupil expenditures for St. Paul public schools over the last three years for which I have data.

2000-01 -- $8,900
2001-02 -- $9,802
2002-03 -- $10,125

This data comes from the report card for Maxfield, which I would have hoped Westover and Coleman looked up. This was the data I was trying to read Saturday on the air before I got a look from Mitch that indicated I was being a bore. Maybe it's crappy radio, but it's the point Westover was making -- there's plenty of money in the St. Paul school district. For comparison, the same data for my neighborhood elementary here in St. Cloud is $8,078, $7,866, and $8,485.

The accountability problem that Westover describes is what I would call an allocation problem. In what do you invest these funds? The debate over textbooks or reading materials misses a key point -- books themselves do not produce education. They must be complemented with other inputs. Textbooks must be complemented with teachers (and could well include parents working with kids at home, but down that road lies homeschooling, something I'm sure Coleman would not support.) Reading materials for students to take home require a parent to be sure the material is read. My son brought home books from school, but he needed prodding to read them. LS brings home books and needs no prodding, but she's probably not the type of student you see in Maxfield.

Here's the question then -- what is Coleman assuming in thinking a book drive for extra books for kids to take home will accomplish? If the parents do not supervise, if the child's social pressures are such that academics is denigrated (Bill Cosby, call your office!), and if teachers cannot find creative ways to use those books, they may simply collect dust. Again: Just handing a child a book to take home and read does not guarantee better reading scores. A book requires a structure within which it is read, understood and discussed to help with comprehension, and along with it the development of a culture of learning. Otherwise it's no more effective than free condoms.

The allocation problem at Maxfield appears to be particular to it. I asked Mitch, who resides in St. Paul and has had a child at Maxfield, for a comparable school in the St. Paul district and he offered Galtier Magnet. Indeed they are. Their third and fifth grade classes look similar demographically, according to the information on the Department of Education's website. High share of kids on free or reduced-price lunch programs, similar share of students of color, etc. Here's a link on the Minnesota Department of Education website to a page that I believe will allow you to look at the two schools' performances on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments. Pretty much across the board, Galtier outperforms Maxfield. I wonder, Mr. Coleman, is Galtier burning?

I come down squarely with Westover then that the question is one of accountability. Asking for it is why Maxfield Principal Zelda Wiley screamed bloody murder to the PioneerPress and gave the StarTribune a free pass (to answer a question Brian asked Saturday.) And Coleman has swung and missed three times now on the question. If Maxfield is burning, money isn't the answer. Indeed, it might be the fuel.

(Endnote: These pages from MDE are invaluable. Cheri Yecke told me once that these were the result of someone coming to her office and showing her the data that was being collected but shelved at MDE, and her reaction was "We have to get this out for people to see." The report cards are the result. Not bad for a "czarina", eh, Mr. Coleman?)

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The one thing that'll get me to post on a Sunday morning 

According to Command Post, PowerLine has been named Blog of the Year by Time Magazine. Oh yeah, and Bush is Man of the Year.

Nick Coleman was at a textbook reading materials drive and could not be reached for comment.

Scott, John and Paul, congratulations!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Warm wishes from the president 

I guess President Saigo has decided to listen to some of the criticism about holiday decorations. He sends the following greeting to the campus and student government today.
Finals are upon us, and before we all disperse for the winter break, Barbara and I wanted to take a few moments to extend our warm wishes for the season.
Really sir? And what season would that be?
Since becoming a faculty member more than thirty years ago, I have had special feelings for this time of year. I enjoyed teaching and helping students with their final projects, hearing about their progress in other courses, and listening to their plans for the holidays. I could tell by their exhausted smiles that they were relieved to have reached another milestone in their academic life and were excited to return home to family and friends to celebrate their family traditions. I still get that special feeling during the month of December and enjoy the sense of excitement from the students I encounter throughout my day.
"Plans for the holidays." That's pretty close to observance, I'd say. Could it possibly be that he is going to go there?
This time of year is special for many religions and cultures throughout the world. One reason we are fortunate to be part of the SCSU community is that it gives us all a unique opportunity to both experience our own religious or cultural celebrations and appreciate different traditions of those around us. As a university, we sometimes struggle with finding the right balance for celebrating the traditions of the season, but I believe that these observances are too significant to ignore. They are a part of who we are as individuals, as human beings.
I believe Prof. Andzenge said this last week:
An open celebration of all the United States' cultural and religious holidays would not only entertain us, it would more importantly educate all members of the university community.
And so our university president sees the light and does the right thing:
And so it is with warm thoughts of friendship and celebration that Barbara and I wish each of you a peaceful and relaxing holiday season and a joyous new year.
And the same to you, friends. We hope you are not chastised for offending our Buddhist friends.

Something ain't right there 

I have been trying to read today about a professor at Southern Utah University who was not only denied tenure this month but placed on immediate administrative leave. The story emphasizes an incident where political science Prof. Stephen Roberds, last year's professor of the year at SUU, used the effenheimer towards a student while discussing a Supreme Court decision. I am known among our students as somewhat profane in the classroom, but I have stopped short of the Cheney.

The reason this one interests me is that SUU is portrayed as a very conservative school and Roberds is painted as a liberal.

SUU student Matt Bybee, a senior Cedar City native majoring in sociology, is convinced that Roberds' situation illustrates a perennial battle between the conservative administration and professors who express more contradictory views - especially in the more liberal colleges like sociology.

"It's like the administration is sensitive to ideas of the majority, but not those with opposite views," said Bybee, adding that the loss of Roberds would reflect poorly on SUU.

I think it's incumbent of those of us who fight for academic freedom to defend someone like Roberds if he has been dismissed for his views (trumped up by his use of the effenheimer), but the placing of Roberds on immediate administrative leave is a red flag. That is an action taken usually when there is some reason a faculty member must not be placed before students. It's not an action taken with incompetents, nor with faculty who in the normal course of events is denied tenure. The administration might be very heavyhanded, but such a precipitous action invites a lawsuit; I think it more likely there's something else to this story that we haven't seen yet.

A group of students supporting Roberds have established a site for coverage. I'll monitor it.

UPDATE: Robert "KC" Johnson has more.
The Spectrum, a local newspaper, reports that Roberds �has a reputation of pushing the envelope." Last April, for instance, he referred to a student as �a stupid, ignorant, hate-monger� during a club-sponsored demonstration against gay marriage. And he could have been more judicious in his public statement to his tenure denial, writing in an e-mail that the university's administrators "act like thugs" and "have no respect for diversity or true academic freedom." Virtually every student interviewed, however, stated that while he was passionate in expressing his views in the classroom, he did not attempt to indoctrinate and encouraged debate.

Johnson also updated a later this PM that Roberds has issued a statement that SUU is claiming Roberds isn't very collegial. He apparently made his university unhappy by saying "there was more freedom in Iraq right now than at SUU." Given the snooping around by the department chair, I still think we're missing some part of this puzzle.

The student site, alas, is down for busting its bandwidth limit.

An economy of Christmas cheer? 

Mitch also highlights this story from the StarTribune announcing the results of the latest Federal Reserve of Minneapolis area annual survey.

District business leaders are the most optimistic since the survey began in February 1989. They are confident that the national and district economies will grow at an average to above-average rate in 2005. Respondents are optimistic about their community�s economy, anticipating increases in employment, investment and consumer spending, though they see housing starts leveling off. At the same time, they expect average to above-average growth in inflation. Most of the respondents indicated that the results of the national elections will have a positive impact on their operations.
The forecast for Minnesota calls for 0.8% employment growth versus a historical average of 1.7% (and down from the 1.2% forecast the Fed issued in June). While income probably grows at the historical average, much of the growth we're seeing is still due to increases in productivity rather than expanding payrolls. I hate to be curmudgeonly or even a Hindrocket pessimist, but I'm not as optimistic when I look at this graph:

It's been a little different here as I noted a few weeks ago. If your local economy is more dependent on manufacturing employment than the country on average, then the recovery and expansion that started in November 2001 probably doesn't feel cheery to you. Our most recently St. Cloud Area Quarterly Business Report shows the same level of optimism as does the Fed survey. Our experience with Electrolux, though, should cause some concern.

With the Bush Administration indicating a national economic forecast of 3.5% growth in GDP for 2005, trade deficits likely to continue and with productivity growth likely to stay above 2%, I can see reasons for mild but not roaring optimism by consumers. (I am discussing with some people the concept of a local consumer sentiment survey; until then I mostly observe this by personal experience.) This is going to raise an interesting question -- under what conditions would we see extraordinary business confidence but flagging consumer confidence?

The gauntlet is thrown down 

Mitch has put a bring-it-on out for Nick Coleman. No real comment here except to send readers to this, and to listen for more on NARN tomorrow.

Putting truth out to pasture 

The St. Cloud Times has had a series of flamebaiting letters lately but none so asbestos-needy as this one from Prof. Alan Downes. (If you come to this article after Friday 12/17/04 you will need to dig the article out of the archives for that day. C'mon, SCTimes, get an online archive that actually holds a URL more than 24 hours!!!) Downes was a professor in a department called "Interdisciplinary Studies", which was a holding tank for programs that didn't fit in any discipline (and a few programs like gerontology and urban studies which weren't big enough to stand as departments on their own.) They should have called it the Department of Undisciplined Studies. Downes is the quintessential leftist this department housed. The department was splintered about a decade ago, but its spawn now contains such luminaries as Miss Median.

So Prof. Downes wants to bring his experience to the question of whether instruction at SCSU is hostile towards Christians.
The task of the state university is to teach nonreligious subject matter, asking nonreligious questions and requiring nonreligious answers. All students, regardless of religion, should learn certain nonreligious skills and facts.

Funny, I thought the purpose of academic life was to seek truth. Prof. Downes seems to be presupposing that there is no truth in religion, no? I'll return to this question at the end of this post, but for the moment I just want to highlight that assumption in Downes' argument.
Problems arise when students cannot tell the difference and give religious answers to nonreligious questions. The problem is most acute when the student gives wrong answers to nonreligious questions and then attempts to defend the wrong answers by claiming that they are religion.

One cannot categorically presuppose what is a nonreligious question. Downes gives the example of someone saying that they believe 2+2=5 as a matter of religious belief, and that this must be wrong. The relevance of this statement to religion is dubious -- Christianity does nothing to deny Cartesian mathematics, nor Riemann mathematics. The statement 2+2=5 is wrong in the context that one is teaching a traditional mathematics, not that one is teaching a nonreligious question. A student asserting the math to be correct is required to place it in the context of a world wherein that statement could be so.

Likewise, "miracle biology" or "miracle physics" is a canard Downes throws out -- in the history of this planet, using the information we have now, we have a theory of evolution that contains many key insights and serves as received wisdom. One can certainly hold that view and also find wisdom in the story found in the first book of Genesis. As my pastor explains often to me (because I tend to think in categorical Greek ways like Downes), the stories of the Bible are truth in a different sense. Genesis 1 is not a proposition of an alternative to evolution but an appeal for the reader to confront "how did we get here?" It says to evolutionary theory that the biologist's work, the physicist's work, still has some ways to go, and opens one to the possibility that some of the story of how we got here will be unknowable.
Speaking for myself as a professor and as one who relies on graduates for future products and services, I would flunk students who answer tests with wrong answers labeled "religion."

Speaking for myself as a professor, I would ascertain whether the student had given a logically consistent answer, regardless of the label, as long as the student accepted the premises of the question I ask. If Downes stands before a class and says "you may not use any religious beliefs in the answering of questions in my class," he has that right as part of his academic freedom. But he cannot deny that he has placed his belief system in front of those of his students. And what is that belief system? We get it in the very next sentence:
Professors are paid to ensure that students can successfully do the work of society. The economy does not work simply by miracles.

That's the sentence that floored me. Behold the language of a Bolshevik. I am not paid to make my students drones of the Great Socialist Experiment, Professor, and neither are you. You are paid to help them learn to think for themselves, to learn to inquire.
The oil does not get changed, the vaccine does not get made, the surgery is not successful if workers do not learn appropriate nonreligious skills.

True, but as Adam Smith pointed out 208 years ago,
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.
Not those of society. Downes substitutes love of the state for love of God, which strikes me as a pretty useful definition of fascism. The state as a religion. He concludes
Teachers should not let incompetence sneak by with the claim that it is religion.

And students should not let socialist , atheistic ideology sneak by with the claim that it is somehow nonreligious.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Two quick Red Sox thoughts 

First, Pedro isn't worth four years. Will I miss him? Sure, probably more than I miss Nomar. But I want a sane ownership and stable financial structure more than I want any one person not named Babe Ruth. You'll have a hard time making me believe he's worth $13MM in year four of that deal.

Will Pedro help the Mets? Peeps was not available for comment.

Second, after they finish with Denis Leary's, they're probably coming for mine. At least I've got my children. (H/T: The Econoclast, who also offered this link for all the DC stadium skinny.)

Yanukovych is pissing into the wind 

Captain Ed reviews the latest machinations of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine, who is rattling sabres with the threat of secession or armed insurrection after the re-vote on December 26. Ed concludes:
Yanukovych's public support is drying up, making it highly unlikely that he will retain control of Ukrainian security forces after another election debacle like the last. If he loses a fair election -- an almost certain outcome now -- he won't have a prayer of convincing the military to install him in a putsch. That may not keep him from trying it, and today's missive shows that Yanukovych intends on keeping his options open.
As I pointed out earlier this week, we now are fairly sure there was an attempt to do this on November 28th, before the Ukrainian Supreme Court ordered the revote. Yanukovych could not persuade Kuchma then to follow through on the threat. To make his threats work now when they did not then is patently absurd.

Viktor Yushchenko, the opposition candidate, is worried about provocations as well. I suppose he should be, but this strikes me more as being cautious than worried. If I was to worry about anything it would be that Yanukovych pulls out of the race and then makes noises of armed revolt. Remember that if Ya. pulls out after tomorrow, Yu. will need 50% of votes cast to win the presidency, which may be a higher hurdle for him than to simply win a plurality over Ya. Noises over the stability of eastern Ukraine could help Yanukovych's and Kuchma's causes. But Yanukovych is still campaigning like a guy who is trying to win.

Yushchenko thinks he's in good shape, eschewing rallies to talk to business leaders in eastern Ukraine to convince them not to support Yanukovych.

Interestingly, the Ukrainian government is proposing to increase transit fees for Russian gas headed to Europe.

I never thought I'd say this... 

...but I think we need to defend Michael Moore. According to an article in today's Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers only -- I cannot find a free copy), the FEC is going forward with an investigation of universities that paid for Moore to come to their campuses.

Responding to a formal complaint from a vocal critic of Michael Moore, the Federal Election Commission is investigating whether colleges violated a ban on corporate donations to political campaigns by allowing the controversial and partisan filmmaker to appear on their campuses during this fall's presidential-election campaign and by paying him a speaker's fee.

David T. Hardy, an Arizona lawyer who is a co-author of Michael Moore Is a Big Fat Stupid White Man (Regan Books, 2004), filed two complaints with the FEC about Mr. Moore's college tour, specifically naming a dozen institutions, including Pennsylvania State University at University Park, Syracuse University, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Florida. Officials on those campuses confirmed that they had received a letter from the election commission with a copy of the complaint, and said they are in the process of responding to it. ...

At issue is Mr. Moore's appearance this fall on college campuses, where he repeatedly denounced President Bush, the subject of his latest film, Fahrenheit 9/11, and advocated for the election of the Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry. In his complaint, Mr. Hardy quoted from Mr. Moore's speeches, including one at Wayne State University where he said, "We're visiting all 20 battleground states, and our goal is to remove George W. Bush from the White House."

Hardy has posted a copy of the letter sent to the FEC.

I am not taking issue with the notion that Moore is obnoxious, nor that it might be a violation of FEC laws (I'm not qualified to judge that.) What bothers me, however, is that this tactic could be used to suppress all manner of political speech on college campuses during a campaign season, particularly on those campuses that are in battleground states (and how does one define that?) It may indeed come at a cost -- for example, donors at Utah Valley State College threatened to stop contributions if Moore appeared on that campus. Donors should be able to vote with their wallets. But it is far better to expose the bias on campuses to donors and hurt universities that way than it is to suppress free speech. I would rather challenge Moore's speech on campus than to keep him off it.

As for student activity fees, may I suggest that those students with a problem about that money start taking part more in student government and stop the practice of creating golden fleece for liberal student senators to spend on the likes of Moore?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I did not know that 

One of my favorite dishes growing up was pilaf, made in the traditional Armenian manner. My mother and I both use curly vermicelli sauteed in butter with rice and a broth. My Armenian grandmother, however, always used orzo. It's different that way, for reasons I can't quite explain. And that difference is probably why as well I never picked up on the idea that Rice-A-Roni was based on that same recipe. The Random Penseur, like myself, can't get the stupid Rice-A-Roni jingle out of his mind to this day (though not as pervasive as the Schaeffer jingle between innings of Red Sox games.)
Schaeffer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one
Schaeffer pleasure doesn't fade even when your thirst is done
The most rewarding flavor in this man's world
For people who are having fun
Schaeffer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one.
Somehow, I think this one doesn't pass muster with M.A.D.D. any more.

Just hours left 

Scholar Jim stopped by with a generous contribution for the Spirit of America Bloggers Challenge. It's not yet too late for you! We still have time to catch Petites Futbol Vert if we can scrape up an extra $4000. What are you doing still reading? CLICK! CLICK!

What do Cuba and SCSU have in common? 

Lots, actually. Here's just one.

Cuba's most senior US diplomat says he has been warned by the government of serious consequences unless he takes down Christmas decorations in Havana.

James Cason says he will not remove the display at the American interests section, which includes a reference to 75 dissidents jailed last year.

And at a U.S. government facility no less!

The display at the US interests section - so-called because the United States and Cuba do not have diplomatic relations - includes a huge white Santa Claus, an image of galloping reindeer and a flashing sign wishing Cubans a Happy Christmas.

A large figure 75, is picked out in neon, inside a large circle.

Might need to redesign my card. (Hat tip: Best of the Web.)

Free expression and SCSU process 

Mike Adams discusses the case of Prof. Wythe Holt at the University of Alabama, who once defended free speech that was inflammatory but now fears and wishes to suppress �any behavior which demeans or reduces an individual based on group affiliation or personal characteristics, or which promotes hate or discrimination.�

Wythe Holt, like so many others in academia, fails to understand that free expression is process, not a result. Public discourse cannot be rigged to guarantee certain results for certain groups contingent upon their present popularity with the powers that be.

Our constitution demands that the government remain uninvolved in the marketplace of ideas whenever possible. Whenever government involvement in matters of free expression is necessary, it must take the form of facilitation that is viewpoint neutral. It cannot take the form of manipulation that is ideologically motivated.

When Professor Adams completes his work there he might wish to investigate the continuing suppression of discussion and criticism of the Homecoming Queen incident here. At Faculty Senate last week the university's provost reported back the actions of the "Responses of the Leadership of the University to the Homecoming Court Backlash". Included in it:
The materials from the administration also indicate the University indeed did ask the St. Cloud Times to remove the pictures and references to the student. To their credit, they did not. The faculty senate continues to pursue a letter to the SCTimes asking them to end pseudonymous commenting on their website.

They will not rest until they finish killing the free speech that is protected by their own tenure.

The administration has been simply craven in its reaction to Support the Court. Unlike the Homecoming Queen, the administration has no balls.

Two peas in a pod, actually 

I'm not sure what bothers one more: this liberal professor from Emory talking about "values voters" pointed out by McQ at Q&O, or this screedy little strumpet that Mitch found. He promises to fisk the foul-mouthed child -- I only want to add that if she wants to put up a wall between her Minneapolis and the rest of the state, I cannot wait for her to starve when she finds out all the food she eats comes from those places she abhors.

Likewise, the professor forgets that the Enlightenment leaders who wrote our Constitution also wrote the Declaration of Independence, with references to Nature's God and a Creator and Divine Providence. I found these paragraphs particularly egregious:

The United States has become a strange animal, half theocracy, half plutocracy. We have returned to the theocracy of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, figuratively burning witches (gays and lesbians) and hanging Quakers (Muslims).

Consumers of religions sold on Sundays listen to shouters replacing Christian love with Old Testament fear leaning heavily on a vengeful God rather than the Prince of Peace. Americans seem to need to create enemies to destroy, on the battlefield or on the playing field.

I have no idea whether Professor Treadwell has stepped foot in a church, but he most assuredly has not stepped into mine. While some churches may struggle with the question of gay pastors, many others simply put the issue aside as being unimportant -- spreading the Gospel is a far greater priority to many of us than whether or not two men can marry in a church.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

And so it begins, again 

Our fantasy football entry in the Webloggers league makes the playoffs again. That's not a big deal, but I loved being the object of this post by d-42. He beat me even though I played every correct player this week, thanks mainly to the Cleveland Browns quitting and giving up 22 points to the Bills defense. (Hugh, you've got some 'splainin' to do.) I've lost two in a row now with performances that were only so-so.

For those who follow these things: The commissioner is Sean at The American Mind (he's out of the playoffs) and Steve Taylor's Polibloggers clinched the last spot away from Josh to earn the right to play James Joyner's regular-season champion Rodeo Clowns. The Scholars play Kevin Holtsberry's Collected Miscellany in the other semifinal.

We roared back to win the league last year after starting 1-3, and we hope the late rash of injuries to stars Randy Moss, Thomas Jones, Chris Brown and David Givens can be overcome. I'm more concerned that my tight ends (McMike, DGraham) will reappear in the nick of time.

Close to victory 

Thank you to all our readers who've already given to the Northern Alliance's campaign for the Spirit of America Bloggers Challenge. We have two days to go, so there's time for you to help. While we lead the team category, Little Green Footballs is still well ahead of us as an individual blog. Our honor is at stake. Show 'em that scholars can be generous.

Unacceptable reading at the airport at MSP 

Liz from Blonde Moment wrote me about how much she enjoyed Ann Coulter last Saturday on NARN. (Yeah, I missed it, but I got to photograph Little and Mrs. in costume for Cinderella instead -- it was a good trade.) She shares this story:

I bought Ann Coulter's book "How to Talk to Liberals" for plane reading hen [husband] Josh and I went to California for Thanksgiving. ... I started reading the book in the gate area of Minneapolis International Airport. I thought it was pretty funny, so I started reading the 10 rules for talking to a liberal aloud to Josh. 3 people got up and walked away; and one person turned his back on us.

Apparently these liberals didn't want to talk.

You're surprised, Liz?

The finals rally 

Frequent reader and contributor Roger Lewis sent me this last night, thinking I might be the only one to get it. I bet our other readers will too.
Tonight I was giving a final for some of my on-line students - the typical cast, guys in ball caps, everyone in jeans, tee-shirts, etc.

After about an hour I look up and one of the guys has his "rally cap" on, and keeps it that way until he finishes the exam.

Not sure yet if it did him any good. We'll see!

At least the student didn't bring a rally monkey.

(Alas, Roger roots for the Yankees. No, he says he doesn't. "[C]alling me a Yankees fan is like saying I'm lower than whale excrement, and you know how low whale excrement is!" As I matter of fact, I do.)

Make 'em leave a sample 

John Palmer writes about plagiarism today. I am grading senior papers, and so far I don't think I have any real examples among the eleven I've supervised this term. One suggestion I make to faculty is to have your students write papers in parts and read each part as they are produced (this makes them start the work earlier -- here's my syllabus to see what I do.) Have them write the introduction first -- you will get a good sense of the student's style. When it's time to do the theory part of the paper, you have an example to compare this to. I've told students explicitly what I am doing, and I think this probably deters them.

I don't know that this model can be generalized to term papers in, say, intermediate theory classes but only because I haven't tried it yet.

Some Ukrainian thoughts 

I haven't written much about it because the really big stuff has settled down, but here's some followup on stories we've discussed the last few weeks.
  1. I reported on Nov. 29th about the possibility of a decision to attack the protestors being thwarted at the last minute, and we thought the decision had been made by the army to not follow orders from on high. The Financial Times reports this morning that the attack was indeed being pushed forward by the Yanukovych people, but that Kuchma interceded against it.
    The Ukrainian authorities came close to resorting to violence in trying to solve the country's political crisis.
    The Financial Times has learned that the administration of Leonid Kuchma, the authoritarian president, considered deploying troops against the crowds of protesters gathered in central Kiev in support of Viktor Yushchenko, the opposition leader.
    Those lobbying for the use of force included senior officials, among them Viktor Medvedchuk, the head of the Ukrainian presidential administration and Viktor Yanukovich, the prime minister.
    According to people inside and outside Mr Kuchma's administration, the president resisted the pressure and the danger passed.
    Yanukovych vigorously denies the story. If true, this places a wrinkle in the dominant story line, that Kuchma and Yanukovych were working against each other earlier than most people had concluded. I thought this was true even before the first round of the elections. Kuchma wants immunity from any Gongadze prosecution, and would like to be an empowered prime minister. Yanukovych is (was) just a vehicle to get there.
  2. I haven't written much about the poisoning issue, since I had reported it on October 31st. Hindrocket has a few details from Fakty. According to a report by Maurin Picard in Le Figaro on December 10th, however, the story takes some interesting turns (can't get you a link because it's in French -- someone mailed me a translation and I've confirmed the first 50 words). On Sept. 29th, the heads of the Viennese hospital that treated Yushchenko for what now appears to be dioxin poisoning held a press conference to "assert the truth," that the poisoning was a fake. In the process they discredited Dr. Mykola Korpan, who had attended to Yushchenko. The story continues:
    Two days later, as Yushchenko returned to Vienna for a second hospitalization, the same doctors return to the question with staggering assurance and affirmed that he was indeed truly poisoned. The proofs follow. Doctor Wicke avows in private to having been visited by threatening individuals in his office who were strongly determined to impose the idea of poisoning. According to him, Yushchenko himself had declared from his sickbed: "You have probably made me lose the presidential campaign." "I have a child, you understand,",- continues the distressed surgeon, as if asking to forgive his turnaround. In this conference, false journalists and real "agents" are confronting each other, while a mysterious person with a Slavic accent in charge of maintaining order attacks foreign journalists. On background, irritated assistant nurses affirm that "these people do not belong to the establishment." The Yushchenko case has become a bet in a media battle for the exclusive attention of Ukrainian public opinion. The excessive comments and stories of the international press do not matter.

    On October 7, Dr Zimpfler declared that he has called for the help of international specialists, renowned for their expertise in matters of "bioterrorism." The controversy continues, and one inquiry suggests on October 22 a "herpetic viral infection," without totally excluding a possibility of a criminal act.

    Dr Wicke, for his part, returns to the intimidation attempts against him and the stained reputation of Rudolfinerhaus in an interview on Ukrainian TV, obtained by Le Figaro. Professor Zimpfer, in his n-th turnaround, disclaims Dr Korpan and declares hasty his conclusions about poisoning.

  3. Such intrigue! These flip-flops have been in the Ukrainian press for at least two months, mostly on competing television stations. The tests, which now appear to be conclusive, give the story of threatening behavior in the hospital more credence. (UPDATE: Someone sent me a translation of this article from Suddeutsche Zeitung yesterday with more details, including the possibility of a combination poisoning using soap or perhaps even a gas.)
  4. Funding democracy movements, like those in Ukraine, are old hat. This is no secret.
    I knew of three such organizations in Ukraine in 1996 when I was there. Given its geography, it's little wonder it has attracted as much attention in the west. If increasing democracy is plotting against Yanukovych as he claims, I'd call that a good thing.
  5. One of the facets of constitutional revisions in Ukraine that were part of the grand solution was the shifting of parliamentary elections to purely party lists (it was 50% party list, 50% single representative constituencies before.) Moreover, someone leaving a party for another faction, so common in previous parliaments in Ukraine, would now have to resign his or her seat. This would seem to me to be quite significant; while it puts more power in party leaders, I think it also creates more disciplined voting. It's hard to say on balance whether this is good or bad -- your comments are invited.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Deano the Insult Comic Politician 

I usually don't do straight politics, but had to note this thought I had reading about Howard Dean's comments on Justice Scalia's judicial temperament from Meet the Press yesterday (on Best of the Web). All I could think of was a quote a friend of mine uses as his .sig.
You go on, and you tell people that they have no talent? That's like poop telling vomit it stinks.
Replace talent with temperament.

Do I have to do everything for you, Boydot? 

The Big Trunk has further coverage of the StarTribune's continued attack on op-eds by Cheri Pierson Yecke. Her article, based on her recent report published by the Center for the American Experiment, discusses how teachers and school administrators are making shady if not illegal use of public monies to support bigger school budgets and to stymie reforms. The article was offered first to the StarTribune but rejected because, according to Trunk, its statement of the deceptive presentation of the excess levy referendum in Crookston could not be verified. (The article ran in the PioneerPress instead.)

Since the STrib has trouble with Google, I thought I might take a hand at this. This took about a minute:
Jim Thorne, the school district's new business manager, said that the school district leadership would still have pursued the two referendum ballot questions on Nov. 2 even if they'd learned earlier of the "budget variance" that resulted in a positive balance of almost $500,000 instead of a projected deficit in the $500,000 range. As it turned out, the public didn't learn of the budget boost until after the approved Nov. 2 ballot questions, which has led some to question the timing of the positive budget development.

This article came out on December 7. I wonder how hard the STrib digs for its information. It apparently relies on Nick Coleman's skill set.

A kind of excellent dumb discourse 

Oho! What do we find Professor Plum is quoting in his disquisition of the vacuity of education programs? Why, it's our beloved Department of the 3.7 GPA! After reviewing their mission statement, Professor Plum wonders,
I wonder if they prepare teachers to teach anything. They probably run out of time--what with solving all the world's problems--while poor kids down the street from this school of EDUCATION can't read or write, and probably have pretty crummy self-esteem. But, hey, faculty and students feel good about themselves as world change agents.
The answer is of course not. For many secondary education majors, the ratio of "pedagogy" courses to content courses exceeds 3:2. The pedagogy sequence is almost as large as the general education requirements -- which include another three required courses in "diversity" -- which together suck up five full semesters.

Professor Plum coins the phrase "impression management", to mean that they "are most concerned with impressing themselves and others with their importance and competence--reason for existence." This would be cute at best, annoying at worst, if all they wanted to do was preen. But in the preening comes character assassination, as Thomas Sowell shows in The Quest for Cosmic Justice. promote cosmic justice, they must misrepresent what is happening as violations of traditional justice-- as understood by others who do not share their vision. Nor do those who make such claims necessarily believe them themselves. As Joseph Schumpeter once said: "The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie."

The next thing the idealist will do is character assassination. All those who disagree with the great vision must be shown to have malign intentions, if not deep-seated character flaws. They must be "Borked," to use a verb coined in our times. They must be depicted as "A Strange Justice" if somehow they survive the Borking process. They must be depicted as having some personal "obsessions" if they carry out the duties they swore to carry out as a special prosecutor. In short, demonization is one of the costs of the quest for cosmic justice.
Be sure to see our series last year, HURL Follies, to see how the lying and demonization occur.

They didn't only beat us at hockey 

Peter Swanson notes that SCSU may have also lost the battle to the University of Minnesota over whose campus has the more idiotic policy on holiday parties. Their answer isn't to denude December celebrations of any decorations that might suggest a particular religion. It's to wait for January.
Plan a time that makes sense with your workplace schedule. Think about whether December is the best time for your event. If it's a particularly busy time in your office, it may be better to plan activities for January or February. Consider celebrating another holiday, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Day--it can be a chance to learn together as a group as well as celebrate together.
Of course, that's the beginning of the following semester, which around here is a madhouse of students complaining about not getting seats in the sections they want.

Good thing the U of M colors aren't red and green.

He couldn't catch his own box with both hands 

SCSU President Saigo, under pressure from campus groups including our own Faculty Senate, had a letter printed yesterday in the St. Cloud Times about the Homecoming queen. Talk about being late to the ball! The particulars of the queen are the same -- "challenging gender stereotypes," "homecoming court consisted entirely of students of color," "dismayed by threats," etc. No surprises there -- Roy-Noyz can sing the diversity hymns as well as any university president. However he strikes a rather arrogant tone here:

A definitive feature of universities is that they are places in which new ideas are developed, established ways of thinking are challenged, and people's thoughts and actions are not limited by the status quo. Many great scientific discoveries and social change initiatives have occurred at universities because the intellectual environment encourages creative thinking and exploration of ideas.

This same university environment that provides such a fertile ground for social change commonly leads to differences between the campus and the larger community.

Talk about Visions of the Anointed! It is one thing to develop new ideas; it is entirely something else to eschew any idea written more than fifty years ago. We do not respect the box. The larger community does because, unlike tenured academics of the Department of Something Studies Nothing, failure to respect the box leads to losses in the wallet. We challenge the status quo upon peril of that loss so that risk-taking is not excessive (since money invested in harebrained schemes is lost for use in more productive ones.)

Would only that some chancellor, somewhere, would impose that cost structure on Saigo.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

I didn't know blogs could be five years old 

But apparently they can, as Old Man Hackbarth has proven. Five years ago Saturday, to be precise, The American Mind was launched with a simple webpage editor and Angelfire. As such, Sean has some insights that others could use.
What I learned about the blogosphere is it's a meritocracy. Traffic, readers, and now ad dollars go to those who write well, are entertaining, and add value in peoples' lives. However, this lesson is a double-edged sword. If you're not getting as much traffic and readers the only one you can blame is yourself.
It's weird; I think more people read this blog than have ever read my professional writing, making me wonder if I'm in the wrong field or if my academic life is fairly useless. Then you get a rush like the Ukraine story, none of which could have happened without a series of very strange events related to that professional life, and you wonder. They really aren't separate lives, and the fact that people read here what never got read in musty books and journals says a good deal, that meritocracy in fact becomes more democratic in the blogosphere. People who write academic outposts like SCSU have trouble breaking into top journals -- "if you were any good, you wouldn't be there" -- but much less trouble becoming a large mammal. (Or at least, I was. I guess last week took me back to being a marsupial.)

Resuming normal production 

We took Friday off simply due to the combination of business during the day and exhaustion at night. (I burnt through the few stored posts I had left.) We'll start up Monday with the normal 4-6 posts a day for weekdays. I will try as well to start posting one a day on weekends to get some other material here that I haven't been able to get to during the week. Twas a miserable week, but a great church event today (following a good Bible group yesterday morning) has reinvigorated me.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The University of Michigan converges on SCSU 

Erin O'Connor says that the University of Michigan is seeking to create a university requirement for three credits of "gender and sexuality" course.

The Gender and Sexuality Course Committee wants to see all undergraduates compelled to devote 3 credits of coursework to the study of gender and sexuality (it takes 120 credits to graduate). The group claims that it is not motivated by an activist agenda because it is working within the university's formal procedures; that's a smokescreen, however. The group's stated rationale for why all undergraduates should have to take a course on gender and sexuality is unabashedly ideological:

A Gender and Sexuality requirement will create new dialogues, challenge hegemonic discourse, break taboos and stigmas, and open up realms of communication between all students.

In other words, this is a course requirement that would force all UM students to undergo a mandatory process of political consciousness-raising.

Seems to me we've already got that here. It's the pledge that keeps on giving.

Minds so open our decorations fell out 

I was surprised last week when I saw Salvation Army bellringers in front of the student union building on campus. If Target would ban them, then certainly Diversity State would as well. Alas, I haven't seen them this week.

What we also won't see on campus are decorations of any kind.

In past years, holiday decorations filled campus buildings and residence halls. Although there is no written policy, some students have claimed the university has taken a no-decorations stance to the holidays.

Residential Life President Larry Christiansen said that the residence halls are free to decorate, with exceptions. "Residential Life has no policy about decorating, except when it comes to eliminating fire hazards," Christiansen said. "We don't allow real trees in students' rooms and we ask that students limit the amount of paper on their doors, but they are free to decorate however they want in their rooms."

The Eagle Line, Residential Life's newsletter was handed out to students who live on campus this week. It provided decorating guidelines that only pertained to fire safety, not the content of the decorations.

Christansen, who has worked at SCSU since the end of October said that there seems to be a heightened sensitivity about cultures and holidays compared to other campuses he has worked at. Except for toy drive drop boxes, the residence hall lobbies are free of Christmas, Hanukkah or Ramadan reminders.

Freshman and Stearns Hall resident Joe Sanderson said he is disappointed with the lack of holiday spirit.

"I think decorations look nice," Sanderson said. "I can live without them, but it could be a little more festive."

This year, there is a controversy over whether or not the lit tree should remain on top of Sherburne Hall. KSTP Channel 5 visited campus on Tuesday and covered the story on the nightly news. Sophomore Matt Rydberd, a desk worker at Sherburne, said that the KSTP reporters referred to the tree as a "giant metal triangle."

I have not seen an official policy either, but Professor Dick Andzenge has an op-ed to the St. Cloud Times yesterday explaining the result of this ban.

A few years ago, two individuals associated with minority organizations at the university protested against the notion of a holiday season and the decorations on campus. They claimed that they were Christian holidays and that celebrating them was not sensitive to minorities. The university responded by disallowing the decorations. I considered that protest and the university's action at the time unfortunate, and still do.

...We should publicly demonstrate the spirit of celebration that the president used to usher in the academic year.

I urge him to rescind the prohibition on holiday decorations on campus. An open celebration of all the United States' cultural and religious holidays would not only entertain us, it would more importantly educate all members of the university community.

I recall in years past the student union would also sell Christmas holiday confections and cakes and pies, the better to soak up extra Husky bucks burning a hole in students' ID cards. Apparently these are gone as well.

So I've decided to see what the reaction will be when I put up this sign on my office door.

UPDATE (1:15pm): We all just got this wonderful announcement from the people who run the student union:
The Holly Day Art/Craft fair is still going on today until 4 p.m. so come on over to the Atwood Main Lounge for opportunities to purchase original one of a kind hand made items of pottery, stained glass, wood turnings, handmade clothing, lotions/soaps and more!
Note the "Holly Day" phrasing. I wonder how many of the things sold in Atwood, if displayed on campus after purchase, would be subject to Saigo's objection? Were they screened before sale?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Broken windows and antitrust 

John Palmer has a funny line about antitrust:

Anti-trust in 2 Easy Lessons

  1. You must compete.
  2. You must not win.
He links to this article at Cattalarchy, in which a former WalMart manager exposes that WalMart engages in the heinous practice of matching a competitor's low prices. Basta!

Of course it's a case of what is seen and what is not seen. What is seen is that the local store suffers lower profits, and engages in behavior to demonize competition. What is not seen is the additional goods and services consumers get from receiving goods at lower prices. In the same vein, Craig Westover writes today on the broken window fallacy in public spending.

When a public project creates a benefit that people would willingly pay for even if they were not taxed, there is overall value to society. But when the only justification for a project is "creating jobs" or some vague notion of "economic development," then subsidies result in a net loss to society. Gains subsidized by government spending are always at the expense of others' losses.

Without apology, legitimate functions of government � prisons and public defenders among them � necessarily should be fully funded in the next session of the Legislature. "Job creation" and "economic development" without necessity should not.

Intriguingly, in the Catallarchy article, the presence of government in giving tax breaks to WalMart is the reason someone gives for forcing WalMart to charge higher prices.

Ukraine moves forward 

Events in Kyiv are moving towards successful implementation of the agreement signed last week between outgoing President Kuchma, presidential candidates Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych and various EU representatives. Let's review:
  1. All sides confirm that the force will not be used. Check -- there hasn't been, though it appears it was a real threat.
  2. The administrative buildings should be unblocked. It appears that will happen shortly, though word isn't yet official.
  3. The expert group should be created. This group should make a legislative analysis of the current situation and prepare propositions of law change. This has happened since Friday.
  4. Sides also agreed to admit political reform on the basis of Law-project No.4180; this should be done together with changes to Law about presidential elections as well as with forming of new Cabinet of Ministers. The stickiest part of this, but now appears resolved. The constitutional changes would appear to not take force until Jan. 2006 as I mentioned a couple of days ago. Meanwhile Yanukovych has taken a leave from the Cabinet to run for the re-runoff. Not exactly the spirit of the agreement, but it appears close enough. And Yanukovych's new campaign manager says Kuchma isn't helping any more. Ch'yeahright.
  5. Sides also appealed to all political forces to respect territorial integrity of Ukraine. It appears that will happen, though Scott Clark's note from Kharkiv is a bit disturbing. I think separatism will go nowhere.
  6. Sides also appeal to authorities of all levels in Ukraine to concentrate on crisis in Economics. I've heard less about this than I would have liked except for this action on price controls.
  7. Sides also agreed that the next round should take place after Supreme Court declares the decision.While this was listed last, this was in fact what had to happen first, and it did, and the Supreme Court's decision in fact made this item law and started negotiations that appear to have ended today.
Meanwhile, Ambivablog noted in a comment on my previous post that the Times of London is confirming that Yushchenko was poisoned. That adds no new information for me, and I doubt it changes anyone's mind in voting, but it will provide a little more ammunition for the re-runoff on Dec. 26.

"Deans and Dummies*" meeting now. Back later.

*Dummies=department chairs, q.v.

Third stage of production 

We have a house rule for the Littlest Scholar -- she can use mom's computer for an hour to play games. She may use my laptop too, but only for schoolwork or to use Microsoft Office, which Mrs. doesn't have. She used Office the other night to make a Christmas list for Santa, replete with graphs indicating her satisfaction with gifts received from parents and Santa. (We did not measure up.)

LS has asked a few times for her own computer, and I've thought it would not be a good thing because she already spends too much time in front of screens and too little time in front of the printed page. I now have my supporting documentation.

For all the schools and parents who have together invested billions to give children a learning edge through the latest computer technology, a mammoth new study by German researchers brings some sobering news: Too much exposure to computers might spell trouble for the developing mind.

From a sample of 175,000 15-year-old students in 31 countries, researchers at the University of Munich announced in November that performance in math and reading had suffered significantly among students who have more than one computer at home. And while students seemed to benefit from limited use of computers at school, those who used them several times per week at school saw their academic performance decline significantly as well.

"It seems if you overuse computers and trade them for other [types of] teaching, it actually harms the student," says lead researcher Ludger Woessmann in a telephone interview from Munich. "At least we should be cautious in stating that increasing [access to] computers in the home and school will improve students' math and reading performance."

There is a longstanding joke on college campuses about professors who seem to constantly show videos, wheeling A/V equipment in and out of their classrooms because they haven't anything useful themselves to say. In economics, we say that if you add one input and hold all others constant, you get diminishing returns -- and what they forget to tell you is that if you keep doing it, returns become negative (this is the "third stage of production"). If teachers don't add other inputs to the increasing use of computers in the classroom, where does the third stage kick in?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

NARN tags in for Hewitt tonight, Thursday 

Unless the weather turns really nasty in the next few hours, I will venture to Eagan to sit in as a guest co-host on the Hugh Hewitt show tonight. Ukraine will probably come up, but when I've got a chance to interview people like K-Lo and Frank Gaffney, I'm taking that opportunity instead. Then there's that RadioBlogger guy...

NARN will also be in Thursday but I will have to miss that evening.

Found money, "blood money" 

I got a note from Brett Swaim, proprietor of The Northerner, pointing out his post on the disposition of SCSU's budget surplus. He wonders what I think of this. Unfortunately, I haven't said much about this because of personal events, events in Ukraine and the fact that I am on a committee discussing the surplus too and I'm not allowed to talk about that committee's proceedings. But I will say this: When Jesse Ventura was governor one of the few things he did that I liked was the "Jesse check", a rebate of extra tax revenues that were paid in during the high-revenue-generating years in 1998-2000. It changed the dynamic in St. Paul from "it's our money, how do we spend it?" to "it's your money, so we're giving it back". I feel the same way about this surplus at SCSU. It's student tuition money, so we should give it back.

My idea -- the committee I'm on doesn't act on this type of issue so I'm free to say this -- is to create an incentive for better student credit-taking behavior. Why not offer students who take 15 semester credits and pass them a voucher for three additional credits if they take 12 the following term. They would take 15, prove they are capable of handling the load, then induced to take 15 again. That way, if they take 30 per academic year, they will be on track to graduate in four years. Our biggest problem at SCSU with students is that they will not accept a 15 credit load: They want to work 30 hours a week, party like rock stars, and still call themselves fulltime students to stay on mom and dad's health insurance. We do not have "banded tuition" at SCSU (where you pay one price for a full load of, say, 13-17 credits).

The money goes back to students, we get students graduating faster, more may stay on campus, and we increase enrollments. It seems to me a winner all the way around, and drives the money to the students who are actually engaged as students.

The only drawback, as someone pointed out, is that it doesn't help former students like Brett.

What is St. Cloud's comparative advantage? 

In the middle of a difficult weekend, I had to finish the Quarterly Business Report for the third quarter. The St. Cloud Times report is here; we won't release the full report for a week until we get the production copy back from our graphics person. The reason for the jumbling was the announcement last week of layoffs at the Electrolux plant here in St. Cloud, which changed the lede on our report. We went back to the data and looked at something I'd to show you, and the best way would be a graph we drew for the report.

This is the share of manufacturing employment in total nonfarm employment measured for the St. Cloud, Minnesota and U.S. economies. It's somewhat known in the local area that St. Cloud is more dependent than most places on manufacturing. What we didn't realize was how recent this phenomenon was. While the rest of the state and national economies have been undergoing secular declines in manufacturing employment (nationally from 17.7 million in 1990 to 14.5 in 2003, while overall employment rose more than 20 million), St. Cloud has added manufacturing jobs at a rate exceeding that of non-manufacturing.

The overarching question is whether this represents some comparative advantage this area has, or whether we've somehow been lucky enough to avoid the sectoral shift happening at the macro level. If it's the latter, the Electrolux closing, like the Fingerhut closing 2.5 years ago, may signal our luck is running out.

Monday, December 06, 2004

And my child shall lead me 

I've received a ton of email and comments below on my announcement of my father-in-law's passing. Many thanks to you all, and particularly those directed towards the Littlest Scholar. Mrs. Scholar's parents live five blocks away; my father and mother live in New England and we don't see them as often. LS was as close to grandpa as any of his own children; they were constant cribbage players at family gatherings. She has a wonderful faith and believes Grandpa will wait for her in Heaven. She's always been a source of joy for us; now she's a source of comfort and a reminder of our faith in the Great Reunion.

UPDATE: This was her grandpa.

Deal made 

An AP report tonight contains an interview from Stepan Havrysh, chief of the Ukrainian Supreme Court, that the parliament has reached a deal over the constitutional changes and the electoral law for the runoff that his court ordered. According to Reuters:
Under the deal brokered in parliament, Kuchma will attend a session at 12.00 noon (1000 GMT) and bring a decree dismissing Yanukovich's government. The opposition will agree to vote for constitutional reform along with election law changes.
I do not know what the compromise agreement is; Maidan indicates that the Yushchenko partisans were willing to accept the changes that would weaken the presidency and give more power to the premiership and Rada only at the beginning of 2006. Given Yushchenko wants to pursue reforms, the demand makes some sense. C.J. Chivers reports that Russia is beginning to accept the possibility of a future Yushchenko presidency.

The rationale for the events this weekend is that the Supreme Court ruling was probably better than any of the Orange supporters of Yushchenko thought. Not only did they throw out the previous vote and order new elections: They required a date certain for the new election -- it was ordered to happen with or without pariamentary or presidential approval (though perhaps with some of the same central election committee members that bunged up the last try.) This removed a huge lever Kuchma had to ensure the agreement. Given such a huge victory, some in the Yushchenko camp probably thought they should try to see what kind of give there was on the constitutional revisions, now that they could possibly win the presidency under current conditions. That was hopeless, however; outgoing president Kuchma still has too much power to get that deal without a bitter fight -- he could veto changes to the commission, and he could have kept the government presidential candidate Yanukovych in the prime minister position. Moreover, his biggest backer in the runoff, third place finisher Oleksandr Moroz, would not hear for it. My guess is that the Maidan report is the compromise position Yushchenko has accepted to get the remainder of last Wednesday's agreement through. We should know the answer to that by morning. It may seem much to give up, but in the end you get a political structure with more power in a delegated legislature and premiership and less for the presidency. Maybe it leads to some hope among the oligarchs for a new gray cardinal (as they might be appointed by a parliament afterwards), but it's nevertheless a great step forward if that's what's happened. The best is often the enemy of the good...

No word on whether Kuchma got an agreement to immunity he was reported to be looking for.

I have a few things to catch up on; for more analysis today, take a look at this interview Peter Lavelle did of Daniel Bilak for UPI. Bilak is a sharp son of a gun.

UPDATE (12/7, 11am): The vote is delayed until Wednesday. Looks like there's some maneuvering still.

Not until this evening 

It will be another 12 hours before I can get back. My father-in-law passed away late Saturday rather suddenly, and my wife's family needs some more help today. I hope to be able to post some things this evening.

Many thanks to Mitch for his thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

It's never easy 

A family emergency prevents me from writing much today and probably tomorrow as well. Let me point out about Ukraine that, as I feared, the requirements of acting on Law 4180 have led to deadlock in its parliament. We will have to wait to see what happens. Foreign Notes has many good thoughts, and I send you there instead. Back when I am able.

Moderate optimism 

I have been reading comments on this site and of some other blogs, generally suggesting a cautious optimism about the results of the Ukrainian Supreme Court's decision. I would argue, instead, that there's more about which to be optimistic than I thought would be. Ukraine is poised to take a step forward that many other post-Soviet states have failed to take; it may have taken a big one today, but the distance that step covers depends on what happens next.

I've been reading commentary from several people as well about the scope of this discussion (largely reading commentary by Ukrainian scholars to a Ukrainian studies scholars list.) I cannot emphasize enough that the Court went far beyond where we thought it would go. I really had thought we would get the revote in the two eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk -- these were the areas where there were fairly well documented fraud; the general claims were less strong (as one commenter has vigorously claimed.) The court went beyond this to not only declare the whole second round null and void -- they put down a date for the repeated second round; and they significantly made a point of telling the government that they are on notice that violations may lead to future prosecution. They also cut off Kuchma at the knees for his preferred solution, substituting a new candidate for Yanukovych. The only way to introduce a new candidate now will be to completely violate the Ukrainian constitution (since decisions of the Court are not subject to appeal). I don't doubt the government forces may wish to do so, but hundreds of thousands in the streets of the capital may focus the mind on the folly that lies down that road.

There are certainly places this can go wrong, as I mentioned in the previous post. If they don't fix the porousness of the absentee ballot system the same fraud could occur again and Kuchma is trying to keep that channel open. We still have no idea who will constitute the new Central Election Committee or even if there will be a new one. And there's always Russia, who does have much money invested in Kuchma and Yanukovych and the current kleptocracy.

But TulipGirl has quoted Reagan correctly.
Evil is powerless ... If the good are unafraid.
As some of the parties around Kuchma begin to disintegrate (including that of my speculated substitute candidate, Tyhypko), one group loses power, and another becomes unafraid.

Friday, December 03, 2004

But they won't go quietly 

Kuchma is likely to respond with one last round of negotiating with the Rada. He has already put down a marker by vetoing a bill that would have stopped absentee ballots, which many feel are the chief means by which vote fraud occurred in the last round. This isn't necessarily a final decision, since the parliament and Kuchma will have to hammer out procedures for the runoff election its Supreme Court has ordered.

The other lever available to Kuchma is the fourth point in the agreement signed between him, Yushchenko, Yanukovuch and European observers on Wednesday:
Sides also agreed to admit political reform on the basis of Law-project No.4180; this should be done together with changes to Law about presidential elections as well as with forming of new Cabinet of Ministers.

Law 4180 is important -- it changes the appointment of the prime minister from the presidency to the parliament and invests the office with greater power than it had before, most of it taken from those currently held by the president. In short, it has the potential to make the position Yushchenko has fought so hard to acquire mostly ceremonial. This bargaining position is probably the last foxhole Kuchma has. His signature on the agreement should by law also end his term as president (it officially expired Wednesday). So it is most likely he will hold on for dear life to get the best possible outcome. James Sherr anticipated this yesterday; the possibility remains open that Kuchma himself could be made prime minister (an outcome Sherr doubts -- I am not as sure.) He adds (emphasis mine):

The determination of Ukraine�s authorities to remain in power overrides any need to be honest with honest brokers. To these authorities 'compromise' is a means of struggle. Given this fact, there could be adverse consequences in Ukraine if the EU pursues it as an end in itself. For Ukrainians, the issue is legitimacy, not stability.
The parliament has agreed to stay in session through the weekend. No doubt they'll need it. Will the EU have the courage to see this through?

UPDATE: I forgot to mention this: Part of the evidence of Kuchma's wrangling here is that there is talk that Yanukovych will withdraw from the repeat 2nd round. If he did the runoff would be against the third place finisher Oleksandr Moroz (he received 6% in the first round on Oct. 31.) But if he waits until Dec. 6th, then Yushchenko would run against "none of the above" and needs 50% to win. Unian also reports (article in Ukrainian currently) that there is expectation that if Moroz were to enter the race for Yanukovych, a deal would be struck to have him withdraw as well, perhaps to become PM instead (if Yushchenko had the power to make the appointment still.)

The decision of the Uke Supremes pretty far-reaching 

Courtesy of the Action Ukraine list, here is a synopsis of the Supreme Court's ruling today:

  1. CEC resolution certifying the election results dated Nov. 24, 2004 (and a Yanukovych victory) IS OVERTURNED
  2. FOUND that the CEC could not determine the results of the voting held on Nov. 21 as it had not reviewed 64 complaints filed before it before Nov. 24 by the complainant Yushchenko
  3. FOUND that the CEC had violated numerous (about two dozen as I recall) provisions of the Presidential Election Law and the Constitution of Ukraine by not waiting for (approximately 1300) complaints filed at various courts around the country, prior to its Nov. 24 meeting (essentially they found the CEC rushed and therefore denied the complainant its right of appeal of these violations)
  4. ORDERED the CEC to appoint a "repeat second round" of voting with the 2 candidates who emerged after round 1 held on Oct. 31, 2004
  5. ORDERED the CEC to appoint this repeat second round... in effect.. . in 3 weeks (that will make it Sunday, December 26, 2004)
  6. ORDERED (by a separate court order) the President, Parliament and Prosecutor General to undertake certain action flowing from this decision (will update, but clearly there are orders that may or will lead to the opening of criminal cases, and other actions).
  7. DENIED the complainant Yushchenko his prayer that the president of Ukraine be determined to be the candidate who obtained the greatest number of votes in round 1 on Oct. 31, 2004 (i.e. that Yushchenko be declared President on the basis of the Round 1 vote).
It's pretty breathtaking in scope, particularly point 6 which has with it the possibility that there will be charges filed against members of the government, including possibly Kuchma (who loses immunity when he steps down from office.)

Ukraine Supreme Court cancels second round: Revote 12/26 

I am just told that the Supreme Court has decided to cancel the second round vote and requires a revote in three weeks. The parliament is meeting to work out details, and Solana, Kwasniewski et al. are flying in for third round of negotiations and to enforce Weds. agreement. This from my student listening to Ukrainian broadcasts. I will try to confirm details within the hour.

UPDATE: Yup, here's the AP report.

UPDATE 2: The Bloomberg report is a little more detailed. What has to happen now is that the Rada must agree to the conditions of the re-vote. They probably have a little wiggle room on the date, but on the Orthodox calendar Ukraine follows if you don't get the 26th you have to wait another three weeks for another vote (Jan. 16). That's not going to be acceptable to Yushchenko's people I believe.

My student says the Supreme Court decision was worded strongly, with specific references to the Central Election Commission and to Kuchma to the effect of "we're keeping a close eye on you, don't screw this up again." Whether or not this meets my and Scott Clark's earlier hypothesis that Ukraine was having its Marbury v. Madison moment I will leave to legal scholars, and for a point where we have a translation of the decision.

MORE: Kyiv Post wire report shows some of the strong wording:

In its ruling, the court slammed Ukraine's CEC, citing massive lapses by the government in the run-up to the election and in the vote counting that followed.

Particular attention was paid in the ruling to the numerous documented cases of fraud brought by the opposition. Among them were the improper transportation and handling of ballots; improperly or inadequately compiled voters lists; abuse of administrative resources in favor of the government-backed candidate, and lack of equal media access for both candidates.

That seems to validate nearly every claim made by the Yushchenko legal team. UNIAN is slow right now, which is where I'm guessing I'll find the details I need. Better update now...

Ukraine Friday quick readaround 

I won't be back for about four hours, so here's what to read in the meantime with a couple of quick comments (before taking Littlest to school):

Dad-taxi being paged. More later.

Pyatnitsa day of reckoning 

New to all this? Go see TulipGirl first for some refreshers on Ukrainian politics.

Everyone is now on pins and needles awaiting the Supreme Court decision whether to annul the second round of Ukraine's elections. I mentioned briefly Scott Clark's analysis before (riffing of yesterday's late night musing.) It deserves closer inspection:
If the Supreme Court sided with the people against these other centers of power, they might just put this over the top and bring about the kind of reform the people are demanding right now. In an odd way, that would pave the way for them to actually become independent. And they would earn the respect of the people by doing this, a respect that courts need in the end to do their jobs.

There can be problems with this but I think that people of goodwill in these institutions might just establish their institutions on a stronger foundation--if they play it right.

In defense of this argument, I would say that Marbury vs. Madison wasn�t so much a legal opinion as much as it was a political one and it established the power of the Court to nullify law that is unconstitutional. My argument is if the Supreme Court here is astute they may be able to establish their institution on an independent and surer foundation than it is on right now. And that is even if they do it by ignoring specific laws or consitutional provisions. Maybe they could appeal to some underlying constitutional principle instead?
I'm not a lawyer but watch law with keen interest (and have taught law and economics a couple of times as a pinch-hitter for other faculty), and it has been my impression that courts don't like taking such roles. I said earlier today that I thought there were narrow ways out of this -- declaring the votes in Donetsk and Luhansk alone invalid, which would be narrow and still likely to tip the result to Yushchenko if the revote there is done fairly. It will be hard to believe this can happen, but then again, nobody believed there would be people in the streets either, as John Radzilowski (updated to spell name correctly, sorry John!) pointed out yesterday.
As it became clear the election was being stolen, the Ukrainian people, supposedly numbed by years of Soviet rule, political corruption, and powerlessness, said no. Thousands poured into the streets to protest. Then tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands. Members of the militia began to join the demonstrators. The government, not the people, acted as if they were the mindless, numbed ones.
Do not doubt for a moment that the judges are as dumbstruck as the members of the government, since they are appointees and friends of the government, at the very least. Still, everything is so unpredictable right now. So we wait. Our Ukranian grad student is planning on putting a lot of orange around SCSU tomorrow; I think it's mostly to relieve his tension. We're all feeling it now.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

UPDATE: Kuchma offers plums to the Rada 

Just as I was posting the previous post, this article came in from AFP.
President Leonid Kuchma proposed holding quick new presidential elections and handing interim power to a parliament where the opposition has a strong voice as a way out of Ukraine's political crisis.

...Kuchma's plan would see a brand new election open to all candidates. This would give him a chance to find a more voter-friendly replacement for the politically damaged Yanukovich.
We know this deal to be unacceptable to Yushchenko. But if it splits the shaky Rada coalition he holds, he might not be able to control the outcome. The article contains another fascinating fact:

One of the election commission members who was named to the body by Yanukovich's winning camp told justices that about a million ballots may be fraudulent.

"The central electoral commission bears chief responsibility," admitted commission member Ruslan Kniazevic.

Kniazevic criticized the "complacency and inaction" of the central election commission in its management of the contested poll.

"In my view, a million votes were stuffed into the boxes" after the polls had closed, he said.

The results the CEC ratified last week which were later repudiated, had Yanukovych ahead by 817,000. Remember, again, that it doesn't look like the Court can rule Yushchenko the winner; all it can do is invalidate results. As I think about this, I wonder if Yushchenko's best option might be to only invalidate some of the results, say in Donetsk and Luhansk, followed by a storm of international observers to that region and a revote there. That would explain the filings by Yanukovych alleging fraud in other parts of Ukraine. But these motions seem to have been quashed. A revote in those two oblasts would work, as Yushchenko could scarcely do worse than the fraudulent returns from there.

"Ukraine as it was before the elections now does not exist" 

I was a weak child, scrawny and short. I grew up in a neighborhood in New Hampshire where we were the only people who weren't of French-Canadian ancestry. (Actually I am on my mother's side, but you wouldn't be able to tell from looking at me.) So it was only natural as the smallest, darkest, funniest looking kid, I would be subject to taunting and occasional fights. I would go home and tell my dad, who occasionally would call the taunter's parents, and once he even grabbed a ne'er-do-well by the scruff of the neck, back when these things weren't page one news.

Earlier today Kuchma went to visit Putin. Maidan has an exchange of letters between the two which it has translated from Ukrainska Pravda; tell me which one looks like the kid going back to tell his father people are picking on him?

I would like to assure you that Russia will always be together with Ukraine, it will support and aid Ukraine in all efforts to stabilize the situation. We consider Ukraine a united and independent state. As you rightly noted, we have lived in one country for so many years, so in our hearts we do not divide Ukraine into North, South or West.

It would be surprising if Russia remained aside from the events that are going on now in Ukraine.

Without Russia�s efforts to find a way out of the political crisis, its solution will be impossible, otherwise Ukraine risks to disgrace itself.

Perhaps it's a translation problem -- I can't figure out a nuance here from the original -- but Kuchma seems to be a supplicant in this exchange. But he breaks bad news to Papa Putin.

I don't want to be misunderstood, but Ukraine as it was before the elections now does not exist.

It has been divided. One side does not consider the point of view of the other, this policy being accomplished by a coercive, revolutionary methods without taking into account the economic consequences.

If I had cojones big enough to say that last paragraph with a straight face, I wouldn't have needed my dad's help with the neighborhood bullies. Did you ever stop to think, Koochie-Koo, that the oligarchic system you helped to create which has enriched you beyond your wildest dreams might be a coercive method with economic consequences? No? Producers will gladly keep working regardless of how much the Tax Inspectorate takes to fund your latest schemes? Intelligent young people won't leave your country as they see no hope of becoming successful entrepreneurs because you block innovation in existing industries where your friends have monopolies?

Whadda zaluba.

The most important thing is that the Supreme Court, as the highest organ, must say if the violation occurred or not.
That decision is coming soon, it appears. But Kuchma has already prejudged this: If the second round is declared invalid, an agreement that they will not use force, that the country will be held together, but oho! if they even have a re-runoff because of electoral fraud Koochie-koo won't be able to stop the spread of revolution. Yanukovych would not (be allowed to) take part in the re-run. And he has the line on what both the Rada and Supreme Court will find.

Wonder where he got these ideas from? Putin, for his part, is also opposed to the re-runoff and wants new elections. In his letter to Kuchma,
Whatever internal whirls may roar in the country, we hope that all parties will adhere to the legislative norms and to the Constitution in force.
(Thanks Neeka for that link.) Coincidence? I think not. And while Putin tells others to butt out, President Bush issued a pretty strong "you too".

Q Sir, should there be a new election in Ukraine, and should it be free of
Russian influence?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I think any election, if there is one, ought to be free from any foreign influence. These elections ought to be open and fair. I appreciate the progress that is being made. I particularly want to again thank my friend, the President of Poland, the President of Lithuania, and the EU for its involvement in helping to resolve the Ukrainian election crisis.

The position of our government is that the will of the people must be known and heard. And, therefore, I will -- we will continue to monitor and be involved in a process that encourages there to be a peaceful resolution of this issue. And, you know, there are different options on the table and we're watching very carefully what is taking place. But any election in any country must be -- must reflect the will of the people and not that of any foreign government.

My Ukrainian student earlier today expressed to me some displeasure over Bush's quietude on the issue, assuming he did not wish to anger Russia. But there seems to be a clear signal from Bush to Putin to back off, including this from today's press conference:
Q On Ukraine, the President has stated clearly he wants to see an election free of any interference by foreign governments, and yet there has been continued interference from President Putin. How does that complicate the relationship between the U.S. and Russia?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we have -- I think President Putin, earlier this week, talked about the very same thing, that there should be a democratic way forward and that there should not be internal or external pressures, I think is what -- his words that he referred to.

Look, we have a good relationship with Russia. There are going to be differences from time to time. Our position on the Ukraine and the way forward is very clear: We want there to be a peaceful, democratic solution that reflects the will of the people. There are discussions that continue with President Kwasniewski, the President of Lithuania and the European Union and the parties in Ukraine about how to proceed forward. We're waiting to see what the Supreme Court in Ukraine says about elections.
I don't see what more could be done short of sending Powell to Kyiv, and that I cannot see. We have already seen that Yanukovych is irrelevant. Increasingly, so too is Kuchma.

UPDATE: It could be worse, says the Argus. You could be Abkhazia.

Yushchenko: Only a repeated runoff, nothing more 

He's being very clear about this:

"...We spoke out with a flat statement: if the issue of repeated election again appears in the talks... there is no sense for us to stay within such talks," Yuschenko said.

He stressed that the first presidential voting round of October 31 took place and its returns were not put in issue. Yuschenko stressed he believes that the only possible completion of the presidential election is a repeated run-off voting. "We see the end of election only through the repeated run-off voting," he said.

Via the Action Ukraine Monitoring Service.

It appears to me that the dissatisfaction of the crowds with what seemed like soft-pedalling by the opposition leadership has caused a ratcheting back up of rhetoric. Tymoshenko had gone missing for awhile during the talks with Kuchma, Yanukovych and the European delegation, and then came back out later to say the demonstrators will continue to blockade government administration buildings until Yanukovych is out as PM. (I take that to mean the Rada is no longer under blockade, perhaps further evidence that Yushchenko thinks he has a working majority there.) Another of Yushchenko's supporters has agreed. We keep thinking the details of the runoff are supposed to happen today and I've been waiting to post until then, but I don't see anything to indicate they are happening now.

Dan McMinn has been covering Tymoshenko's news conferences and has some excellent details here. I understand McMinn is now working to help get out English-language information for the Yushchenko campaign, which is great. He has biographical sketches of Viktor and Viktor. His site will have good things to follow.

Veronica has confirmed that Kuchi-koo is in Moscow and has some details. He's stalling and still angling for new candidates; thus the demonstrators are likely to continue.

29% of students isn't the median 

Yesterday on campus Scholar Dave got into a discussion email-list exchange with Miss Median. (Note to new readers -- the links introduce these as two of our faculty. Dave occasionally posts on this list.) Dave was part of a campus discussion last month on politics in the classroom and he sent the list a link to this World Net Daily column about 29% of students in a survey saying they felt compelled to agree with a professor's political views in the classroom. The survey comes from ACTA. MM pontificates:
...students sometimes are discomforted by research results that differ from their own opinions, and they want to know about the "other side" too. However, I hardly think that our role is to provide arguments from points of view that are scientifically invalid, unreliable, and based only on belief and not on accepted standards of evidence.

As previously discussed on this list, when issues are presented on campus that do have informed research or well-considered opinion on "both sides," then our campus should present opportunities for multiple presentations or an open forum on the topic -- and our campus does exactly that.

Where exactly does that leave the Nichols report? And when the fact that World Net Daily was simply reporting on a survey done by ACTA, MM resorts to ad hominem again:
Yes, by "other parties" like ACTA -- clearly one-sided parties who support the same
agenda put forth by William Bennet back in the early days of the "culture wars." (Reworked versions of' '"let's go back to Western Civ and get ridof all the 'diversity' requirements in new curricula").... As was pointed out by some of your co-panel members earlier this semester, it is not very convincing when a specific political viewpoint is presented as a neutral stance.

Their own students are reporting bias on campus, and they continue to argue that they are presenting both sides of issues? In this letter in the campus paper today by a leftist student it is argued:
And yes, professors on this campus are more liberal, I agree with that. But in the case of a professor discriminating against a student because of their beliefs, that student can report it to the campus administration, and the professor will be dealt with in an orderly manner. It's not a difficult process.
I hope this student -- who is a freshman, so can be forgiven a little naivete -- has the chance to watch Academic Bias 101. Mr. Hinkle found it a quite difficult process. (See FIRE for more details.)

Tip drill 

As always, I'm grateful for the traffic to our site; we're going to bust the meager Scholars budget for bandwidth, but our policy is to do this as a labor for love. (Those ads over to your right would make our budget in a normal month, but this month is anything but.) Someone gave me $20 for the site, and I am sending it forward with a match from me to our Northern Alliance entry in the Spirit of America Friends of Iraq challenge. The challenge runs through the 15th of the month, and we're competing against other alliances and individual bloggers. Little Green Footballs is still ahead of us, and we want to overtake someone with such a silly name. So give early and often (like a Donetsk voter) by clicking this icon (also appears on sidebar):

So did anything good happen?  

Seroda pivnich (Weds. midnight my time)

I think more realism is coming to people about the events in Ukraine. Nick at Fistful of Euros wonders what exactly was gotten in this agreement -- his post has ten questions that are all good ones you'd think there were answers to. The Kyiv Post shows that they are unanswered. Le Sabot gives a sobering view:
You also have to remember that Yushchenko isn't the democracy movement, and the movement isn't Yushchenko. The protesters have been docile so far, but Yushchenko doesn't have carte blanche in negotiating. They could choose to take unilateral action. PLEASE NOTE for the record that I am in no way threatening or advocating any sort of specific direct action.
Noted, but also noted is that without Yushchenko there isn't a vehicle available to transport the movement anywhere. You have to be realistic here -- there is not another person to carry forward the Orangists at this time. They could develop one perhaps, but presuming the new elections are snap ones, they've got no time. Dance with who brung ya.

And usually cheerful Veronica is more morose.
Yushchenko's handshake with Yanukovych might have been part of a real victor's behavior (as opposed to the meanest way in which those fake victors acted during the meeting at the Central Election Commission, forcing the opposition to huddle in the corner of the room) - but it was still a handshake someone worthy of respect offered to someone who deserves nothing but contempt. And, just like last Friday, Yulia Tymoshenko did not stand next to Yushchenko when he was addressing the crowd - she wasn't there at all. Maybe it's part of some bigger plan that would eventually bring Yushchenko to presidency and all those people back into their warm homes. But the way it's being presented to us doesn't seem completely adequate. I hope I'm wrong.
I've not called it a rollercoaster for nothing!

I was out most of the evening singing with my church's band, and the music was good and I was happy, and I wondered why (I won't bore you with details but the workday today was a , well, rollercoaster.) I thought about tonight's post and was not with furrowed brow. Why? I think two things happened today that could be really really good for Ukraine if I'm right.

First, Yushchenko has a working majority in the Parliament, thought as of yet fragile. We learned that when they voted to give Yanukovych the sack. We do not know how big a majority it is since probably some of those who did not attend the session today will eventually join a Yushchenko coalition, and we had last Saturday's vote when over three hundred voted to declare the second round invalid -- that would be the upper limit on the size of his coalition. Fifty five of them were Communists, so figure they're out. That gives you a range between 229 and 245. But it's there. The speaker of the Rada, Lytvyn, is the catch in this game; he's currently in line to define the caretaker government until the re-voting, and figures to play a prominent role here. This is significant -- since the PM is the president's appointee, there is no reason for the parliament to accept the PM's program, which would damage the chance of any Yushchenko reforms should he prevail. If the majority held through the approval of a reform program, the one-year abeyance on votes of no-confidence would give Yushchenko some breathing room. (I realize this sounds like I'm getting ahead of myself, but there isn't much point in having a reformist president who can't do anything, is there?)

Second, though we must wait for the Supreme Court's decision, we now may have the first signs that an independent judiciary is taking hold. Both sides agreed to wait for the court's decision, and we'd expect they will abide by the results. I suppose I could take Neeka's pessimism and think the court will screw the opposition, or that the decision goes for Yushchenko and then the bad guys use force. But given the choice between cutting a deal with Kuchma, who looks more and more like a guy with a foot out the door (with rumors swirling of Yeltsinesque drinking) , and creating a real judiciary with power to enforce a constitution, which would they choose? For tonight, I choose to be optimistic about that. (Thurs. AM update: Scott Clark, a lawyer in Kyiv, agrees while and the Court continues to reject Yanukovych appeals.

The other Thurs. AM news I see -- Kuchma appears to have gone to visit Putin according to UNIAN news service. Hmmm.)

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

A broader context 

Another missive from the Crazy Uke that hits this Armenian-American close to home:
...there is one thing that continues to skip around the edges of my consciousness, and it was the predicate for Sunday's rally at the Capital for the local Ukrainian community. Seventy years ago Ukraine was recovering from the grip of Stalin's ethnocide - the Ukrainian Holodomor/Famine Genocide. As we witness to the struggle for freedom and justice in today's Ukraine, (live, in-color and blogged in real-time) it is fitting to recollect and somberly reflect on the passing of some ten million souls into eternity, after an unimanigably horrific death by forced starvation. This simple fact, and the failure of this infomation to permeate and presage all discussions in the West of Ukraine's current status and condition, indicates to what extent Communism was, and continues to be successful in re-writing history.
Tyler Cowen points out the enormity of what Andriy observes,
Here is the second sentence of Robert Conquest's The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine: "We may perhaps put this in perspective in the present case by saying that in the actions here recorded about twenty human lives were lost for, not every word, but every letter, in this book." That sentence represents 3,040 lives. The book is 411 pages long.
I realize some people wish commentary on Ukraine today didn't spend so much time focused on Russia and East-West and left-right, but the history of Ukraine is the history of Russia. Kyiv was a city when Moscow and Saint Petersburg were swamps. Its history intertwines with the histories not only of Russia but of Poland and even Lithuania, but it is Russia that has imposed itself most. The preface to the book I wrote about the Ukrainian economy, written several years ago, mentions one strong symbol of that imposition:

Crossing the bridge towards the center of Kyiv there is also the sight of the Perchersk Lavra on the bank of the Dnipro River. The golden domes of the monastery signify an ancient time, when what many consider to be Russia was known as Kievan Rus' and its center was Kyiv. To the left, however, stands something even larger. In 1981, the Ukrainian Communist leader Scherbitskyi erected a war memorial to its soldiers. At the center of it stands a woman made of titanium (a metal in abundant supply in Ukraine) holding a sword towards the sky. The sword extends higher than the bell tower at the monastery, making it the tallest monument along the river. Though it was meant to represent the defense of Ukraine from Germany the statue faces Russia. It was meant to be a monument to �Rodina mat�­��mother Russia�, but many people called it �bolted mother�. When it was built, a parade was held, and Leonid Brezhnev was invited to it; schoolchildren were made to line the streets. This remains an object of scorn for many Ukrainians. Yet after gaining independence, though all the statues to Lenin were torn down and all the �Lenin Squares� in cities around Ukraine were renamed, the monument remained. Perhaps it simply cost too much to remove.

For whatever reason, that vision symbolizes the arrested development of Ukraine.

To the best of my knowledge, the bolted mother -- known to many cabdrivers I spoke to also as the "iron bitch" (I didn't dare use that in the book) -- remains, facing Russia.

Behind her lie ten million dead.

And in her shadow, a nation wrestles with its past and its future.


About one hour ago:

Ukraine's opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko signed a deal Wednesday that obliged his supporters to lift their siege of government buildings, but he said his supporters will stay on the streets until a deal is reached on a new vote.

After talks with the declared official winner of the presidential runoff Viktor Yanukovych, Yushchenko proposed that a new vote be held Dec. 19 to resolve the crisis over the disputed balloting.

It was not immediately clear whether Yushchenko was calling for a rerun of the Nov. 21 runoff that pitted him against Yanukovych or an entirely new election, with other candidates taking part. His supporters have pressed for a new runoff only.

The two rivals signed the deal along with outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and European envoys who have been trying to resolve the political crisis.

More details at LSPM. (If his permalinks are bloggered, go here.)

UPDATE: Maidan has details on the agreement:
    1. All sides confirm that the force will not be used.
    2. The administrative buildings should be unblocked.
    3. The expert group should be created. This group should make a legislative analysis of the current situation and prepare propositions of law change.
    4. Sides also agreed to admit political reform on the basis of Law-project No.4180; this should be done together with changes to Law about presidential elections as well as with forming of new Cabinet of Ministers.
    5. Sides also appealed to all political forces to respect territorial integrity of Ukraine.
    6. Sides also appeal to authorities of all levels in Ukraine to concentrate on crisis in Economics.
    7. Sides also agreed that the next round should take place after Supreme Court declares the decision.
Yushchenko's people will stay in the streets until the elections, according to Viktor Katolyak (scroll down through comments); Katolyak also has some details on the proceedings at the Supreme Court which now take on greater importance by the last point. The short story -- Yanukovych's attorneys have been shut out so far. In general, it seems most likely the court will invalidate the second round, and I'd be surprised if they didn't just throw out the whole thing. The one remaining concern is whether this is just a runoff between Yushchenko and Yanukovych or if it is a completely re-opened election. Points three and four seem to keep this option open.

There is a lot of danger here for Yushchenko in my view. He's relieved the pressure on the government after Yanukovych has been sacked -- but it doesn't appear he has got his date, and it doesn't yet appear that there's an agreement on whether Kuchma will sign for Yanukovych's resignation, nor is it clear whether Kuchma is still president, since his term expired at midnight. Keep me in the skeptical camp of how this is going to turn out.

Dodgy Blogger, dodgy voters 

That sucked -- Blogger had me locked out for about ten hours, during which much is happening. I think there's less here than meets the eye, and so let me explain this.

Several people, including Northern Alliance muj Captain Ed, are reporting that the parliament has sacked Prime Minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, along with the rest of his cabinet. Ed notes that "Ukraine's PM is appointed by the executive, not the legislature as in other parliamentary democracies." That's true, but the Rada (parliament) does have the power to sack the PM. The problem is that, as I mentioned before, when the Rada accepts the program of a PM, it automatically gives the PM a year to carry out the plan and cannot sack him according to the Ukrainian constitution. (See Article 87 for the details.) As the previous program was accepted on March 16, 2004, it appeared they could not sack Yanukovych.

So what they did instead was, before voting to sack him, they voted to rescind their approval of the program. That is, in the view of many, a questionable constitutional dodge. Had that been a legal move, there are more than a few Ukrainian PMs that would have gotten the sack earlier than they did (I would wager that to include Yushchenko back in 2001.)

Kuchma's not likely to approve any of this. He is already asking for a parliamentary vote that would need 300 members to approve of a constitutional change. He has enough allies in the Rada to keep that from happening. Kuchma is in meetings with the two candidates and the representatives from Europe. At last report late filing claims on vote fraud. David Boies, call your office!

More important than all this is that Kuchma is following Yanukovych's suggestion from yesterday that a new vote has to start from scratch with new candidates. Yanukovych has taken ill, which in the good ol' days of the USSR means he's being told to be quiet and let the big boys negotiate. (And he should take his wife with him, as Tulip Girl reports.) The Argus reports on the rise of Serhiy Tyhipko as the clan candidate. Remember two days ago we thought he was going over to Yushchenko's side. He's not. Again what appear to be big moves are not. So another night approaches, with new fears of reprisals.

And that needs to be the lesson learned here by observers. It is very difficult to get a grip on what is happening because nearly everything has questionable constitutionality, reporting is spotty, and this is more than anything else a clash of personalities and wills. Short of developing a new theory of psychohistory, we're going to have a helluva time sorting this out. But goodness it's fun.

If Blogger can keep up with me, that is. Gotta meet some students, more after lunch.