Monday, February 28, 2005

Hello? Opportunity costs? 

Where do they get idiots like this?
Current low birthrates among highly educated women pose a challenge to the U.S. economy and may compound existing social problems, says David Ellwood, Black professor of political economy and dean of the Kennedy School of Government. As a result, the United States faces an imminent shortage of well-educated workers aged 25 to 54. That may mean lower productivity growth, less competitive U.S. companies, and even greater inequality between America's rich and poor.

"We only want the smart ones barefoot and pregnant." And he has a chart!

(Bemused hat tip: Newmark's Door.)

Why you should be careful about Ward Churchill 

I had thought people understood the story with Churchill, but it appears that obfuscation will rule at many newspapers. Today's example is an editorial in the PioneerPress by a Native American who thinks the issue is academic freedom, which she believe Churchill is being denied.

His style, however, is akin to using a garden hoe in an operation that called for a surgical scalpel. Implying that those at the World Trade Center deserved to be killed is outrageous. Not surprisingly, his essay has provoked only a knee-jerk reaction with none of the intended dialogue he had hoped to inspire.

As an American Indian, I must admit that I rankle a bit at defending Ward Churchill. The bottom line, however, is the issue of academic freedom. A state legislature should not have the power to fire an academic because he or she promotes unpopular ideas.

I confess to not being enthused with responses like this one from Newt Gingrich, who really should know better. As reported by Jim Gegharty:
We ought to say to campuses, it�s over�We should say to state legislatures, why are you making us pay for this? Boards of regents are artificial constructs of state law. Tenure is an artificial social construct. Tenure did not exist before the twentieth century, and we had free speech before then. You could introduce a bill that says, proof that you�re anti-American is grounds for dismissal.

Talk such as this leads me to agree with David Beito, who thinks there's a parallel between Ward Churchill and Larry Flynt:

In the film, Flynt's attorney argued that if Americans know that the First Amendment protects "even Larry Flynt," they can rest assured that their own free speech rights will be secure.

Could it also be said that if professors and students (including many conservatives and libertarians who are currently under siege in higher education) know that if academic freedom protects "even Ward Churchill" they can have greater assurance that their own academic freedom will be secure?

Of course, the parallels are not complete because Churchill, unlike Flynt, is not only accused of offensive speech but of fraud.

The last point is important, because those who want to see Churchill punished have plenty of weapons at their disposal, without need of recourse to blowing up the tenure system or checking people's Americanism. Such talk smacks of the debate that began (and thought ended) with Sweezy.

Sweezy, of course, was an avowed Communist who refused to take a loyalty oath, something which Colorado has now had Churchill sign. How much further down the road to that case will Churchill travel, and how possible is it that he will become the new poster boy of academic freedom? And why would the Right want to make him a martyr?

There's plenty of evidence he's a liar and a fraud, and that the fraud goes to the matter of his tenure. Moreover, the university is culpable for at least not doing its due diligence in granting him tenure in the first place. Sack him if you want to, but be careful what you sack with him.

"Like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys" 

Which they are, give or take a few years.

I mentioned last week that we first learned about the resignation of the entire student finance committee here at SCSU by way of an op-ed written by its chair in the student paper. Today's copy of the paper runs the story as page one news. The rift seems wider than even Mr. Bah, the outgoing SFC chair, represented.
"We've had people say that they will never vote to approve any funding for athletic groups," Bah said. "We've had other organizations that were denied because there was some issues that student government supported and they did not. They denied their request for money."

Student government president Hal Kimball said that every member of student government votes differently. ...

"I don't persuade anybody with a vote. I don't debate or tell a senator to vote for this or vote for that," he said. "The only time I do is when the issue is extremely vital, and then I will pass the gavel."

Vice-chair of the finance committee Yee Ling Mui said that Kimball has the ability to press his beliefs onto others both inside and outside of meetings. "They are not going to come out and tell you 'we don't support groups that don't support us,' but it's obvious they do," she said. "He passes the gavel a lot."

SFC is an appointed body and its decisions are approved by student government. But cui custodiet custodiens? In the story we also learn that Kimball's vice president had to be talked down off the ledge from resigning.

In an e-mail sent on Feb. 13 and obtained by the University Chronicle, student government vice-president Bianca Rhodes resigned from her position. In the letter, Rhodes listed various reasons for her resignation.

Following are several passages from the letter: "I really don't care if there will be some negativity against me for my resignation because honestly, I did what I could, with the time that I had. I have tried to run meetings, and they have ran away from me and turned into chaos and I think that is because I believe that I have probably became simply a doormat," "There are so many accomplishments that we could have done this year but didn't happen" and "Senators need to do their job. I have been noticing that this is not happening."

Judicial council, however, ruled that the letter did not constitute a resignation because of its electronic format and ruled that Rhodes remain vice-president. After meeting with Kimball, Rhodes decided to hold her position for the semester.

What do you do with a student government that appears out of control? This question is even more vital now that it is trying to seize the pursestrings over student activity fees. Paraphrasing P.J. O'Rourke, giving student activity money to unchecked student government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

Star power and a tough out 

The NARN fellows are fairly gushing after our visit Saturday with state senator Michele Bachmann. (One 'l' and two 'n's she says. I understand explaining how to spell one's name better than most, Mr. "Every-other-letter's-an-A".) A picture of us with her is up on Captain's Quarters, and related coverage is also on Shot in the Dark and Fraters Libertas.

There's no doubt she has charisma, and she is an easy interviewee that made the hour with her quite a pleasure to do. But I think the one thing she will have going for her is that, like the person she's replacing, she's been tested under fire. She knocked off a 28-year incumbent in the Republican primary in 2000, was redistricted and won re-election, and continues to attract more negative feedback from the left (as Mitch's post discussed) than even David Strom or Phil Krinkie, who are constantly knocked for the crime of not confiscating more of your money. I'm sure we'll have the dump Bachmann people post a link in our comments along with hit pieces in the major papers. I encourage you to visit their site and see what motivates her opponents. They give her, paradoxically, more credibility with the social conservative base of many suburban Republicans who were the backbone of Kennedy's election victories. On the show Saturday, she downplayed that part and emphasized her support for TABOR, the subject of a great editorial in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required, alas).

I am not proclaiming Bachmann the favorite, nor even my favorite just yet. She's definitely to the right of me on many social issues. But if you're going into a key battle for an open seat, it's hard to argue with choosing someone who has experience in battle, and someone who presents herself well in public. Bachmann has both those qualities; as we say in baseball, she's a tough out.

David Horowitz at St. Johns tomorrow night 

Just a note for local readers sent to me by the Students Fostering Conservative Thought at St. John's University.
We are hosting David Horowitz to speak on Academic Freedom on Tuesday night. The event will be at 8:00.
The talk, titled "Politics of Bad Faith: The Radical Assault on America�s Future" is in the Steven B. Humphrey Theater. The talk is part of a series created by the Foundation for Active Conservative Thinking, which is the latest evolution of the e-Pluribus program at the Center for the American Experiment.
I'll have more on academic freedom later today. I hope to make it to see Horowitz, though I have a rehearsal for the Passion Play earlier that evening that is supposed to run until 9pm.

What passes for education 

One of the "products" (and in this case, I think scare quotes are appropriate) that came out of the settlement over an anti-Semitism suit at St. Cloud State was a mandated publication that was to trumpet affirmative action efforts locally. Now on its fourth issue, it has gone from being a glossy paean to its diversity efforts (take for example this issue from last summer) to now including strong advocacy points. In the latest issue online the publishers included a list titled "28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors that Indicate a Detour or Wrong Turn into White Guilt, Denial or Defensiveness." (Inhale.) It does not appear they printed this part of the article due to space considerations, but it merits your attention to see what people who head anti-racist initiatives on our campus think. Here are just a few examples.
1. I�m Colorblind.
�People are just people; I don�t see color; we�re all just human.� Or �I don�t think of you as Chinese.� Or �We all bleed red when we�re cut.� Or �Character, not color, is what counts with me.�
Statements like these assume that people of color are just like you, white; that they have the same dreams, standards, problems, and peeves that you do. �Colorblindness� negates the cultural values, norms, expectations and life experiences of people of color. Even if an individual white person could ignore a person�s color, society does not. By saying we are not different, that you don�t see the color, you are also saying you don�t see your whiteness. This denies the people of colors� experience of racism and your experience of privilege.

13. The Penitent.
�I am so sorry for the way whites have treated your people.� Or �I am sorry for the terrible things that white man just said to you.�
While there is probably no harm in the �sorry,� if it is not attached to some action taken against racism, it is most often just another expression of white guilt. Being an ally to people of color is not limited to an apology for other white people�s behavior, it must include anti-racist action.

22. Smoke and Mirrors.
You use the current PC language; you listen to the right music; we state the liberal line; you�re seen at the right meetings with the right people. You even interrupt racist remarks when the right people are watching and when there is no risk to us. You look like an anti-racist.
This is the �Avon Ally,� the cosmetic approach. People of color and other white anti-racists see through this pretense quickly. This pseudo-anti-racist posturing only serves to collude with racism and weakens the credibility of sincere white anti-racists.

23. I Have To Do My Personal Work.
�I have to do my personal work first.� Or �Ending racism is only about changing personal attitudes.�
If you assume that personal reflection and interpersonal work are the end of your job as an anti-racist, you would stay out of the public, institutional arenas. You would ignore cultural racist practices that don�t include whites personally. Whites wouldn�t take action, until they have finished ridding themselves of all racist conditioning. And since that complete �cure� will never happen, you would never take any institutional or cultural anti-racist action.
Within the article to which this piece was attached, the author indicates the transformative, childhood-correcting nature on American campuses:
Children do not choose to learn racist lessons. Our generous child wisdom tells us racism is wrong, but there is no escape from the daily catechism of racist teaching. We resisted the lies, the deceit and the injustice of racism, but without the skills to counter the messages. The conditioning fills one with fear, suspicion and stereotypes. You internalize your beliefs about people of color, yourself, other white people and about being white. Those internalized attitudes become actualized into racist behavior.
Who does she think is providing that daily catechism? This is the problem on American campuses, that faculty think the world around them is racist and that taxpayers are paying them to provide corrective measures. This is what they think their job is: Reprogramming. Re-engineering.

And what does this have to do with the settlement of an anti-Semitism suit?

Friday, February 25, 2005

NARN tomorrow 

I'll be in for at least the first two hours. There will be a Rocketman sighting from his self-imposed exile, along with a visit from Sixth District Congressional candidate Michele Bachmann. (Students out at St. Johns tell me there is a students-for-Bachmann blog now. SJU CRs have some other good stuff cooking I'll tell you about on Monday.) In the third hour we have a guy who might be related to Art Schlichter, the former Colts quarterback who bet on football. This guy is a good bet to talk about rock and roll, since he used to play for some band. We'll ask if he bets on football.

See the show site, and find the stream noon to 3pm Saturday.

Walking humbly 

Douglas Bass has an email response to a question of Jeff Johnson, candidate for state attorney general about faith and public service. These are not words I expect to hear from my elected officials in these times:
The verse that has stuck with me more than any from my childhood is the familiar Micah verse: "What does the Lord expect of me but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with my God." Doing justice and loving kindness, in my opinion, easily translate to political decision-making.

Walking humbly with God is a little more problematic in the public realm. To me, this means understanding that I'm not in control of my life or my public image; God is. It also means that I shouldn't strive to be the center of attention or the most important person in the room. That is particularly difficult in politics, as publicity is more sought-after than anything but campaign contributions in our perverse little world. Nonetheless, I have tended to work behind-the-scenes and not seek out the cameras in my work in St. Paul, as I believe that this is the way I'm most effective and is the manner in which God intends me to work.

We hear that verse in Micah 6:8 often around my Lutheran church. I like the way it's presented in The Message:
"God has already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don't take yourself too seriously. Take God seriously."
Leaders who take God seriously will find it difficult in the public realm, but not impossible. Doing justice without taking yourself too seriously is very difficult.

Like I say, I don't expect to hear these words from elected officials, and I expect even less for people to act on them. My expectations are low. If Rep. Johnson can raise them, he'll earn my respect and my vote.

Bully for him 

Frequent reader and commenter Stephen Frank takes to task the letter by Mary Clifford on the anonymous posting at the Times (as discussed here.) Read the whole thing: I don't ruin that by giving you his ending as the money quote.
I wonder about the wisdom of having the university take on the Times. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two of us � we need them and they need us. There are limitations in taking on those who buy ink by the barrel. They are going to have the last word. More to the point I agree with President Lyndon Johnson who said taking on the media is like pissing against the wind.

On a cold February day in Minnesota I have better things to do.
Well done, good professor. Well done.

Another taxpayer-supported advocacy job on a public university campus 

If you thought the HURL job description was bad, take a look at this ad for a Campus Climate Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin at Lacrosse.
The Campus Climate Coordinator is responsible for facilitating programs that will improve the campus climate and diversity awareness. The candidate will be required to communicate and provide education programs for multiple constituencies. ...The Campus Climate Coordinator will:
* Conduct needs assessments and make programmatic recommendations to the University units for campus climate improvements;
* Coordinate ongoing diversity efforts generated by the comprehensive plan for faculty, staff, and students in the area of cultural competency and nondiscrimination;
* Assist in the creation and development of a Diversity Resource & Curriculum Infusion Center which will focus on diversity training and research for the UW-La Crosse campus;
* Develop, promote, and deliver educational programs and training in areas related to diversity awareness (race, gender, disability, homophobia, sexual harassment, etc.) for an increasingly diverse workforce (building individual and team skills);

I'm often fascinated by the reliance on "diverse workforce" as a reason for these programs. When you talk to faculty about what they do to help students develop job skills they'll often say they are not a vocational school, yet when it comes to diversity they suddenly are worried about how our student will fit into "an increasingly diverse workforce".

(H/T: Reader Pat Mattson.)

Water matter with this story? 

Time to be nicer to Chad, since he shared with me a letter asking for an explanation of the water-pricing policies of the Denver water public utility. This is going to end up being used as a case study for one of my principles classes, I think.
The drought-savvy ways of Denver Water's customers are pinching the finances of the state's largest water utility, and that could mean an extra rate hike this year.
Chad's correspondent is trying to figure out why the utility would raise rates when people aren't using enough water; thinking about demand would mean Denver Water should decrease price, right? Maybe, maybe not. Since water is in essence a zero marginal cost item -- it costs practically nothing to pump one more gallon to a household -- the job of Denver Water, if it was a profit maximizer, would be to maximize total revenue; that more or less water is used is irrelevant, as long as it doesn't run out. It would do so by raising price if the demand for water was relatively inelastic -- that is, if the responsiveness of consumers to increasing prices wasn't too high.

The utility had forecast 2005 water sales of $169.5 million, about 11 percent below normal. But even before the summer watering season hits, customers are reducing use, causing utility officials to prepare for reductions of as much as 20 percent to 30 percent, and water sales of just $144.8 million...
If it was just a reaction to the 8% increase in price Denver Water imposed on Jan. 1, that would not be inelastic at all. The problem is that the drought has led DW to engage in a conservation program which, if successful, shifts demand. And it appears they were quite successful. So the elasticity point, and the raising price to increase quantity demanded point, are out the window.

What happened? The key is here:
Denver, directed by city charter to keep its water rates low, has tried to keep a lid on water price hikes.
DW is a regulated utility, told to keep prices low and not maximize profits. They also are allowed to raise prices to cover their costs. So if the conservation is successful, you have less water being sold to cover the same amount of expenses as they had before. Thus prices have to rise in response to balance DW's budget. (Principles students: you are setting price equal to average cost with the regulated monopolist, and if you're on the downward sloping portion of the AC curve, this is the result.)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

"Daddy? What's hockey?" 

Sentences that make the Elder scream:
Television ratings for last year's Stanley Cup finals were lower than that of this year's Westminster Dog Show.
Woof! Source. (H/T: Skip Sauer.)

DFL has trouble finding candidates in the Sixth 

Minnesota Democrats Exposed has an exclusive from state DFL chair Mike Erlandson that Patty Wetterling, the losing DFL candidate in the Sixth District in Minnesota last November, is not running for federal office -- either the Dayton seat or the same CD6 seat. Wetterling is supposed to make a statement tomorrow on her plans.

This might explain why the second tier candidates for the CD6 seat have been coming forward, like Jay Esmay. Remember that Wetterling was recruited because the DFL could not find another suitable candidate to run against Kennedy last year. With Wetterling to the sidelines, the DFL is down to the backbenchers and thus the Republicans will come out in force to challenge frontrunners like state senator Michelle Bachmann, Cheri Yecke and potentially state representative Phil Krinkie.

Hugh is reading Amy Klobuchar's announcement of forming her committee right now to look at the Senate seat.

UPDATE (2/25): Wetterling now says she's interested in the Senate seat.

Makes me want to HURL 

Robert KC Johnson reports on a conference being put together by CUNY's faculty union called "Educators to Stop the War".
Virtually all of the panels confirm the perceptive observation of Emory�s Mark Bauerlein that an academy lacking in intellectual diversity contains too many members who seem �to have no idea how extreme [their] vision sounds to many ears.� So the conference features presentations with titles such as �American Fascism?� or �The Politics of Fear & Compulsory Patriotism� or �Globalization, the Permanent War Economy & the War on Terror� or �Countering Campus Right-Wing Attacks: ABOR, the David Project, HR 3077.� I hadn�t realized that being pro-Israel or opposing professors� intimidating their students represented a �campus right-wing attack.�
Sounds like fun. All we get is one lousy lecture on white privilege.

Faculty, students remember a fallen member of their family 

As noted in many newspapers and blogs, three Minnesota guardsmen were killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. One of them, Jesse Lhotka, was a graduate last May from SCSU. This morning's campus paper contains reminisces of Jesse.

Lhotka graduated as a finance major from SCSU. The news of his death hit many of his friends, associates and fellow campus members, including Lhotka's advisor William Hudson, extremely hard.

"I was shocked and deeply saddened," Hudson said. "The finance majors are a family and we lost one of our own. We are a tight knit group."

Hudson said that Lhotka was great to have in class because he was always upbeat and was a very motivated student. "He was a good student and he took his work seriously," Hudson said. "He came to class every day and he was very conscientious. He had a positive attitude and a positive outlook."
David Christopherson, a finance professor at SCSU and director of Insurance Issues Research, had Lhotka in his classes and said he was an asset to the academic environment.

"Jesse was an extremely conscientious student in the two classes he had with me," Christopherson said. "Jesse was a joy to know every time he would visit you in his office. He had a unique combination of mirth and maturity and I was deeply honored to know him."
Keith Meyer said that Lhotka was a great friend.

"He was one of the best friends you could ask for," Meyer said. "He was always in a good mood. He was so spontaneous. If he gets an idea in his head, he wants to do it. If there was something going on that seems fun, he was usually there. He was one of those people that once you met him, you always knew him and he always knew you."

Meyer said that he and his friends threw a goodbye party for Lhotka's graduation from SCSU and that was the last time he got to see his friend.

"We had a little goodbye party for him, and I said to myself 'I didn't know if this would be the last time I see him�' but it obviously is," Meyer said. "I'll miss his jokes and his whole attitude."

Lhotka is survived by his wife Stacey in Alexandria. We pray for Stacey and mourn Jesse's death as well as those of his fallen comrades.

UPDATE: Newest Minnesota Organization of Bloggers member Zero-Two-Mike Soldier has lots of coverage of the event. Just keep scrolling.

Student finance committee resigns en masse 

It's odd that this appears in an opinion column and not in a regular news story in the University Chronicle.

On Feb. 17, 2005 the entire Finance Committee resigned. The letter of resignation stated student government's executive board actions created an "extenuating hostile environment," and also stated "the executive board's objectives and our goals do not align." Some of these frustrations stemmed from "...consistent and open engagement in bias representation of students organizations."

SFC felt its "ethical and business principles" were compromised. SFC saw only two options; follow the politics of being made "puppets" of student government by consistently "chastising" organizations the executive members disliked, or resign. The resignation letter also voiced other concerns relating to "meddling in our daily activities, threatening to impeach based on unfounded claims and... contempt toward finance members." The committee's resignation letter quoted the president of student government, having said "we hired you and you must do what we say," in so doing "violating SFC policies, and unfairly representing students."

As I understand the student handbook at SCSU, any decision by the student finance committee has to be approved by 2/3 vote of student government, so in some sense there is a veto of SFC available to student government anyway. But this, in light of student government's continued radicalism on issues like Support the Court, would seem to indicate that student government is not only practicing Soviet ideology but also Soviet political methods. If I wrote this opinion piece, I'd worry about late-night visitors.
At a meeting SFC discussed the future of this leadership noting "Student Government's attempt to put their hands on everything will simply lead to their downfall and a misrepresentative legacy." As one SCSU administrator noted, "leadership fails when it tries to micromanage or put it's hands on everything for the sake of power."

I wonder why the student newspaper, uniquely positioned to get at this story, hasn't investigated and reported more on this development?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

It never ends, does it? 

When will professors ever stop trying to use their classrooms as places to force change. At Rhode Island College, a social work student who did not want to take part in an assignment in his "Policy and Organizing" class (I am not making that up!) because of the ideological bias of the assignment and program, was told he should consider leaving. After the student had acquiesced, he wrote a paper that argued against the position of the group he joined. The paper was failed by the professor, who wrote, �Regardless of the content, application of theory, and critical analysis, you did not write from the perspective you were required to use in this academic exercise. Therefore, the paper is must [sic] receive a failing grade.�

RIC is a state university. In a state university, can a faculty member require a project that has ideological positions with which the student does not agree? Does academic freedom for faculty allow a professor to require the perspective from which a student can write a paper?

There's much more to the story. FIRE is representing the student, and on their blog Robert Shibley notes,
The real genesis of Felkner�s problem is that he believes that some government social welfare programs�specifically, some programs that RIC�s social work faculty supports�don�t help the poor, and, more generally, that he is more �conservative� in his views than the average social worker. RIC�s School of Social Work has made it quite clear that holding beliefs not in lockstep with those of the school is out of bounds, and it is backing up this stance with real penalties.
There's a similar story from the Social Work department here at SCSU, but I'm the wrong guy to tell it. Here's hoping Scholar Jack can catch us up.

Casting for pinkos 

It's a day for bad campus email. On our announcement list -- which should be used for the business of the university -- there comes a solicitation for donations for a CodePink ad to mark the second anniversary of the Iraq invasion.
CODEPINK St. Cloud is planning to run another ad in March � two years since the U.S. invasion. If you support our effort to raise awareness about the costs of war as well as other issues, we invite you to add your signature (it will be published in the paper). A full-page standby ad costs $650 (cheaper because the Times decides when to run it). We suggest a $10 contribution for each signature, but more is gratefully appreciated and less or none is acceptable.

An entertaining fellow in another department decided on a lark to solicit for his Lutheran church in the Cities trying to build a larger sanctuary. I am still hoping for a few dollars to go watch the Red Sox get their championship rings.

Your taxpayer dollars at work.

What is a "revenue need"? 

I get a note this AM from our faculty union, alerting me to a letter in today's RedStarTribune.

I am one Minnesotan who is very tired of our Legislature and governor continually using phony, shaky and unfair means to balance the budget.

Accounting shifts, indiscriminate application of higher fees, shifting property taxes and excessive increases in college tuition have formed the backbone of past efforts to secure sufficient funds to balance the budget. This year the governor has added gambling schemes. None of these regressive solutions meets the long-term revenue needs of the state.

This is utterly silly. There's nothing phony about higher fees, as they generate real dollars. So too do increases in college tuition at public universities, where subsidies constitute a middle class welfare program. And both of these are voluntary decisions -- you do not have to use the parks if the fee is too high, and you don't have to go to college. In that sense, the word "regressive" makes no sense, as it applies only to government confiscation of resources, not a voluntary transaction. The same applies to gambling, though the decision to exploit the risk-taking and short-sighted behavior that can account for poverty in some strikes me as cynical and of questionable morality.

But what exactly does one mean by a long-term revenue need? What is it that the government needs to do, in this person's view? Well, you should have a hint from the first line of this post, in that the faculty union sent this.
The elephant in the room is the governor's pledge not to raise taxes. Either the governor has to agree to alter his position or the Legislature has to assert its appropriate authority to protect the future of Minnesota by seeking a genuinely balanced and bipartisan approach that includes both spending cuts and tax increases.

The writer, not revealed by the newspaper (did he sign it as a private citizen?) is a member of the union's governmental relations committee. Don't you think the readers of the RST would have a better understanding of the letter if this was revealed?

A long-term revenue need is an increase in his salary.

Premium discussion on Social Security 

Doug and Flash are discussing Social Security. Flash says:
The best Insurance policy I have right now is the money withdrawn from FICA. There is a potential return of premiums. The premiums help support the security of our society. It is more then just a retirement account, it is what helps individuals dig out of awful situations. It helps provide for families when a parent dies prematurely. It assists in providing dignity to those faced with untimely dilemmas that they could not control.
In part he's right. There are four parts to Social Security, or which retirement is one. While Flash focuses on the I in FICA, I prefer to focus on OASDHI, which is "Old Age, Survivor, Disability and Health Insurance." That's the actual name of the Social Security Act as passed in 1965. It did start initially only as a retirement plan and not an insurance plan (to answer Doug's update), but back then it was known as OAI. The S, D, and H came in the fifties and sixties. (UPDATE: Scholar Dave points out the S came in 1939, two years after Helvering. While I'm looking this up, disability insurance was added in 1956, and Medicare in 1962.)

Now the H part is Medicare, which is not part of the current discussion, but the S and the D are parts for which Flash would be correct. A few weeks ago the WSJ (subscribers link) published an article which described how those parts come into play for several people. They constitute about 17% of Social Security payments. The 2% that would continue to be collected in Social Security under the Bush Administration's privatization plan would, in good part, have to continue to pay this amount. The remainder would be a safety net, means-tested (which I take it would please Doug.) So in some sense, the insurance that Flash is concerned about is untouched by the Bush plan.

One of the under-reported items in this debate is whether that is a good insurance policy. Flash thinks so, but doesn't compare it to the possibility of private alternatives. I haven't read enough about this point, and it seems to be something missed in the discussion.

An old wound re-opens 

A few days ago a senior faculty member sent an open letter to President Saigo to the university's discussion list, indicating broken agreements surrounding the break-up of the former Applied Psychology program. At his request, I have uploaded the letter here. Please understand that this is his writing; however, a bit of background would help.

When I was interviewed by Doug Williams at Bogus Gold last weekend, I mentioned that the initial concept of SCSU Scholars was to be an internal mechanism for conservatives and other victims of the social justice McCarthyism that pervades this campus to communicate freely with each other and with alums, trustees and the public at large. This blog has become something different over time, mostly as a response to the pull of readership and to a smaller extent because I was doing all the writing and was not content to just write about that.

The impetus for this blog dates back to the row on campus over a series of letters published by a black graduate student who vented about racism in the APSY program. The fallout exposed a deep schism in the program which led to a split, which only one side wanted. The letter below tells the story in more detail. But I should point out that the story was already documented on a separate site by the side of the debate that is represented in this letter. I should disclose that I designed and installed the site for those faculty back in 1999 and 2000. The materials were collected from a variety of affected faculty and from web sources. You are invited to investigate that site if you wish to learn more.

Ironically, when this letter appeared, our friend Miss Median appeared, hoping that it would not make it into the press. To her, "sunlight is not the best disinfectant". That, and the author's request, are what lead me to post it. The university, in its usual fashion, has not responded to the letter.

I have no independent information, though, about this situation and cannot verify independently its claims. People seeking more information should contact him and not me. I am simply honoring a request from some old friends who have been through an ordeal professionally. I will also extend the courtesy shown here to other affected faculty.

Here then is the letter.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Barring poker 

St. Cloud is the dateline location for a New York Times article on bars trying to take advantage of the increased interest in Texas Hold'em.
Not 20 minutes into a No Limit Texas Hold'em poker tournament at the Granite Bowl bar and grill here, State Senator Mike McGinn pushed his entire pile of chips into the pot. State Senator Dave Kleis hardly hesitated before following suit, and State Representative Tom Hackbarth quickly joined the "all in" chorus.
"No wonder we've got budget problems at the state," cracked their colleague, State Senator Brian LeClair, who had folded his own cards long before.

"Well, it's other people's money," Mr. McGinn said of the taxes that fill state coffers. "It's kind of the same thing."

Actually, the eight lawmakers gathered around the green felt here on Saturday afternoon, all but one Republicans, were not playing for money at all, but for T-shirts proclaiming, "Poker is Not a Crime" - and to make a point. Betting with chips that had been seized last summer in a police raid on the Granite Bowl's free weekly poker tournaments, they came to support a bill sponsored by Mr. Kleis, who represents St. Cloud, that would explicitly legalize Texas Hold'em (but not other forms of poker) so long as prizes do not top $200.
The PioneerPress calls this "creeping towards Vegas" with a little slam at Dave Kleis, but it's hard to see what the problem here is. The PP's editorial Sunday complained of "full-blown, state-sponsored casinos", while Kleis' bill does no such thing. It allows modest gambling within privately-owned bars, a far cry from the slot machines proposed by two DFLers, which the PP also decried. "To expand state-sanctioned gambling is to erode Minnesota's quality of life," it says. In a state with so many reservation casinos, that's a hard claim to support.

There's no free lunch 

Via The American Mind, I read that Nobel Laureate Ed Prescott doesn't think Social Security is a problem. Speaking at a Cato Institute conference,

We hear a lot about transition costs. "But I'm going to use some economic jargon, not 'political accounting' jargon. There are no transition costs. Re-labeling debt is not a cost.

Steve Landsburg explains further,

Is Social Security headed for bankruptcy? Sure.

Should we care? Not a bit.

Here's why: We pay lots of taxes. Some of those taxes are called "Social Security taxes." We get lots of government benefits. Some of those benefits are called "Social Security benefits." Bankruptcy means that in 10 to 15 years, Social Security benefits will exceed Social Security taxes.

The looming bankruptcy is both absolutely real and absolutely insignificant. You could reverse it in an instant by changing a definition or two. Keep benefits exactly as they are, but call only half of them "Social Security benefits"; call the rest something else, like, say, "Geezer Pleasers." Social Security taxes would exceed "Social Security benefits." Voil�, no more bankruptcy.

My students learn that the circular flow is a two-way street: money moves in one direction, goods in the other. We have promises that in 2020 so many goods will flow to retirees. We will produce an amount of goods. If we are going to have more to pay them in the future, we have to create new capital, invest in R&D, and move to an economy that can pay them more and leave enough to keep the new generation of workers not worse off than the current generation. You either have to have more capital, or find ways to make each worker more productive. All of this requires more savings.

Landsburg makes the key point:
If you want to address the Social Security crisis of the future, you must adopt laws that encourage saving in the present. There's nothing else you can do.

Personal accounts can do this. Changing the cap for Social Security payments doesn't.
What really matters, though, is not private accounts. It's the saving and pro-growth policies that private accounts will encourage. If we can get the same things in other ways, that's just as good.

Readers might think this contradicts my statement last week that the battle over Social Security is about transition costs. It does not. The battle is there since changing the timing of debt, while having no changes in the allocation of resources, will cause some shifts in the distribution of resources.

Cato is keeping a nice quick fact archive for the rest of you bloggers wishing to arm yourselves.

Don't simplify too much 

PiPress editor Mark Yost read a fifth-grade American history textbook, and he didn't enjoy it very much.

If you wonder why people today don't understand the Second Amendment and other important elements of American history, look no further than this textbook.

Not surprisingly, it takes the predictable left lane down history's highway. For instance, the Spanish are justifiably chastised for their treatment of the Incas and Aztecs, but there's no mention of virgins being thrown into volcanoes. If this textbook were your only source, you'd think the natives lived in an utter state of equanimity before the evil Europeans arrived.

Ditto for slavery. The text makes the argument that slavery existed for eons in Africa, but it wasn't that bad.

"In some parts of Africa slaves could rise to positions of honor and trust. After a time, they could be given their freedom."

Not so for America.

"Little by little, however, life for Africans in Europe and in the Americas began to change. One of the most important reasons for this change was that there were not enough workers in the Americas."

You can just see the seeds being sown in the young minds for future lessons discrediting capitalism and the widespread benefits of the Industrial Revolution.

Yost goes on to describe how biographies of important figures from the American Revolution are breezed by, or slanted by some weird anecdote like Thomas Paine being fired as a tax collector because he wanted a raise. And Yost complains that history is dry.

That's not news, of course, and writers of textbooks certainly try to spice up their books, which is one reason for finding anecdotes like the one about Paine. So I don't think anecdotes and dryness are the problem. The problem, from my perspective, is that the attempt to reduce the complexities of the Atlantic System to something that a fifth-grader can understand. Economic historians don't think plantation trade was decisive in creating the Industrial Revolution, but it certainly can be argued that it sped up development in the U.K. and north America. How do I get that point across to a ten-year-old? So I simplify it, and in the process I create this image of Africans in Europe and America being put in more dire circumstances so that rich whites could get more cotton. This allows liberal teachers -- or even those who just haven't learned and thought the issues through -- to bolster their complaints against industrialized economies and call for restitution, and to include their students in the crusade.

Alas, the problem is probably not going to go away by the presentation of evidence. The best one can do is a counterfactual exercise: "How much less would the U.S. and the U.K. have developed in the absence of the slave trade?" is not a question you can answer scientifically. And worse, focusing on it doesn't answer Ronald Reagan's question that Yost closes with:

In his farewell address, Ronald Reagan asked: "Are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world?"

Reading this textbook, it's clear that the answer is a resounding "no."

Arnold Kling, politically incorrect 

But he'll be able to get away with it, because men look bad in this. He first trots out the Becker test, which he says that Larry Summers offered in his now-famous lunch talk.
At one point in his talk, Summers trotted out a thesis first articulated by Nobel Laureate Gary Becker, who argued that discrimination harms the discriminator. Becker's point is that it is inefficient to allow non-economic factors to affect a market decision. Therefore, the discriminator will achieve sub-optimal results, either in terms of consumption or profits.

Suppose that in math and science, some departments discriminate against women. Then according to the Becker-Summers argument, those departments, because they are willing to choose second-rate men over first-rate women, will be at a disadvantage relative to departments that are either nondiscriminatory or which discriminate in favor of women. Summers argues that we do not see evidence of these "profit opportunities." As Summers admits, this is a limited argument, because it does not speak to possible discrimination earlier in life. However, it does give pause to anyone who wants to give the automatic "True" response of discrimination.

A very old paper in sports economics by James Gwartney and Charles Haworth (JPolEcon 1974) demonstrated that those baseball teams which integrated earlier had a competitive advantage over those who did not. This is evident to anyone who remembers both Jackie Robinson and Pumpsie Green. It's an example of the Becker test.

The Becker test doesn't hold, Summers and Kling agree, for women in the sciences. So what's going on? Kling offers two new hypotheses, based entirely on casual empiricism. The first is "dominance behavior":

Males are very concerned about "whose is bigger," and this shows up particularly when a group of males gets together for the first time. They compare, they boast, and they try to assert superiority. I noticed this when my first-year graduate school class at MIT met on the lawn the day of student orientation. It made me uncomfortable then, and such behavior has made me uncomfortable ever since.

...My sense is that women find male-dominance behavior annoying. They particularly dislike being treated as "irrelevants" during meetings. I can understand their point of view. I avoid the American Economic Association meetings, in part because I am sickened by the flattery and the Show Off/Put Down. ...

So to Lawrence Summers' list of possible reasons that women are under-represented in some fields, let me add annoying male-dominance behavior. To the extent that one must put up with or join in such behavior to succeed in largely-male fields, I could see where otherwise qualified women might not have the taste for it.

I know well that AEA behavior, having witnessed it at many such meetings. I will note that the women I see at the meetings display the same behavior, but that may be a defense mechanism, or it might be that the field attracts women who exhibit the behavior. In graduate schools as well, that behavior is quite common.

Kling's other theory, that men attribute success to themselves and failure to others, while women do the opposite, doesn't persuade me in terms of the question of women in the sciences. But I don't know as we need any more.

It's been bugging me for three days 

Ralph at Division of Labour continues to wonder about rebates. I have been wondering about something I saw Saturday. Driving back from the Cities, I was having a coughing fit thanks to the creeping crud (CC) that Mitch gave me. I decide I need some DayQuil, as Five Days of the Zinc had ameliorated some but not all of the symptoms of the CC. I'm also called by Mrs. Scholar from the hospital with her mom, and told I have to eat there with her. Since hospital food sucks, I figure I'll tank up beforehand.

So I go to a Walgreens in Maple Grove and stand before the dizzying array of cold remedies. Next to the DayQuil is the Walgreens knockoff. "Buy 1, get 1 free" says the sign. But I really only need a couple days of dosage, since I'm pretty sure I'm on the downside of the CC. I look closely: "$3.49 for 1, or buy one get one free" and the regular price is in fact $3.49. The NyQuil knockoff is priced the same way. I grab two of each.

At the counter I ask, "So if I buy one it's $3.49?" "Yes." "And if I buy two?" "Same price." Yet the cashews are on sale -- remember, I'm hungry too -- and they are priced $5.99 for one or 2/$10.

Question: What accounts for the difference in pricing? And what does Walgreens gain by pricing the cold remedies in this way? One possible answer: They are paying you to store the cold product, since winter is ending (at least for most places, if not in Minnesota) and demand for cold remedies will wane shortly. Somehow I don't think that's the right answer though, and I'm stuck. Your suggestions?

Of such thoughts are an economist's day made.

Monday, February 21, 2005

MOB, Outland Edition 

Somehow the Fraters forgot to ask me if I would host the "satellite party" by which one confirms membership in MOB.

If you submit an application for membership to one of the Northern Alliance blogs via e-mail and are accepted into the MOB, you MUST attend a future MOB event to maintain your status. In other words, being accepted into the MOB is contingent on attendance at an upcoming MOB event.

There is going to a huge MOB blowout this summer. Before then we'll also have a smaller event as well. Details will be forthcoming. If you've just joined the MOB, plan on hitting at least one of these affairs.

We realize that these MOB events have been rather Twin City-centric, which poses challenges for some of the out-state MOBsters. We're looking into the possibility of having King host a satellite MOB event in St. Cloud to make the logistics a bit easier.

Well, now that you have asked, sure! I don't have to do this in St. Cloud, though it would be nice if for no other reason than I could finally have a beer at one of these things without fear of falling asleep on I-94 around Hasty. There are two brew pubs here that would make a nice spot (I would prefer the second only because I know the owner and can get a private room). But what about doing a satellite in Duluth? Mankato? Alex or Moorhead or Marshall or Bemidji or Thief River Falls? Anybody out there?

Drop a line for dates and locations. I'll coordinate with the Cities people to see who we can rope into this to make it a true MOB affair.

And I have a pad to take care of the stamps, Kathy.

The life of an economics statistics geek 

I just lost about thirty minutes of my life figuring out when and where the U.S. Dept. of Commerce changed the definition of national income, which I only realized when a colleague started talking about it in the hallway. He's retiring soon so he doesn't have to redo his notes. I do. And lots of papers to grade, too. So if you think I'm blogging lightly today, you're right. And atop all that, I need more DayQuil.

More sunlight, please 

No, I'm not complaining about the weather here, which has really been OK the last few weeks, but the degree to which the blogosphere is shining light on troubling places. You know the Easongate/GannonGuckert/Ward Churchill stuff, but here's some other places you should be watching as well.

Ah, the power of sunlight!!

Word jihad 

Commenting on a STrib editorial (why do you torture yourself so, Mitch?) Shot In The Dark comments:
The Gannon/Guckert 'kerfuffle' (there's a word that's gone from cute to intolerable in record time)

The word "kerfuffle" now appears even on a billboard for a local cafe, suggesting you eat there to get away from the k********. That is bloody hell enough. The k-word is hereby banned from Scholars. MOB and other blogrolled writers are warned that repeated use of this word may lead to deletion from the Scholars' List of Honor.

Watching yourself speak 

Early in my career teaching I taught an interactive TV class, broadcasting from SCSU to the local technical college and a second site at a reservation school up near Onamia. The classes were also put on tape. I watched them for about fifteen minutes and realized how bad I was. Many nervous habits, largely a function of not being able to pace the front of a classroom. I mean hideously bad. Burn-the-tape bad.

I've gotten better, but after reading Doug's transcribed SCSU Scholars Interview of me not nearly enough. I used to use "OK" as a pause to catch my thoughts. I broke myself of the habit ... but now I use "and so". Count them in the interview, and bring your clicker. And the ellipses? Those mark a fish changing direction in the water. I neither speak nor think in a continuously linear way. I don't think I can change that, and I don't know as I want to.

A transcription is an odd way to watch yourself speak. I've never had an interview transcribed before. But looking at it, it is kind of fun to remember a conversation by reading.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Follow-up on HURL job ad 

The New Criterion picks up the job description at St. Cloud State's Department of the 3.7 GPA, as linked to on Friday, and connects this to Ward Churchill.
The point to bear in mind, however, is that Ward Chruchill is not an aberration: he represents what has become the academic mainstream. Ditto the Kirkland Project. Start scratching the surface of your local college or university. What will you find? You'll find things like this advertisement for a job as--God helps us--an "Assistant Professor of Human Relations & Multicultural Education" at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. Really, you can't make this stuff up.
See also these thoughts from Cold Spring Shops.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Lancing a boil (with update 2/23) 

Commenting on my post about Bastiat's window, in which I considered the Lancet study an example of the fallacy, Tim Lambert thinks I'm mistaken.

that is what the study measured: the change in the death rate. If it had gone down, the study would have found a net benefit.

...Roughly half of the 60,000 violent deaths were due to the skyrocketing murder rate in Iraq, not military or terrorist operations. And the 15,000 dead reported in the press will only include some of the civilian deaths, so it is absurd to suggest that all of the difference were insurgents. The Lancet study indicates that at most 5% of the excess deaths were of insurgents. (Though with a subsample this small there is enormous room for sampling error.)

I appreciate Tim trying to think this through, but the Lancet study (you need a subscription to actually read it) doesn't do quite what he says. As Tim points out, "there is enormous room for sampling error," because the actual error range around the death total (the original 100,000 -- I don't see a note on the error band on the 60,000) is +/-94,000 on the total figure. That sampling error comes from how the study is done, which bears some notice. This study was done by sampling a set of 30 or so cities in Iraq and then extrapolating. Thus the sampling error.

But this misses my larger point, which is that those who want to rely on the Lancet study have to assume that the reporting of people about recent deaths and reporting on deaths during the Saddam period were the same. Many of Saddam's dead were not murdered in the presence of witnesses; there is no indication that the authors of the study charged Saddam with a death for a missing person. It was noted in the IHT that the authors sought death certificates to verify the interviewees' memories, but eventually felt it was too insulting in many cases. Which did they believe and which did they not? Also, information was collected during a period when the success of the war against the insurgents (vis-a-vis the war against Saddam); since some were uncertain that America would stay and see through the mission -- thank you, John Kerry -- deaths caused by Ba'athists was probably suppressed by fear of recrimination. Third, about 37,000 of the deaths the Lancet study uses come from a count by anti-occupation groups. (REDACTED: See below.) They also chose both to change their list of randomly sampled areas so they didn't have to drive as much; this meant they stayed close to Baghdad and the Sunni triangle, probably oversampling high-casualty areas. Last, comparing an equal length period between Saddam's reign and occupation assumes that both death rates were at "steady state" levels. As I said in the original post last month, in the immediate aftermath of any war comes a period of heightened violence. Comparing a period under a long-term brutal dictator to a transition phase in the development hopefully of a democracy doesn't meet the test of ceteris paribus needed to validate the study.

A proper study would estimate the steady state rate of democide under Saddam versus the transitional death rate increase in the postwar period. That is the test of what is seen versus what is not seen. My conclusion that the latter is less than the former is speculative, but the Lancet study does not dissuade me, and Lambert's claims focus only on that which is seen. Thank you, Tim, for providing us yet another example of the wisdom of Bastiat.

UPDATE (2/23): Lambert and his drone indicate in comments that they think most of this is mistaken. I have put in the comments page references to the parts they contend are wrong to show that I am referring to the article itself. In the process I found that I had misread a point I initially made about the use of the Kifah numbers by the authors. That's what I get for writing under the influence of Nyquil late on a Saturday night. I have struck through the line that was wrong, and I regret the error, and thank Lambert for pointing it out. On the rest, however, I think he's wrong and that he hasn't brought facts to the debate, only his biases.
The Lancet article includes only one violent death of the 7438 preinvasion individuals they interview (see Table 3). That fact alone should indicate the lack of measurement of prison/torture chamber deaths under Saddam.

Friday, February 18, 2005

And pizza too? Gosh! 

The Northern Alliance Radio Network hits the road this weekend with a broadcast 12-3pm from the White Bear Lake Super Store. AM 1280 the Patriot is lining up some prizes for those who attend, and Mitch indicates that we will have pizzas, maybe even Green Mill pizzas. Them I like. And Mrs. Scholar has been bugging me for a new ride, so who knows what you might see tomorrow. Should be a great time, please come!

Name that song 

This showed up on Ed Tufte's Q&A boards today. It's one of the best pieces of programming I've ever seen. It has a blog attached that had for example this entry:
My NameVoyager is designed to give you a sense of names as history. In certain cases you can see the stamp of a single individual -- type in Shirley to see the huge impact of Shirley Temple in the '30s. At the opposite extreme, you expect fo find names sunk by a negative personal association. So one of the most examined names in the Voyager is Adolph.

I wouldn't have thought of that one. My wife and my ex-wife had songs with their names as the title around the time they were born, but not quite at the right times. I also mark the decline of 'Ernest' as predating Hemingway.

Likewise, mine is the 789th most popular name in the decade I was born, and fell out of the top 1000 by the 1970s. My cousins who use the Latin form were much more popular in the 1950s but dying off now (#745 in the 1990s.)

At least, when I was born, King was more popular than Regis.

No wonder there's no critical thinking 

We college professors talk often about building critical thinking skills, and we're frustrated when students accept things said to them without question. This is a perception often of the web, that information out there is unsafe because it is unfiltered. Most of the critiques of the Blogosphere by the MSM are thus.

We find that they're learning it in the classrooms:
I said to my colleague that it seems like we've not really evolved that much at all in terms of our thinking about learning, but that I thought that might be changing, primarily due to the effects of the increasing transparency the Web seems to be bringing to many areas of life...journalism and politics, for instance. Two places where traditional ideas are being seriously challenged by our new ability to particpate and by the demand, of some, for a more open accounting of process and methodology. And so, I said, I felt like in time, education would be affected by that as well, in potentially very positive ways. ...

'You have to read some Marx,' my friend said. 'Don't you know that those in power will let the masses convince themselves that are in control until they become a bit too powerful, at which point they'll step in and shut it down?' (Or something along those lines.)

'So what are you saying?' I asked. 'You think if the Web gets too disruptive to education 'they'll' try to censor it?'

His answer was, for all intents, yes, that if things ever got to the point where the status quo was seriously challenged, there would be serious attempts to limit the technology."

And then, in a subsequent post, he shows us how one such censor would work.
My colleague's brother is a high school principal in a major East Coast city, and during a phone call they had yesterday, the conversation turned to the Internet.

"My teachers are complaining that the quality of their student papers is just getting worse and worse," the principal said. "And it's because they're getting such bad information from the Internet. Are there any lists of 'reputable' sites out there that we can get our kids to use?"

My colleague, who has had the misfortune of sitting through many of my information literacy harangues, and who is a very smart person himself, said "Why don't you do some professional development for your teachers and show them how to teach kids to find good sources?"

"Oh, no," the principal said. "They won't want to do that. They don't have the time for it."

"Well, don't you think the kids need to learn how to use the Internet effectively as a research tool?" my friend said.

"I think it's better for everyone if we just give them a list of sites they can use when they do their papers," the principal said, "and tell them they have to have a certain number of those resources in the final product."

Republicans need not apply 

My fellow Scholars are hooting over this job ad from the Department of the 3.7 GPA. There's not much difference from this one last summer, except that this one is a permanent, tenurable job. Scholar Jack notes "The State is using tax money to create permanent jobs for which only members of one political party will be considered." This time we're sending the ad copy out to some legislators asking for guidance over legality and propriety.

Tenure requirements, however, will probably be harder than those this guy faced. Well, maybe not.

In the beginning 

...there was the MOB, which begat the M.A.W.B.

And the Scholars saw it, and it was good.

What did he actually say? 

Larry Summers has put up the transcript of his remarks about hiring women in the sciences that have caused a furor at Harvard. He has also continued his daily seppuku with a letter to the faculty there:
Though my NBER remarks were explicitly speculative, and noted that "I may be all
wrong," I should have left such speculation to those more expert in the relevant fields. I especially regret the backlash directed against individuals who have taken issue with aspects of what I said. In this University, people who disagree with me - or with anyone else - should and must feel free to say so.
Eason Jordan could not be reached for comment. At Division of Labour, Ralph says,
My bet is that Summers in on the next train to the gulag while [Ward] Churchill sings Rocky Mountain High.
That'll get you a 'heh'.

UPDATE: William Saletan:
In short, Summers got a bum rap. So was his analysis of biological and cultural factors sound? The transcript answers that question, too. The answer is no. Summers grossly overreached the evidence, and he made a couple of glaring logical blunders.

Yes, I can see that. But logical blunders in a lunch talk are not hanging offenses.

Oh joy 

Across the email announcement list on campus yesterday:
I am writing to inform you of an incredible opportunity! GLBT Services will bring Scott Turner, a well-known east coast based transgender (female-to-male) entertainer/educator, to St Cloud State University ...

He will be performing two of his original and nationally acclaimed transgender-education productions, �Underground TRANSit� on Friday evening and �Debutante Balls� on Saturday afternoon. I will have more materials about these productions to you shortly.
Incredible opportunity. I can scarcely contain my excitment.

Well, look what Underground TRANSit is.
In Underground TRANSit, Emory grad Kt Kilborn relates her life experience as a boy-identified homecoming queen candidate and tackles the issue of gender conformity.
I added emphasis, but I think you get it. Here's more from the play's own website.
� Underground TRANSit� is a one-act work of spoken word theater that combines
rhythmic storytelling, rock �n roll, and a touch of drag in the journey of one person to a gender identity. Created as a work of feminist activism as well as of art, sincerity and connection with the audience is key, while anecdotes from a homecoming queen turned gender renegade test the boundaries of �normative� gender and sexuality values with humor and criticism, and accessible gender theory. It�s not didactic, it�s not confessional: rather, it�s honest and playful, daring and touching.
At least it isn't didactic. Didactic is such a bummer, y'know.

Debutante Balls sounds like a blast too.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

MOBroll problem solved 

The Fraters have taken the keys to it. And a decision on a frequently asked question.
The most common question regarding the MOB is how one becomes a member. There are two avenues to gain entry:

1. Attend an official MOB event. So far there have been three such affairs (yes, I'm counting the State Fair beer garden gathering) and more will be planed in the future. If you have show up at one of these events, membership status is automatically conferred.

2. Petition one of the Northern Alliance blogs to grant you membership. Our own Saint Paul is credited with coming up with the original concept of the MOB. It has since been picked up and promoted by the Northern Alliance of Blogs. Thus, the various Northern Alliance blogs have become the custodians of the MOB (Mitch usually ends up mopping up). Drop any of the Northern Alliance members a note expressing your interest in joining the MOB. After a thorough vetting process, involving criminal background checks, retinal scans, and psychological screening, they will either confirm or deny your request.
Given that some of us live even further away from Keegans than the Scholars, I suggest the petition route for you. I lend you a sympathetic ear. I will install the code after I get the Elder to upgrade Market Power to MOB status.

Social Security: The attrition war of all against all 

In economic policy circles there is an old paper by Alberto Alesina and Allan Drazen (Brad DeLong has stored a copy) that explains why countries might continue to follow infeasible or inefficient policies for quite some time. When there is a large cost to be paid for a stabilization (in their case, stabilizing a macroeconomy that has runaway government debt or high inflation) that affects different groups differently, the political parties that represent them will struggle over who has to pay the costs. There results a war of attrition between the parties, solved only when there is a political consolidation -- one party becomes a majority that can enforce the stabilization on the minority party -- or until the date of the crisis draws closer. Alesina and Drazen develop a model of a "concession function", a point in time at which the minority party gives up the war and agrees to the majority's decision of how to pay for the costs. They offer three insights into the history of stabilizations:
  1. There is usually agreement on what has to be done, but a political stalement over who pays for stabilization.
  2. Stabilization usually occurs after a political consolidation, since the burden of stabilization is often quite unequal. Consolidation means that a majority has gained power enough to put the costs of stabilization onto the minority.
  3. Successful stabilization plans are seldom the first one adopted. Failures usually occur before success.
Watching Senators Lindsay Graham and Chuck Schumer last night on Neil Cavuto's show convinced me that this model quite easily extends to Social Security. Both sides agree that there is a date, somewhere in the future, at which Social Security needs to be fixed. Schumer said, for all intents and purposes, that 2042 is too far away to worry about. Of course it will be harder to solve this later, because it will be more costly later. That does not matter to Schumer, because he figures to wait for a later date when Democrats might control Congress and the executive. Should that happen, the Democrats would want to force a solution then, imposing the costs (that trillion dollars or so that are called "transition costs" currently, and really what the fight is all about) onto a Republican minority.

Let me repeat that to be clear: The fight is over these "transition costs". If there was a way to have private accounts and no transition costs, I doubt this is much of a fight. You don't fight to the last foxhole over keeping the Social Security trust in the government's hands and away from households; Democrats in the early 1980s were all too happy to hand over tax cuts to kick off the Reagan Revolution. Giving personal accounts to millions of American families is a political winner. Democrats indeed say now they would be happy to take personal accounts as a supplement to Social Security, just not as a replacement of the current system. Why? The problem is on whom the taxes to pay the transition costs will fall. Raising the retirement age puts the cost on those in their 40s and maybe their 50s. Raising the cap on wages subject to Social Security taxes puts the cost on the upper middle class (not necessarily the same groups.) Reducing benefits puts the cost on current retirees -- something AARP is already lobbying to prevent.

So we have agreement broadly that something has to be done. We have a political consolidation in an expanding Republican majority in the House and a second-term presidency. And we've certainly had no shortage of failed attempts to save Social Security.

If Bush is to succeed -- and I've been more optimistic than most of my friends and colleagues on this -- the Alesina-Drazen approach suggests three things. First, any program has to be credible. The reason Bush is delaying, I would hope, is to be sure the plan passes not only a test of technical efficiency (that it actually solves the problem) but that it is salable to the public at large. So far, he hasn't done that, but there's yet time. Second, Bush needs to be seen as being fully committed to getting this passed, to use the political capital he said he had won in the election. On this Bush has a record of success in passing his legislation to fall back on. Last, he should be persistent. If the current Congress does not pass his plan, he will have an opportunity in 2007 to work with a new Congress, and while current betting is that the Republican majority will not expand then, it's simply too early to say. Plans that are unsuccessfully advanced at one time can pass later on.

No, no, please, that's enough 

As long-time readers will know, part of my consulting life is to work with central banks. It's pretty arcane stuff and seldom a source of humor. But this is just too delicious not to share.

National Bank of Uzbekistan accepts no deposits from individuals any more. The statement its press service released by way of explanation indicates that the Bank has accumulated colossal savings already and does not have the time to handle them all.
"We already have too much of your money, please do not give us any more." That might be a first.

BTW, fellow monetary economists, I am aware that it's unusual for central banks to take deposits from individuals. It's the explanation that tickled me.

H/T: The Argus.

A blog about a fallacy 

Hey, econ fans, here's a great new blog: Bastiat's Window. Here's one example of how unions helped kill off a bunch of jobs at WalMart in Quebec. See Jason Kuznicki for why this is a great blog.

Sometimes you can see it exposed and then reappear in the same article. Take, for example, Christopher Westley's piece on the silliness of claiming that tsunamis are good for the Southeast Asian economies. After exploding the silliness, he then engages in one himself.

Natural disasters are a fact of life, but the evidence is clear that they cause much less destruction than wars (and other fruits of the nation-state). For instance, as horrific as the loss of human life resulting from last week's tsunamis is, it doesn't come close to the loss of innocent human life that has resulted from U.S. intervention in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

According to a study reported last fall in the British medical journal The Lancet, this number is already well over 100,000. Compared to the innocent civilian deaths resulting from the wars of the 20th century, it is clear that large, bureaucratic nation-states are a greater threat to human life than occasional and inevitable natural disasters.

The Lancet claim has been debunked already, but that's not the point. The point is that the cost of U.S. intervention isn't the total loss of life since March 2003 but the difference between what we know has been lost lives since then and what would have been lost had Saddam Hussein stayed in power. (Economists would call this, indelicately, the "marginal cost".) If that marginal cost is negative, then we would argue perhaps that the intervention was a net benefit. (One might wish, I suppose, to weight the values of U.S. versus Iraqi lives, but I'm not going there.)

Those wishing to cite the Broken Window Fallacy will do well to remember the title of the essay from which it derives: That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen. There are none so blind...

And he won't have to aim too high, either 

Saigo aims for improvement -- University Chronicle headline today.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

What if they threw an FAQ and nobody came? 

I was going to publish an FAQ. But someone would have to ask me a question first.*

Boy, that's pathetic. Next thing you know, I'll be on the NARN bench with Spitbull.

*--though this doesn't seem to stop some people.

Who monitors best? 

I'm still getting over the gelding thing at the bottom of Craig's editorial, but something else in his coverage of the Hann-Kelley debate over school vouchers got me going.
Kelly accused Hann of wanting to narrow public education to just the parent and student and leave out the broader benefits to society. He said that in a public system, all schools must be subject to "accountability mechanisms." All students must be measured to ensure that schools are accountable. He said the proposed legislation would give money to private schools but not hold them to the same level of accountability as public schools.

Yes, Steve, but does it hold private schools to a higher or lower level?

There are two issues at play. First, you have parents who may be able to monitor better the school's performance with their own child(ren). It's not that schools don't care but that the parent has better information on the child's response to education outside of the school. We don't need to assume that Kelley thinks parents are too stupid or uncaring to monitor their child's education. What he's assuming here is that the parent can't get better information on education outside the schoolyard than the government does inside. My experience is that this is not true.

And if he is saying parents don't care enough, well, you know what I think of Steve Kelley anyway.

Second, the parent and society at large will have broad parts of a child's education that they both would want the child to have. Governments need not monitor a child's education with tax dollars when the parent is happy to do it herself or himself. But there may be parts where the government wishes to put something into a child's education that the parent does not want. And here we are back to the old argument, whose kid is it anyway? Given my read of Senator Kelley, I think he believes governments have a compelling interest in a child's education to assert over parental rights, via the police power.

Pay attention, because that guy might run for U.S. Senate.

Math out of education 

Cold Spring Shops has linked a story about University of Hull, which has closed its math program.

Last night, the London Mathematical Society said the decision was part of a wider trend and warned that the UK was in danger of becoming a "maths wasteland". Peter Cooper, the society's executive secretary, said: "Maths is perceived as a hard subject by many students. There is a real difficulty in attracting sufficient numbers of people in many institutions."

Four other maths departments in England have closed since 1999 and the number of students has fallen by more than 2,200 in the same period.

Of the 175 people studying maths at Hull, more than a third are overseas students, compared with an average of 16% across other courses. A university spokeswoman said it was "not good business sense" to rely on the volatile overseas market.

Maybe the problem is that we don't teach it quite like we used to. But I see something here: As tightening visa restrictions reduce the flow of international students to U.S. campuses, we will see a change in the variety of programs universities offer. Students from the developing world are not coming to America to take ethnic or women's studies programs. They come for training that requires math.
The most popular fields of study for international students in the United States are business and management, engineering, and mathematics and computer sciences.

Roll your own MOB 

Reading Doug last night reminded me about something: The MOBroll.

There are several examples around, like this and this, and people ask if we should have it centralized and with someone holding the keys. The problem is that MOB is decentralized. Confining it to the gang that has infested Keegan's on a Thursday night would make the TCOB (Twin Cities Organization of Bloggers), when there are some damned fine blogs running out here in the sticks, like Jay Reding or Market Power or our dear Cathy. There may be some good ones in Moorhead, or Duluth, or even Warroad; who knows? Doug reminds me as well of Kevin Ecker, a longtimer and an SCSU grad, who's blog I still have listed as not in MOB. Right? Not right? Who's to say?

I'll tinker with the list again, but I'm not going to keep anything official, and I suggest nobody else does, either. Because there isn't. Heck, even someone not living in Minnesota can be a MOBette.

UPDATE (11pm): Commenting on an offer of an official MOBroll at Echo Zoe, The Elder states the facts: MOB is a brainchild of fellow Frater Saint Paul.
[I]n conjuction with the Northern Alliance, we have become the keepers of the roll. All additions to the roll should be passed through us. There are a few blogs listed which have not been previously approved and will have to reapply for membership.
If anyone is going to run an official list, it should be the Fraters. I shall seek dispensation from the Edler for Market Power and Ecker.

Getting real 

There are many great things about teaching macroeconomic theory, and one of them is spotting something interesting in the press' reporting on macro issues and bringing them to students. Here's a post for them that you can read too.

Alan Greenspan is speaking to Congress today, and while most of the press and the bloggers will focus on his comments on Social Security, it's also noteworthy that he's taking some flak for running monetary policy with too much ease. For example, this article in the Economist last week shows a graph of real interest rates being negative far too long into the current business cycle expansion, and gravely intoning that "not content with running a lax monetary policy at home, America is also exporting its super-loose ways around the globe," creating a global asset price bubble.

This morning, John Lipskey and James Glassman of J.P. Morgan argue in the Wall Street Journal (subscribers only) that rates are just fine.

Worrisome explanations are offered for the bond market's stubborn equanimity. Asian central banks, hedge funds, carry trades and mortgage-market shenanigans all have been proffered as evidence that low bond yields camouflage future travails. Inevitably, skeptics conjure up the specter of asset "bubbles." Can bond markets be aping 1999-2000, when the Nasdaq was stepping up to a spectacular swan dive?

Perhaps current low bond yields don't require such complicated and conspiratorial explanations. After all, Treasury bond yields, more than anything else, reflect the outlook for inflation. Strikingly, Federal Reserve officials by 2003 began describing the U.S. economy as operating within a "zone of price stability." And subsequent Fed policy moves have been consistent with keeping the economy "in the zone."

In fact, year on year increases in core inflation -- as measured by the Fed's preferred Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) price index -- have remained mainly within a 1% to 2% range since 1996. In late 2003, deflation worries dominated, as the core PCE flirted briefly with sub-1% increases. Amazingly, the indirect impact of last year's oil price surge only pushed this inflation measure back to the current 1.5%, just in the middle of its post-1996 range. Since mid-2004, core inflation's annualized pace has slowed back to the low end of the range.

Can you see the problem with the Economist article? It is using CPI as the means to go from nominal Fed funds rates to real, whereas the Federal Reserve is using the deflator for personal consumption expenditures. (Links will take you to the data if you're interested.) Here's a picture of those two series' inflation rates (expressed as 12-month or four-quarter changes in the indices.)

The difference is 0.9% for the fourth quarter of 2004, which means that the Economist's graph is understating the real Fed funds rate by the same amount.

The last raise in the Fed funds rate to 2.5% moves that blue line back to about zero. If the current prices for Fed funds futures contracts for December '05 are to be believed, the real rate would move to about 1% if PCE inflation stays where it is. If oil prices ameliorate and the exchange rate starts to turn around, I'd expect PCE inflation for 2005 closer to 2% and a resulting real interest rate of 1.5%. That would be slightly accommodative, but not worthy of a tongue-lashing from the Economist.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Sometimes principle takes you to funny places 

FIRE has two interesting pieces up today at its new blog, The Torch. First it has a letter in support of Ward Churchill's rights to free speech.

This case presents CU with an important opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to the First Amendment, as CU has a record of favoring censorship over the U.S. Constitution. One year ago, the university tried to prevent the College Republicans from holding an "affirmative action bake sale" on campus to protest racial preferences in admissions and hiring. Affirmative action bake sales are a constitutionally protected form of political parody directed against affirmative action and were held at colleges across the country in 2003 and 2004.

Facing public pressure from FIRE and the threat of a legal challenge, CU permitted a watered-down version of the protest to go forward, but it also allowed an angry mob of students to physically assault the Republican protestors and destroy their literature. This previous demonstration of CU's lack of respect for free speech must not be repeated.

FIRE requests that CU immediately and publicly declare that the university will fully and consistently protect the free speech rights of all students and professors. FIRE also requests that if the university initiates academic fraud investigations against Churchill, those proceedings be conducted in accordance with long-standing university policy, providing Churchill with the same level of protection afforded to professors who are not as controversial or reviled.

In other words, all students and professors at CU, including Churchill, are entitled to and must be granted the full range of constitutional protections.

In the second, there is discussion of a graduate student of education at LeMoyne College in New York, Scott McConell, who was expelled from the program for writing a research paper that argued that corporal punishment of younger students could be effective in their education.

McConnell submitted as part of an assignment a paper expressing his personal views on classroom management, including various ideas for attaining a classroom environment that is �based upon strong discipline and hard work� and that allows �corporal punishment.� The paper received an �A-,� with his professor noting that his ideas were �interesting� and that she had shared the paper with the department chair, Cathy Leogrande.

...Yet in January 2005, with no prior warning, Leogrande dismissed McConnell from Le Moyne.
McConnell was conditionally admitted to the program. We do not know what the conditions of his admission were, nor do we know whether his grades in other classes. I do not necessarily agree with McConnell's view, and I do not wish to suggest that LeMoyne is wrong to express their disagreement. But it seems to me unwise for any academic program to simply wash out a new student to their program with whose views you might disagree. McConnell was engaged in theorizing -- he did not rap a kid's knuckles with a ruler in some practicum.

I think in both cases FIRE has upheld a principle for the broadest latitude for campus free speech.

We don't need no steenking private stadiums 

I'm hoping that Phil Miller is wrong about this with the Vikings sale to Reggie Fowler, but he might be right.
Fowler's group, according to this St. Paul Pioneer Press article, may end up paying around $635 million for the franchise if they indeed get it. A sticking point with Fowler's group will be Fowler's net worth and his liabilities. He is reportedly worth "only" $400 million, possibly not enough to buy an NFL franchise (there goes my dream of being the next Dan Snyder!). But here's a really interesting quote regarding another sticking point from the Pioneer Press article:

Some people speculate that Fowler's trio of New Jersey real estate partners are so well-heeled that the group might not need public funding for a new stadium on 700 acres in Blaine and instead would try to develop the area on their own.

However, other NFL owners might frown on such an idea because it could set an awkward precedent for stadium building. Because Taylor would want public approval for a stadium, NFL owners might favor a bid for the Vikings by him, among other reasons because it might be in their best interests.

Yuck! We sure wouldn't want to send a signal that team owners could make do with private funding. Heaven forbid.

Somehow I think Stromie is going to get into this one.

Pig pile in the Sixth -- remember its size 

After Congressman Mark Kennedy's declaration of his candidacy for the Mark Dayton seat, there has been an outpouring of interest in the Sixth congressional district seat. I can tell you that I've had no less than three potential candidates contact me, and two of the three are now in the race. State Senator Michele Bachmann of Stillwater has declared her candidacy with a splashy announcement from her town, while state Representative Jim Knoblach asked reporters into his office and said he was running, but not ramping up his campaign until after the legislative session closes for the year.
�I�m deliberately not having a press conference to highlight the fact I consider my top job for the next few months to be the Legislature,� said Knoblach on a tour of the Capitol press room.
I do not know Bachmann at all, but Jim Knoblach is from St. Cloud and known to all of us up here. And this is one of his two big advantages.

Take a look at the map of the Sixth CD and you see that it wraps from the eastern suburbs and the Wisconsin state line -- including Bachmann's Stillwater, over the northern suburbs and up the I-94/U.S. 10 corridor into my home Stearns County in St. Cloud. It covers actually west of here by a good 20 miles. Now look at the candidates besides Bachmann and Knoblach and where are they?

The two biggest possibilities would be Cheri Pierson Yecke of Blaine and Phil Krinkie of Shoreview. Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer is from Big Lake (in Sherburne County, about where the signpost for U.S. 10 is on the map) would be the closest opponent to Knoblach. Two longshot candidates are a little closer -- Mark Ourada, a state representative from the Buffalo area in Wright, and Jay Esmay, a local Republican party district chair in St. Cloud. But it's unlikely they gain traction in a crowded field (which could get even more crowded if other longshots like Michelle Fischbach or Dan Nygaard were to get in).

Now certainly Anoka and Washington counties are the population weight of the Sixth, with about three of every four voters in those two places. And Bachmann's strong stands on education and abortion probably play pretty well in the rural counties. But she and Yecke stand a good chance of splitting votes. Phil Krinkie is considered a hero of the taxpayer and the Taxpayer's League; he's quite distinct from the others in the race, but has the disadvantage of having just moved into the district, and all the shooting at the Taxpayers League may turn on Krinkie before much longer.

Meanwhile, Knoblach runs from a safe area in a part of the district almost nobody else comes from. He's been the head of the bonding committee and now runs the new state Ways and Means committee in the Minnesota House. From a position like that he has enough sway to attract the $2 million or more that will be needed to run this race, a price tag that will quickly shake out the field. That's his second advantage -- between his local fundraising in St. Cloud, where he will have no challenge, and his access to potential contributors from his position on Ways and Means, he has deep pockets.

Knoblach is not flashy and not bombastic. He is somewhat more technocratic than charismatic. But political watchers around the state would make a mistake to ignore his candidacy. While some others may come out of the gate strong trying to drive other candidates out of the race, they are unlikely to shake Jim off their tails any time soon. This should be fun to watch.


Perhaps another advantage of having the Minnesota Organization of Blogs is that it allows some bloggers who want to share the workload of blogging to meet likeminded, similarly situated bloggers. Thus when Pajama Jo decided to come down from the Attic, she was immediately MOBbed by Pajama Cathy, DC (who knows there are laws about wearing pajamas over state lines) and brought into a gathering of smart MOB women. They are having a poll at Brainstorming right now over the name of the new group. Go over there, vote, and watch a real party break out.

'round here, we'll call them the Scholarettes, or 'ettes for short.

In a new development, there are new bats in the belfry.

Oh yeah, this blog thing 

There are days where life intervenes with administrivia (I wish I could tell you today's story!), or family matters like my mother-in-law in her second week in hospital, that keep posting down.

But to be honest I simply got caught up editing and rewriting a paper I'm co-authoring with a lawyer on central banking operations. I've never written with a lawyer before, and the different ways we see the same phenomena has been fascinating. Central banks (like the Federal Reserve) have been my one abiding interest in economics -- the first professional paper I ever published was on central banks -- in a career where I go careening from topic to topic that catches my fancy (like Ukraine). I honestly believe that bit of professional attention deficit disorder helps make me a better blogger. But that's another topic.

Anyway, this paper was so fascinating that I buried in it for five hours last night and four this morning, and I really can't wait to get to it again. And the great part is that I get paid to do this.

What a great world.

Monday, February 14, 2005

And you can spell that F-O-O-L-I-S-H 

Late Friday I received an email from Bill Albrecht, publisher of the St. Cloud Times, which discussed his paper's reaction to the demands from the university's faculty senate and student government that it reveal who posts in the paper's online community called "Story Chat", which we previously covered. His letter was prompted by this opinion piece from Friday's Times by a fellow faculty member. I hadn't read it before then because of work and shuttling to the hospital to keep track of my mother-in-law and taking over most responsibilities for the Littlest Scholar. So I did then, and I realized I missed something to blog Friday.

I need to disclose two things before discussing the details of her article. First, I don't necessarily write for the Times, but as I discussed before the Quarterly Business Report is now to be published in a new publication offered by the Times. So one may reasonably think that I would be favorably inclined to them. Fair enough, though if you Google this site for references to the Times, you'll find a few times I thought their editorials were wrong-headed. I expect to continue to do so.

Second, the author of this piece, a member of the Times' monthly writers series and a faculty member here, is someone I would consider a colleague. She's a diversity crusader on campus but someone who is inclined to intellectual diversity as well. I suppose she will be less happy with me after I write this, but I expect our collegiality to continue. If I'm kinder to her than some others, well, she's earned it in my book.

Last disclosure: I occasionally have posted on the Times Story Chat boards under a pseudonym.
That said, let me say that Prof. Clifford is wrong on several points in this column discussing the desire of the faculty and the student government to stop selling the Times on campus and stop giving interviews to Times reporters.

The St. Cloud State student government, supported by many faculty members, recently took decisive action and passed a resolution that encourages people not to read the Times or talk to its staff for stories until the Times requires online posters to identify themselves by name and city.

I agree. While people have the right to make such comments, they should be accountable for them.

It's worth remembering that many were accountable for their statements during the ratification of our Constitution while signing papers as Federal Farmer or Cato or Pennsylvania Minority. To this day we are not sure who wrote the Anti-Federalist Papers, though we think we do. As well, when someone dresses up as Bushitler for Halloween does anyone require that person to identify him or herself? Do people who boo Daniel Pipes sign in before assuming places in the booing gallery?

Free speech does not require you to identify yourself. I think if you had handed the KGB your passport before standing in front of the Kremlin to denounce Brezhnev you would have been fine for the moment. They always come in the middle of the night.

I talked with a faculty colleague this week who said their subscription to the Times will be renewed when the Times holds people accountable for what they say in public and not before.
What does this mean? How does a newspaper hold people accountable for what they say in public? Does Prof. Clifford's colleague intend to stop watching CNN until it issues a request to the World Economic Forum for the videotape of Eason Jordan?

It is not up to the newspaper to hold writers responsible; it is up to those who read or hear what they believe to be hateful to speak up.

The above alone would have been enough in itself, but then Prof. Clifford descends into the weirdest contortions of logic.

At this time in society, which mirrors so many other times in history when war becomes a means of establishing principles and ideologies, it seems we would know what is at risk if we do not uphold the "freedoms" we enjoy as Americans and which are said to motivate our actions abroad.

We send our soldiers to assist a country in establishing a democratic system of government when elections in our country are fraught with mismanaged actions and court challenges.

Look at the governor's race in Washington state. It's been allowed to go forward amid charges of voting errors and illegal votes.

I don't know what it means anymore to live in the "land of the free" when you can fly in from Castro's Cuba and have a less invasive search procedure than we have in the United States, especially when this country has vilified Cuba's government for decades.

I don't know what it means anymore to have the "freedom" to speak my mind when we use the Department of Homeland Security to justify violating people's privacy every day, or when we know the vice president is connected with a company making money off the war effort. Not only do we not see that as a conflict of interest, but we re-elect him.

Where does one start?
Some of us believe what we are doing in "war" is protecting our freedoms, and others believe we are spreading freedom to other places in the world. We are also trying to spread democracy. We do a lousy job sometimes in places like Washington or Milwaukee, but in this country you can talk about the Silence of the Cheese -- in Saddam's Iraq, the silence was enforced at the muzzle of a rifle. I don't know if Prof. Clifford was moved by the ink-stained fingers or not. I know I was.

As to Cuba, nobody is flying planes into buildings there. Nobody is blowing up Cuban embassies in Africa, or Cuban ships in the Gulf of Aden. If searches were so odious, why does the flow of boats between Cuba and the United States seem so one-sided?

And the last paragraph? Please. Tell me one thing, Professor, that you were prevented from doing by the Department of Homeland Security. Would it be better, do you think, to let private airlines conduct their own searches so they can assure their passengers that the planes they fly on are safe? Would you rather just step on planes where there are no searches? I'm in favor of a diversity of plane safety standards, with pricing to match, but I somehow suspect you are not quite so free market.

The rest of it is

I don't even know where to go to get unbiased information about the war or about actions in my home country.
Hey, me too! Two words: the blogosphere. (I guess you could say also "talk radio" or "Fox News". Your call.)

The federal government is paying people to promote Bush administration policies in Europe and North Africa.
Would that be Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty? News flash: they've been around for decades. They've promoted official US policy for quite some time. Did you want the State Department to fund al Jazeera?

Is it possible, in a free country, to get information without spin?
That, at least, is a good question. Suppose I answer that it is not. What would that mean? Would it mean we must abandon democracy and capitalism for autocracy and socialism? And do you think that, at the time the Founders signed off on the First Amendment, that news was spin-free?
You might wonder what all of this has to do with whether people post their names or post their hateful comments anonymously.

Yes, as a matter fact I have no idea at all what it has to do with a private, for-profit, local newspaper running a chat room with anonymous posters.
I simply think we owe each other accountability.

Because we all live in a "society". In a world where individual rights are trumped by group rights, where there is no fear of the tyranny of the majority as long as it's pursued by those with the right morality and a cosmic sense of justice, I suppose you can say that. We simply see the world differently.

The Times' Story Chat is in some ways a community to itself; some writers know each other, and many reveal who they are either by using their real names on the boards (such as our mayor) or by suggestion and confirmation. Some remain completely unknown. I do not know if others know me by the pseudonym I take.

I use the pseudonym in part as a brand name for what I am trying to get across on the board -- sort of along the lines of "Pennsylvania Minority" -- and in part because there are some things I would say in that format that I would not say here where I do use my real name. Professor Clifford and many of her fellow travellers in the Support the Court controversy call this "speaking truth to power". I call it simply "heckling", calling out that the emperor has no clothes. (The child who does so to the king's parade doesn't identify himself, by the way.)

Take a look at the discussion with Prof. Clifford's post and you'll see what I mean.
We can choose to get along with the people in our community, or we can choose to separate ourselves from them for whatever reasons we come up with: race, religion, class, what they say, the groups they involve themselves with, the way they use the media or how they subscribe to the media sources they choose to use and rely on for their information.

Justice Brandeis, a favorite with the Scholars, once also said "The makers of the Constitution conferred the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by all civilized men�the right to be let alone." We were given the right to separate ourselves for whatever reasons we choose.

That is, in fact, the beginning of all the other freedoms. Just ask Justice Douglas, or any of these other chaps.

To the Professor Cliffords and the Hal Kimballs and the rest, that is spelled B-U-T-T O-U-T.

Churchill for prof of the year! 

Commenting around the local Scholars about Robert Goldblatt's take on Ward Churchill led Scholar Jack to comment:
Academia is like the dead world of the Fisher King -- It can't regenerate life in itself; it must come from the outside. And a start to bring forth new life is for huge numbers of people to realize howawful things are now. Folks like NAS can do so little to help people realize (though we've used the phrase "sunlight is the best disinfectant" for decades.) But one fruitcake like Churchill getting all the press time he has has done more for us than thousands of NAS statements. I nominate him for (postmodern) Professor of the Year.
Which is why he needs to be put out in front of audiences as far and wide as possible, and then let a thousand teach-ins bloom!

A candidate for "bad letter to the editor" of the week 

I was hoping when I saw the title of this letter to the University Chronicle that someone was having fun. Alas, it is not.
He closed his Washington office after inside information of possible terrorist actions. While many criticized this, I applauded it. If your employer knew of the possibility of terrorist actions, wouldn't you want them to move operations elsewhere for safety?
Well, when the other 99 senators don't agree with you and don't move their staffs, what do you think has happened.
By opposing Condoleezza Rice, Dayton showed his courage by speaking his mind and standing his ground, despite knowing there would be political consequences.
Like what? He was already far behind in fundraising, his approval ratings already in the tank after his Flight from DC ... what was left to him to risk?
Dayton said fundraising for a campaign was a major cause toward his decision of not to run again. This is true, as he was holding a double-edged sword-if he used his own money for a campaign, people would criticize for not raising public funds, if he just raised public funds people would criticize for not using his own money. Knowing that there were political obstacles such as fundraising that would keep him from being reelected, the intelligent Dayton decided to let another strong Democrat run for his spot.
He couldn't raise money because he sucked at being a senator. He couldn't spend his own money because he had already sunk $12 million into his first run and the well was dry. Teresa Heinzes don't grow on trees.
While I am saddened that I may never again get to hear one of his inspiring speeches...
{wipes coffee from screen}...
I am confident that the DFL will choose the best candidate, out of the many strong possible candidates, to replace the honorable Sen. Mark Dayton.
...and that's the point. The DFL, as weak a bench as they have, has better candidates than Mark Dayton. If he was a decent candidate, the money would already have poured in.

Plagiarism isn't protected 

Quid nomen illius suggests that you read John Bruce as well as my post on academic freedom, tenure and Ward Churchill. Jeff comments on the two sides:
Bloggers love to go after politicians and the "mainstream media," but as John points out, tenured professors comprise an elite corps that's even less accountable than either. Ward Churchill is a lousy poster-boy for academic freedom, especially if it turns out to be true that he's not really an Indian but nothing more than a plagiarist and a poseur who makes up evidence to support his foregone conclusions. Still, I'm glad that this controvery has arisen. I don't think it's too much to ask that tenured professors occasionally demonstrate that as a class, their behavior shows some understanding of the responsibility commensurate with the astonishing privilege of lifetime job security. We shouldn't be expected to accept that tenure promotes humility in the service of truth when so much suggests otherwise. Prove it to us.
If Churchill turns out to be a plagiarist, under no definition of academic freedom does he remain at the university. Proving plagiarism is damned difficult -- which I think is a good thing, because the charge goes to the very basis of scientific inquiry. A plagiarist isn't a poster boy for anything but a hearing before a disciplinary panel, and I do not know of someone convicted of plagiarism that has been protected by tenure.

The discussion is over whether the statements about America deserving more 9/11s are grounds for recission of tenure, and I'll stand by my belief that they are not. John's points appear to be threefold:
  1. A fighting words doctrine or sorts can be held to apply to faculty who speak in such a way that "may be disruptive to a university's purpose in maintaining faculty collegiality and attracting donors." Two objections arise: First, faculty collegiality is often a means of silencing opposition to the dominant paradigm on university campuses -- liberalism -- and John's standard would make it far more difficult for conservatives to continue to exist on campuses. Second, if universities want to produce intellectual diversity, they should approach disgruntled donors with the possibility of funding alternative speakers. This is my suggestion to the president of University of Wisconsin at Whitewater or other concerned presidents of university who've bought a pig in a poke with Churchill -- hold a teach-in about Churchill elsewhere on campus.
  2. There are some words that would be seen as showing a faculty member's unfitness for the position. What does this make of the tenure promise, which faculty receive in return for a lifetime income stream that is unlikely to keep up with the market? "We will guarantee you a lifetime contract because we think you're fit for a professorship -- but we reserve the right to rescind it if you say something really stupid." That's not much of a promise, is it?
  3. If you work for a public university, the public has the right to call for your removal even after you've been granted tenure. But on what grounds? Could a conservative professor ever teach at a public university in Massachusetts? A liberal professor in Mississippi? John calls this a political process worthy of trust, but that makes faculty members at public schools susceptible to lobbyists and letterwriting campaigns. Students of public choice, particularly those who teach at public universities, would find this possibility frightening. Moreover, it defeats the purpose of tenure to begin with: Promoting intellectual diversity on campuses. If we allow the public to fire tenured professors, faculties will become more homogeneous. And that's a problem we're already fighting.

Prayers for the First Mate 

Captain Ed last updated that his wife looks ready to go for her transplant surgery for a new pancreas. As before, a small prayer for Marcia:

Dear Lord, thank you for your grace in bringing Marcia to a safe place and for the hope we can receive only through You. Please be with her and Ed as they prepare for surgery. Guide her doctors to heal her illness and restore her to health. Comfort Ed as he surely waits patiently and lovingly with his concerns for his wife. We know that You are the source of their strength, and we ask for Your help at this time. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The many gifts of radio 

Coming back from lunch a colleague stopped me with a younger man, maybe 35, who said he had me as a student in the early 1990s. (That'll make a guy feel old!) The student now is successful in finance and looking to connect more with the business school here. He mentioned that he had heard me a few weeks ago on the radio. Other faculty look agog when they hear I do this.

Another note came from an old grad school friend:

Heard you ever so briefly on the local station KRLA whereby you were wrapping up a possible Bush halo effect discussion if Mid-east peace became a reality. What are the chances? A) Slim; B) Fat; or C) No. . . . .

Heard the voice and tracked back from "A Shot in the Dark" reference and see that you "da man" in Minnesota. . . . . I hope all is extremely well. . . . .

It is indeed, when so many nice reunions occur as the result (though I don't think I was talking about Mideast peace). But I hadn't heard from this guy in ten years; I helped fill his house with many fine imported beer bottles from Liquorama back in the day. Damned cool!

Another fine gift was sitting directly across from Lileks as we filled in for Hugh Hewitt. His energy expresses through his eyes in a way that you don't really feel on the radio; conversation with him is as much visual expression as words. Unlike the regular studio sitting in a semi-circle, we were across a small conference table, and I am looking into the Forehead of Delphi. Three words kept going off in my head: "don't screw up, don't screw up, don't screw up..."

And of course, Piston Mitch close enough to give me whatever variety of dengue fever he's carrying, and whispering with the Elder during the debate, and thanking the First Mate for saying she needed a King fix on the radio Weds. night, and having a thank you to NARN from Scott on stage. And many, many MOBsters like Jordan, Steve (Danica -- get on his blog NOW!), the official blogscribe of the debate Doug, DC, and I'm sure I forgot some and I am very sorry for that.

Many many gifts.

I have much work to do the rest of the day, though the schedule is about done at last. It may be late tonight before I write again, and even then maybe not. Have a great weekend.

Target locked 

Sean at the American Mind indicates that Ward Churchill has been invited to Univ. of Wisconsin at Whitewater. The president there has engaged in some muddled thought about whether the invitation should be rescinded, to which Churchill has replied that a contract is a contract and that he expects to be paid regardless. (Who enforces these contracts in Churchill's utopia? See if you can figure it out in his essay which he says has his final statement on 9/11.)

I hope Sean and others of the Badger Blog Alliance will go to Whitewater to liveblog Churchill when he comes to talk, whether it be the speech he plans to give or the other event he intends to create if UW-W reneges on the contract. I hope other concerned citizens will show up and listen to Churchill and then challenge him for his views.

If we believe, as I do, that the only answer to hateful speech is more speech, Churchill provides you with your opportunity to practice your faith. I hope you'll take it. It's hard work, of course, because the group around you may be hostile, and your nerves may be shaky. And many faculty who find Churchill repugnant simply lack the nerve to speak out about him. But what are your alternatives?

One of my students who listens to NARN wrote me a couple of nights ago about Churchill, commenting on something on Michael Savage's show that came on after our appearance on Hewitt.
Michael made a reference to the idea that the tenure system protects faculty from the true demand [sic] of society. Just wondering what your ideas on this were, and more specifically what you think should happen and / or would like to see happen to Mr. Churchill.

Many people are locked onto the idea that if the tenure system protects Churchill that it must be a bad thing and it should be torn down. I will stand by Eugene Volokh, Steven Bainbridge and Glenn Reynolds in saying that's a bad idea. In part I am fearful that conservatives are coming to love The Ring without understanding that the power unleashed in breaking tenure promises for repugnant speech would be used far more often against themselves. When Volokh argues for a hard rule "we don't fire professors for their political views, period," that bright line prevents a slide down a slippery slope. I don't disagree with John Bruce that Churchill's academic freedom is absolutely protected by the First Amendment, nor do I think would Volokh et al. But I think it's a good principle for us to uphold nevertheless.

Why? Academic freedom is a good to itself for the reason that it provides the university with its basic function. Bill Sjostrom and Jim Lindgren have applauded the Kalven Report which includes the statement that universities are by their nature "upsetting". If there are supposed to be new ideas, that's to be a major source. What is troubling about the university isn't tenuring reprobates but that we lose resources that should be creating new ideas that help economies and societies grow. The progress of civilization is marked by the increased unfettering of human creativity, and in universities we have a place in which we pursue that ideal.

I thought of this last night listening to the Hewitt-Beinart debate, when Scott Johnson asked whether the Democrats had any new ideas. Beinart unfortunately copped a plea -- in what I thought was the weakest moment of an otherwise bravado performance -- by saying they weren't introducing new ideas because they had no control of the levers of power. This of course is rubbish. Where are the Washington thinktanks that will support the Democrats' time in the wilderness? Years ago, they were at places like Harvard and Yale. Now radicals make sympathizers like Larry Summers walk the plank and hand over precious tenurable lines for another chair of ethnic studies, people who could not create a sound policy paper if their lives depended on it because they've spent too much time reading Derrida and not enough time reading economics.

The problem is that original thinkers creating new ideas for the Democrats are being squeezed out of higher education in many places by the Ward Churchills, the departments of {fill-in ethnicity or area} studies. The Republicans were able to respond by creating Cato, Heritage, Ashbrook, AEI, and a host of other think tanks where people could think and write. The Republicans had to do this because they were not welcome on American campuses. Liberals are, but to be a liberal on American campuses today requires you to waste enormous amounts of time defending the likes of Ward Churchill, and sacrificing a few seats in traditional disciplines to the Next Great Hope of Deconstruction (if Hope has any real meaning). When the Badger blogs go to Whitewater and observe Churchill, I hope they will take time to describe the people around Churchill. They're other faculty engaged in Communist-style showpieces, a veritable May Day parade that distracts them from doing anything else -- assuming they're capable of doing anything else. They aren't listening to the Progressive Policy Institutes or Brookings or any decent center-left people (like Beinart!) because they are too busy proving they aren't themselves racist and collecting the tschotschkes of feel-good radicalism.

And to my mind, to answer my student, what I hope happens to Ward Churchill is a mega-dose of sunlight safe in his cage at Colorado. He is more than a shining example of what's wrong with the tenure system or academic freedom. He's more than a caricature we can use on talk radio or FrontPage or the blogs. He helps to keep the Left busy in their masturbatory tschotschkism, taking time away from developing new ideas and challenging the expanding center-right majority in America.

We've got him right where we want him.

UPDATE: James Taranto gets it, introducing a new feature called "Spot the Idiot". Fish in a barrel, James. Fish. In. A. Barrel.

All your surplus are belong to me 

The Story Chat area of the St. Cloud Times is frequented by our mayor, David Strom fan John Ellenbecker. Reacting to the Times' coverage of university President Roy Saigo's plan for spending our university's budget surplus positive budget balance, Ellenbecker posted a comment:
Use it to build parking, parking, and more parking. This is a direct benefit for the students as well as the community.
And later: don't build a campus for 17,000 students and a couple thousand additional staff people and not provide a place for them to park. Parking needs need to be addressed - now.

Of course it is not revealed in his remarks or in the story that the land that would be bought for the parking ramp Saigo proposes is currently owned by the city. There is no discussion of the fact that student government doesn't think parking is where the money should go -- a fact that seems to elude Saigo as well.

Of course none of this will matter to Boss Ellenbecker, who is used to using threats to get his way and throwing a hissy when people call him on it. John, I've got a comment box here. Show us what you've got.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

If I ever decide to do it 

...I will post my demise like this.

Courtesy Edward Tufte, whose RSS feed to his bulletin board costs me time away from writing teaching schedules. Blessing upon him.

Another reason for school choice... 

Your kid could then actually get a tonic*. But not in Philadelphia public schools:

Philadelphia school officials approved a policy banning the sale of carbonated soft drinks in all city schools. Starting in July, only milk, water, fruit juice and the occasional sports drink will be available from most of the district's 740 vending machines and in its cafeterias, according to rules passed Wednesday by the School Reform Commission. The 214,000-student district took the action following a January recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that soft drinks be eliminated from schools as a way of fighting an obesity epidemic among young people. ...

Sodas will continue to be sold from vending machines in faculty lounges that are off limits to students, the district said. Sports drinks, which also contain a high sugar content, will continue to be available to students but only in high schools and only in vending machines near athletic facilities. ...

The district also set some ingredient restrictions on the types of beverages that have not been banned outright. Fruit drinks must be of 100 percent fruit juice, with no artificial sweeteners, flavors or colors. Drinking water must contain no additives, except small amounts of natural flavors and the kind of minerals found in tap water. Flavored and sweetened milks are OK, but no artificial colors allowed. In elementary schools, serving sizes for any beverage, except drinking water, will be capped at 12 ounces.

Jawohl! (H/T: Political Correctness Watch, who thinks fruit juices are also doomed.)

* -- Yeah, I know you call it "pop" up here or "soda". But my New Hampshire childhood wants to call it tonic.

Qloushi-Woolcock Revisited 

A few weeks ago we had a story on Ahmad Qloushi, the Kuwaiti student who had a run-in with a professor over his essay. Courtesy of PoliBlog, there is a response from his professor, Joseph Woolcock of Foothill College. As I said on the NARN followup after interviewing Qloushi, I don't think the paper was very good, and I didn't have a major problem with Prof. Woolcock failing the paper. I did have a problem with what Qloushi believed was a threat from Woolcock that Qloushi had to seek counseling or else he would be reported to the Dean of International Students.
In late November, after grading all final papers, I asked Mr. al-Qloushi to come and discuss with me the grade. During this meeting, I sought from him his reasons for reneging on our earlier agreement. In response, he expressed in great detail, concerns and feelings of high anxiety he was having about certain developments which had occurred over ten years ago in his country. Some aspects of his concerns were similar to certain concerns expressed in his paper.

Based on the nature of the concerns and the feelings of high anxiety which he expressed, I encouraged him to visist one of the college counselors. I neither forced nor ordered Mr. al-Qloushi to see a counselor; I have no authority to do so. My suggestion to him was a recommendation he freely chose to accept and which he acknowledged in an e-mail message to me on December 1, 2004.
Prof. Woolcock also denies any mention of reporting the incident to the Dean of International Students. Both Steven Taylor of Poliblog and "Rusty Shackleford" of My Pet Jawa find Woolcock's representation of the meeting with Qloushi credible.

I have two exceptions to their view. First, if there is an email between Qloushi and Woolcock, it should be presented. That might not be possible for Woolcock to do alone: Since Qloushi was still a student in the class at the time that email could be considered privileged. It would depend on Foothill College's rules, I would think. If I could interview him again, I would ask Qloushi whether or not this was the case. It could be a he said-she said thing. I agree with most everyone that his version could be correct. That doesn't mean it is.

Second, there are other events surrounding Woolcock's course that have been brought up, which are not addressed in Woolcock's letter.

Show post-mortem 

Random Penseur asked how the Hewitt show went. Doug thinks when we had David Strom on that we should have pimped Mitch's or my posts on the state trooper outrage, or at least the Taxpayers' League. The problem is that there were so many posts about it that singling out our own would have seemed a little too self-serving, and David's page didn't mention the event, and his blog not until after the show. In retrospect, maybe we should have driven them back to Doug's link-lovefest of all things Trooper.

And as I mentioned to RP, I find it harder to get in a word with the quick pace of Hugh's show and guests unless I drop the first dime. I try to be polite with someone like Claudia Rosett but I really wanted to get another point in on North Korea -- she cites 2 million dead from starvation under lil' Kim, whereas Papa Kim bumped off 1.6 million of his own according to some research -- but the clock ran out. Almost had the same think happen with Podhoretz. I guess that would be something I have to learn if I ever did a national show that had the kind of guests Hugh has.

And if you believe that will ever happen, I have some Viking Super Bowl jerseys to sell you.

Camera shy 

For those of you wondering if I was anywhere in the pictures of the NARN in studio in KARE 11's piece on blogging last night, the answer is no. I was out of town. This was done to save Trunk acute embarassment.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Off to the show! (I'm a sub-sub) 

I will be on the Hugh Hewitt Show, 6-9pm ET or 3-6pm PT, today. I'm really looking forward to interviewing Claudia Rosett after her piece today, as well as Mark Steyn who walks my homelands of New Hampshire, and who wrote about the bigger pension problems in Europe. (H/T last link: Craig Newmark. I'm trying to track down the source, Professor.) There will also be at least two smart guys on in hour three. Listen up, see you soon.

I'm Hoppe-ing [yawn] mad (or, Summers redux) 

The Left is particularly upset about Hans Hoppe, an economics professor at UNLV, who got himself into hot water for suggesting that homosexuals and heterosexuals might, on average, have different rates of time discount. Linkage provided by David Beito at Liberty and Power. Hoppe reportedly is being offered a chance to have everything dropped but to expect no increase in his salary for the next academic year and a written reprimand.

William Marina (also at L&P) provides a comparison between Hoppe's and Harvard President Larry Summers' cases, and offers a case of his own.

I am reminded of a comment I used to make over the years in some of my classes, especially in a course I taught on Socio-gEnetiXs and History.

There is some data indicating that men, for whatever reason, sleep on the average, about an hour less per night than women. If that is so, I suggested, then in terms of waking hours, over a life span, men actually live about as long a conscious time as do women. Even if one wanted to count "dream time," this tends to occur in a short period just after going to sleep, and just before waking, so that the amount of sleeping flex time in between is not very relevant.

That observation seemed to make a number of female students quite angry; as if I had somehow challenged the natural superiority of women. God forbid, anyone do that! Thankfully, I was never reported to either the Inquisition or the Thought

The Inquisition!

Outta there 2! 

Mark Dayton is not running for re-election. I had two faculty members pretty much run to my office to tell me: Dayton does a five-minute press conference, reads his statement, and on the radio you could hear the phone click, indicating he ended the conference in some haste.

I had suspected this during the Rice hearings when he excoriated the Secretary beyond any reason. "People running for re-election would not do this," I thought. "Is he just stupid, or has he decided to get out of the race?" Fortunately for my bookie, my money was on the former.

Saint Paul is developing the story.

Working for the state requires humility 

There are numerous posts of outrage over Corporal Timothy Jensen, head of the Minnesota State Patrol Troopers Association, who has launched a vicious attack comparing David Strom's Taxpayers League to the violent Posse Comitatus. Mitch has posted the article and his annihilation of it. Doug at Bogus Gold is keeping a list of other declamations.

I'm often amused here in St. Cloud by my liberal friends -- off-campus friends are usually liberal, often reasonable, unlike our on-campus leftists -- who demonize David. My usual answer to them is "I don't recognize the David Strom you're talking about. When did you meet him and how did he come across to you?" That usually works: Most of them have to say they have never actually met him. I have, and I do recognize David in the accolades he receives from Mitch or Chad. That annoying laugh you hear on his radio show is not faked.

The David I know has a pretty straightforward worldview: The expansion of the state comes at the expense of freedom. The expansion of freedom allows the human spirit its greatest expression in individual creativity. Those things which expand the state, therefore, are to be opposed as an assault on individual expression. That view is quite libertarian, as are many of his critiques of Republicans (like this one of ethanol subsidies, which is bipartisan stupidity at its best.)

Like Corporal Jensen, I work for the state. I find it more than occassionally a source of embarassment as a small-l libertarian. I do not find it at all troubling that David would prefer that MnSCU, my employer, gets less money. Given the power, I would free SCSU from MnSCU, as would many people here. I take my job here because the state has crowded out private universities that would provide higher education in the absence of the state; I do not feel any need to martyr my avocation because of the state's aggression into a place it does not belong, which is what higher education is. If David's actions some day cost me my job because the university is closed due to its redundancy to private alternatives, that will be a great day for America. If I've done my job well, I will have no problem finding private employment from firms whose taxes have been reduced and who now can afford to create new goods and services.

Even in a libertarian dreamworld, police like Cpl. Jensen will probably exist. (Though not necessarily.) But he takes himself far too seriously here:

I'm a conservative who would rather not pay taxes.
Here's a clue, Tim: There are a lot of liberals who would rather let someone else pay taxes too.
However, I have grown to expect a certain quality of life that is somewhat dependent on our government. Government doesn't run on air and promises, it runs on citizen contributions in the form of tax dollars, which fund valuable public employees, expected services and quality of life issues.

"Citizen contributions"??? Am I to understand that Cpl. Jensen has never enforced a tax lien? If a member of my church makes a pledge and then does not obey it, I don't seize his car or hold him at gunpoint and take him to the pokie. Governments do. It bears noting: taxes are coercive. Those two words offend me. Does that make me a member of a posse?

{An aside: Comparing this to the Posse Comitatus -- which originates from the use of the U.S. Army enforcing civilian law in the post-bellum South in the last century -- is the height of absurdity. The most references I get to Posse Comitatus in the internet world is from libertarian groups claiming Janet Reno broke the Posse Comitatus Act in sending troops against the Branch Davidians. Example. If anyone can find a connection between that and the Taxpayers League, send me an ounce of your stash.}

And then valuable public employees? What the hell ever happened to the words "your humble servant"? They do exist, of course. The cop that has helped get my son to the hospital after an accident, who blushed as I thanked him for keeping my son safe and said "just doing my job." The officer last weekend who got my daughter from her grandmother to us after grandma had to go to the hospital with an asthma attack. (St. Cloud readers: His last name was Bunde, I do not remember the first. If you see him, thank him for caring to the Littlest Scholar. I never did get the chance in person.) They are valuable beyond words.

But working for the state requires some recognition that you are a public servant, with all the meaning the word "service" implies. It requires a little humility. Complaining that ...
State department budgets have been cut to bare bons over the past two years, hundreds off employees have been laid off, services have been cut, most of us reecived no wage increases for two years, employees benefits have been reduced, and working conditions have become downright dangerous in some jobs. not the language of a servant. Those who serve with the recognition that their pay derives from the coercive power of the state do not speak in this way.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Faculty senate imposes gag order, prior restraint of the press 

In its infinite infallibility to instinctively inch towards insanity, our faculty senate passed two weeks ago this motion determined to not let this Homecoming Queen story and the Bolshevik attack on the St. Cloud Times die:

Motion for hte Faculty Senate to join with the SCSU Student Association in deploring the racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and transphobic postings on the message boards of the St. Cloud Times, finds anonymous postings to be inconsistent with accepted journalistic standards, and calls on the St. Cloud Times to require all posters to identify themselves by real name and city.

In the event the St. Cloud Times declines to require accurate indentities of posters within thirty days, the Faculty Senate calls on the Administration to forbid sales of the St. Cloud Times on campus and recommends that the SCSU faculty not grant interviews to St. Cloud Times Reporters until such time as the anonymous postings are ended.

The St. Cloud Times then would be not only barred from distribution from campus, but the faculty union would hinder the outreach efforts of the university in improving our presence in the community. The Times has run an article about this and an editorial (Jan. 23, appears no longer to be online.) The faculty union has also circulated a letter from the Times' publisher Bill Albrecht (it appears to have been written after the visit in November) in which he not only says they will continue with Story Chat but also says their antics are a waste of time.
As for the time we spent together, I wish it would have been more productive, because in the end, it was not a meeting, discussion or productive. From the opening phone call, the purpose of the meeting was unclear and the context was misrepresented.

It's not a meeting, Bill: It's guerilla theater.
I would also encourage all who represented Support the Court to regularly review the St. Cloud Times ... and participate in the dialogue on Story Chat. I encourage this based on some of the assumptions and statements that were made about our people and product by individuals who admittedly do not read the product or have never participated in the chat.

In other words, you were attacked by people who don't know what they are talking about. Doesn't that sound just like an academic leftist? Gin up a bit of campus theater by running a man for homecoming queen, collect reactions of some people who think queens are of a particular sex, and then use it as a means of suppressing free speech, without any regard for the people they attack?

Somewhere Lenin smiles.

The Times' letter will be read at the Faculty Senate meeting today. I have better things to do listening to a job candidate present his research, but we'll stay on this story.

It's there for the taking 

Fabio Rojas notes three trends in higher education:
  1. 95% of schools aren't selective; if you want to go, you can;
  2. Higher education is booming everywhere, even in Mongolia; and
  3. For-profit schools are growing very fast.
I note with pleasure that my last two very profitable stock trades -- and I've not been trading actively in about a year due to lack of time -- were two higher education for-profits. I would not go to that well again, however, due to some concerns about their practices.

And it's about time, too 

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has finally got itself a blog, FIRE's Torch. Here's their take on Ward Churchill. Good stuff up and down; it's on the blogroll here at the Scholars right now!

Prudence goes to college 

A student from the campus paper called me to ask a series of questions about rising student debt (probably predicated on this article in USAToday that college is getting more expensive.) I was trying to explain this to the writer but not sure I made my point clear enough. (Again, a problem of good rhetoric.)

We learn from this publication of Nellie Mae (the Fannie Mae of student loans) that someone with a four-year degree averages $2.1 million in "lifetime earnings" -- by which we'll mean a forty year working life -- and someone with a high-school degree has an expected earnings of $1.2 million. This publication is of course trying to help you finance college, and get you to take a loan. You pay interest on that. The question is, what should you pay for an extra $900,000 of lifetime earnings?

The $900,000 begins, of course, after you leave college and find a job. That takes a few years during which you have to live like, well, a college student. You could be out working a job of manual labor earning a hire income -- you could be modeling, or cooking, or ... well, you get the idea. Kids who go to work full time out of high school do have a period where they out-earn those who go to college. Of course after they leave the college graduates pretty quickly go on to higher wages than their friends who did not.

To show that, consider this graph for college student Prudence and high-school graduate/college refusenik Rip (as in let 'er...)

Rip's earnings in the early years are higher, so that up to the point where they cross he out-earns Prudence by the cumulative area A. But Prudence then goes on to earn B more than A from that point to "working age 40", at which point Prudence and Rip retire. Nellie Mae says, I believe, that Area B - Area A = $900,000. But not so fast! Area A occurs early in one's life, area B much later. At age 18, it's quite possible for someone to decide to be Rip, if they have a high preference for income now over income later. Only those who believe in saving for the future or are prudent (or have a low rate of time preference, in economists' jargon) end up going to college. (More technical analysis using rates of time preference and this "life cycle hypotehsis of consumption found here.)

Higher rates of student borrowing could simply indicate that the size of B relative to A has gotten higher, so that the returns to education justify Prudence actually borrowing more. I know, it sounds weird for me to have Prudence borrow, but if she's done her math correctly she will choose to borrow as long as the size of B-A is greater than the present value of all the loan payments and current payments she has to make for her college education. Since we have some evidence that the returns to education are increasing, there's no reason why we shouldn't see higher rates of student borrowing.

One problem with this model is what is the correct rate of discounting B over A? And what is true for an individual may not be true for society as a whole. (See, for example, this paper by Tyler Cowen, which argues for a zero rate of discount for public policy. Steve, it has a model, and it's written pretty well.)


Craig Newmark is right: It's a bad idea to anger Victor Davis Hanson.

What explains this automatic censure of the United States, Israel, and to a lesser extent the Anglo-democracies of the United Kingdom and Australia? Westernization, coupled with globalization, has created an affluent and leisured elite that now gravitates to universities, the media, bureaucracies, and world organizations, all places where wealth is not created, but analyzed, critiqued, and lavishly spent.

Thus we now expect that the New York Times, Harper's, Le Monde, U.N. functionaries who call us "stingy," French diplomats, American writers and actors will all (1) live a pretty privileged life; (2) in recompense "feel" pretty worried and guilty about it; (3) somehow connect their unease over their comfort with a pathology of the world's hyperpower, the United States; and (4) thus be willing to risk their elite status, power, or wealth by very brave acts such as writing anguished essays, giving pained interviews, issuing apologetic communiqu�s, braving the rails to Davos, and barking off-the-cuff furious remarks about their angst over themes (1) through (3) above. What a sad contrast they make with far better Iraqis dancing in the street to celebrate their voting.

"Why has astrology been invented?"* 

Steve Gigl, who's decided to change the title of his blog to Gigglepundit, says I'm the only economist he knows. This is technically known in economics as a good thing. (Particularly stay away from distinguished economists.)

He asks for an answer to this question: Where are the models? No, not those.

It�s likely that I�m just missing something, but I often wonder something when politicians and pundits are talking about economic issues: where are the models? They throw out a lot of numbers, but rarely do they explain their sources, let alone the assumptions involved, and I often get the impression that the sources of the numbers didn�t spend a lot of time generating them.

Meanwhile, I keep getting the feeling that a basic spreadsheet model of some key variables in the US economy would help me�and, presumably, a lot of other well-informed but economically clueless people�come to a conclusion on issues like Social Security reform. I�ve seen models online for the entire US economy, and I�m sure policies like this would have an effect on all levels of the economy, but to begin with I�d like to see a well-explained model on just how some of these plans might work. (And inevitably, I�d have to see the competing model�s claims about the effects of the same policy and make up my mind which model to trust.) But sadly, I have almost no clue what to model, what parameters to use, and how to model any of the effects. And absolutely no time to learn any of that.

So maybe I�m being over-optimistic that simple models of some of these economic ideas would be useful, but then I�d have to ask: if V = I*R works for 99% of the problems in electronics (and more physics-based�read: complex�equations can be found for most of the rest of the cases), why can�t simple models be equally useful in economics?

Part of the answer is just that: You are being over-optimistic. Modeling the behavior of human beings is different than modeling the behavior of particles or waves. In the post just below we had to ask how much people would value being given the option of getting out of Social Security and going into private accounts. That means we have to predict how people behave. Since I don't believe in psychohistory, models end up having an inherent level of uncertainty about a model's forecasts. And I mean an uncertainty that does not lend itself to statistical measurement like variance. I mean uncertainty in terms of a process that has random events drawn from a jar, if you will, the contents of which are unknowable.

Second, the types of models that pundits and politicians use are often policy prescriptions about macroeconomics, the economics of the aggregation of millions of individuals and firms into such data as GDP. As such we don't have good laboratory experiments to test models in. Macroeconomists -- the area in which I work -- take a good deal of time coming to closure on whether a model is predictive (I resist "accurate" because models are not reality but abstractions from reality to make analysis easier).

The argument over Social Security is in part an argument over consumption theory. The crabbing about Krugman's piece last week comes in no small part from Krugman trying to cram some rather contentious parts of consumption theory into a NYT op-ed. And, as he admits himself, it didn't work. The details of that theoretical argument would make your eyes glaze over (a small illustration will be in a post I wrote last night and will post later this morning); a big reason why it's hard is that the arguments occur increasingly in terms of mathematical formulations rather than good analytics written in English, and it takes a real special skill to move the math into the analytics. The problem, in short, is rhetorical. We don't talk to non-economists in a convincing way by and large. (I have a short list of exceptions to this, but that deserves a post of its own.)

The problem therefore isn't that we don't have a model but that we cannot explain it very well.

*--"To make economics an accurate science."

Hook up 

Doug at Bogus Gold alerts me that a couple of MOBsters have been asking about archives for Hewitt's show and NARN. I mentioned a few weeks ago my disappointment that KRLA stopped offering 24 hour archives of their Salem shows.

If you listen to our stream, you note that there are no commercials. That's an FCC rule; there is a long-standing battle over the use of the internet to broadcast things put over the air. Commercials are one thing affected by the rules. This might have been the problem for KRLA.

Steve offered me a solution I've been using for a few weeks now and have liked. I now have Replay Radio and tune both Hewitt and our show to be recorded every day. (I have to leave my computer on hibernate or standby and be around a wireless router to make this happen.) It's not freeware, but it's as close to a TiVo for the Internet that I've found. And with it I now have a potential Hewitt/NARN archive. If I could serve it out for free, guys, it'd be yours for the asking. Alas, bandwidth costs money. And a rule of Scholars is we don't beg for bandwidth funds.

Monday, February 07, 2005

I prefer private accounts 

Last Thursday during the NARN's sitting in for Hugh Hewitt, the gang interviewed Peter Beinart (are you going to the forum? Fools! You need tickets!). The question was Social Security, and Peter tried to draw out Mitch and the others by saying (paraphrasing, but I'll change this to exact dialogue when I transcribe the recording) "Be honest, you guys don't want to save Social Security by privatizing it. You want to gut Social Security because you don't think it's the responsibility of society to help the elderly." Mitch demurred.

I'm going to partially agree with Beinart. (This is a special day, I guess.)

I have thought for awhile that the Bush Administration's approach to selling Social Security reform was poor. Relying on solvency measures for a date thirty-some years from now is unlikely to get anyone gung-ho over reform. I have a hard time getting Mrs. Scholar excited over retirement planning, and I'm already over 45 (she's not, and she wants damn sure that you know that.) Getting people to adopt private plans because some day in the fairly-distant future someone is going to get 70% of their promised benefits from a pay-as-you-go scheme is not going to turn people on no matter how many times you have Bush do the dog-and-pony.

I'm not saying he's wrong on the facts. He's probably right. But good wonkery gets trumped by good politics any day, and "there's no crisis!" sounds better than "there's a crisis 38 years from now; do something!!!" The Greenspan Commission that did the fix of Social Security in the 1980s was many years in the making; Bush has a short time within which to make the bold change he wishes.

The case, if he wants to make it, is in the better qualities that private accounts provide. Kevin Hassett explains.

Suppose that a "retirement genie" alighted on your doorstep and informed you that he had just taken the liberty of reorganizing your finances. To ensure your future safety, the genie transferred all of your savings into a special account with a number of features. First, you cannot touch the monies in the account until you retire. Second, if you and your spouse die, the money is lost unless you have school-aged children. Third, the minute that you retire you will be forced to convert your entire accumulation into an annuity that dribbles the cash out at a low monthly rate. Fourth, the account funds cannot be invested in a well-diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds, but must be parked in a single low-yield government instrument. Finally, you must contribute 12.4% of your earnings into the account every year.

It is hard to imagine that anyone would view these machinations as good news.

Right: No rainy day money to draw on, no asset that builds for your benefit. And the money is in an undiversified fund that would be laughed out of the room if your financial planner suggested it to you. In other words, Social Security is a bad investment vehicle as current constructed. A recent paper also shows this to be true. In essence, you have people who are borrowing money at 10% and forced to save at a rate of less than 2%. How much sense does this make? Hassett makes another great point:

A supporter of the status quo might respond that Social Security was not designed to make rational individuals better off. It forces irresponsible "grasshopper" individuals to save for their retirement along with responsible "ants." This way, the ants will not have to feed the grasshoppers when they are old. But recent estimates suggest that about 80% of Americans behave quite rationally, saving much the way the economic models say they should. Economic research has revealed that 80% of Americans are ants. Consequently, today's system forces the vast majority to endure a straight-jacketed program that reduces their lifetime welfare significantly, all for the benefit of a small minority.

I particularly wish this point was the point Bush would defend. We are asking Prudence to pay for Folly, which leads only to more Folly.

Don't reform Social Security because money will run out in 20xx. Reform it because there's a better plan that improves people's well-being. If Bush wants to be the great visionary, that should be his vision.

FIRE saves Scholars 

Well, possibly. FIRE has gotten the University of California at Sunny Beaches Santa Barbara to cease its attempt to have The Dark Side of UCSB change its name to drop the reference to the university.
�We are relieved that UCSB has come to its senses and realized that it may not prohibit those who might criticize the university from using the university�s name,� remarked FIRE President David French. �UCSB twice told Mr. Baron, whose website is critical of the university, that it was a crime to use the UCSB name without the university�s permission. It is simply absurd for a public university to claim that it cannot be criticized by name.�

We are relieved, and gratefully note that despite several notes about this blog from administrators and faculty, nobody has ever suggested that we remove SCSU from our name.

You've got to be freakin' kidding 

The university's PR department just announced a reception to celebrate winning an award, including one for financial management.
The 2004 Excellence in Financial Management Award in recognition of the university�s continued leadership and team effort in financial management.
It turns out getting one of these is like making the NHL playoffs. (Particularly this year.)

The president's office, in a further display of financial management, will be providing refreshments.

Be it known throughout the land... 

...that I am not a Patriots fan. I had always had mixed ties because I grew up in the NFL-AFL rivalry days, and the station that carried the nearest NFL team, the Giants, was on the station that came on our TV in Manchester, NH, without snow. Any love I had for the Pats was lost watching them first waste Steve Grogan's career and then the use of Elvis. Until I see this man on the helmets again...

...the Patriots can rot.

At least they're not The Boston Patriots of Foxboro.

Students, please note: 

If you can't make it to class and you're considerate enough to inform your instructor beforehand, think hard before you tell your instructor why you can't make it to class. You see, a simple and straightforward notification, unadorned by dramatic detail, fires your instructor's imagination. He pictures you shivering beside a coal-stove in a freezing office ruled by a petty tyrant, a veritable Vortigern of accounts receivable. He pictures you kneeling by the bedside of a dying parent as the doctor puts his hand on your shoulder and sobs at the futility of it all. He pictures you standing amid the smoldering rubble that was your home, your face caked with soot as the camera pans back to reveal death and devastation for miles in every direction.

He does not picture you attending the symphony.

Your reasons for missing class are your own. However, if you do feel compelled to tell your instructor a story, then you should lie. Lying will show far more respect for your instructor than telling the truth ever will. You will also save yourself the embarrassment of being judged, however silently. Like you, your instructor is, after all, only human.

Jeff should simply stop taking attendance.

Take paradise, put up a parking lot 

SCSU is running a budget surplus positive budget balance and after much input from faculty -- largely ignored -- the university has decided how to spend it. The students aren't happy with this either.
SCSU also proposed spending $5.7 million over the next three years on various parking improvements, including $79,000 on a parking soft and hardware system, $84,980 on new parking machines for the pay-lots, $610,000 on acquiring more property, $500,000 on buying Q-lot from the city and $3.9 million on the planning and construction of a new parking ramp.

The allocation of funds into areas like acquiring property and paying for renovations to Centennial Hall is causing some rifts between student government and SCSU administration.

Some members of student government believe these projects should be paid for by state bonds and not by operating funds.
True, they aren't operating funds but "recurring one-time monies", which is an oxymoron. Language matters: The funds really represent some past-budgeted items for overly-pessimistic projections for fuel costs and lawsuit settlements -- which represents the money budgeted here, along with the continuing benefit of having lower salary costs from the crappy contract the union signed onto last time and savings from reducing health benefits. Those are operating funds. Whether or not we can believe the university has divided up those two inflows correctly is a separate question, and for now we'll assume they got that right.

Nevertheless, the university is planning to spend more than 40% of its extra funds on a parking ramp, built at least 0.5 miles from my office building (which also contains a fair amount of the campus' classroom space) and calls it a "major issue for students" (quote from Pres. Saigo's letter explaining the budget to the campus) while the students think it shouldn't be paid for that way. Nobody in the faculty or staff will benefit from that ramp either.

If it is built, I suggest it be called "The Roy Saigo Parking Ramp" so that the president's great achievement in building a "positive budget balance" can be compared to, say, the Brendan McDonald Ice Arena. The comparison seems apt.

When there are no budget constraints... 

...there is a lot of waste. 'Twas true in the Soviet Union and, according to Dartblog, 'tis true at Dartmouth. Joe's post goes over much ground such as Ward Churchill and the invitation of Daniel Pipes to campus, but also describes a film (or really an MPEG) festival that Joe thinks is a waste of money.

It was standard fare to begin. Edited clips of George Bush slurring words. Nuk-u-lar. Collages of how many times he used the words "terror", "Iraq", and "weapons" in a speech he gave about terrorism, Hussein�s Iraq, and illegal weapons. Then a clip from an anarchist mocking the political circus that was election cycle 2004: Kerry's drone and Bush's twang.

The show continued with a video of teenagers instructing viewers how to put fake UPC codes on things to steal them, and then a conspiracy theorist who can operate a camera. This film turned out to be the one that captured Joe's attention and mine:

It explains the US conspiracy to take over the world. Compares America to Nazi Germany. Says America is beginning the 3rd World War. That we "have an insatiable appetite for conflict." That "this ghastly molecule" - American corporations- "aim to turn the world into its very own enslaved global market. And the plan is well on the way."

Then: "The attack by al Qaeda is on the World Trade Center is one response [to that plan]." (Image of burning Statue of Liberty)

When it ended, there was silence. Unlike the other films, which garnered chuckling, applause, exclaims, or murmurs, this one generated silence. Were my contemporaries internalizing what they had seen? Analyzing it? Or were they buying it? Or, like me, were they simply stunned?

Now, there are many faculty on campuses around America who would not be troubled by this video. And if I had learned that Dartmouth's role in this was simply to provide a venue, I'd be with them. Students aren't idiots, as the speechless reaction to this tripe shows. But this was paid for by student fees and from alumni contributions, for a set of free videos someone had downloaded, while Daniel Pipes had to wait three years to speak on that campus.

I'd suggest that Peter Robinson make this part of his platform for running for Dartmouth's board of trustees.

Friday, February 04, 2005

It can happen again 

In a story with stunning parallels to the St. Olaf case last year, Augsburg College is running another of those Nobel Peace Prize Forums with a motley crew of leftists espousing that we embrace terrorists. Best of the Web's James Taranto has the details of one particular presentation.
Fighting Terrorism with Empathy: a Model for Peace

Amy Nell

Concordia College
The word terrorism strikes a deep nerve among Americans today--having sparked an entire nation to the defense of its country and the subjugation of those who stand in opposition. One of these men who stand in opposition is the man who planned the September 11 attacks. In November 2004, Osama Bin Laden released a tape giving his recipe for a healthy nation. This seminar would dissect his message and use audience participation in doing so. Discussion points would include counterterrorism methods, the possibility of peace, empathy etc. The aim of this seminar would be to help understand the position of Osama Bin Laden as presented in the video and explore in what ways the origins of terrorism are to be found, not in some foreign citizen, but in the actions we take out of fear, hate and retribution.
Taranto comments:
We're of two minds about nonsense like this. On the one hand, the whole thing is silly and inconsequential. If America can survive "Fahrenheit 9/11," it can withstand the blatherings of Amy Nell. Indeed, one of the great benefits of free speech is that the very exposure of such flapdoodle discredits it--and, if you have a dark sense of humor like we do, often in quite entertaining ways.

On the other hand, higher education is at least arguably a serious and important institution, and inasmuch as a college degree is a necessary credential for many jobs, it is also a powerful institution. In some ways society would be better off if colleges and universities were run by serious people.

But there's more at work here, as I said about the St. Olaf case last year. If you wish to teach peace, you should offer some discussion of the alternative: Is appeasement always the answer, or are there points where force is justified? You would think after the student response to Big Trunk's presentation on the lesson of Winston Churchill on appeasement at the St. Olaf forum, the organizers at Augsburg might have learned from the experience.

Giving the talk was an emotional experience for me. To bring an image of Churchill's greatness to a receptive audience of students who knew nothing about him, to recite the words whose force brought Churchill to power and changed the history of the world, to place Jimmy Carter in a Churchillian frame of reference, were humbling and inspirational tasks.

The questions and comments from the students following the talk were engaged and responsive. What about President Bush? What about preemption? What about 9/11 and the war against the United States? When did the British public turn to Churchill? What about North Korea?

I was struck after the talk by how many of the students, mostly guys, stayed around to express appreciation. Appreciation for what? My impression was that they appreciated hearing someone articulate a point of view that expressed their own instinctive respect for the guardians of freedom.

Alas, the Augsburg organizers did not learn. Too bad.

Speaking of blood money ... 

The Barbary pirates of political correctness have The extracted tribute from Larry Summers.
Moving to counter widespread criticism of his comments last month on women's science capabilities, the president of Harvard University announced initiatives yesterday to improve the status of women on the faculty, including a commitment to create a senior administrative position to strengthen recruiting.

The president, Lawrence H. Summers, appointed two task forces, one on women in the faculty and one on women in science and engineering, and charged them with developing recommendations on how to recruit, support and promote women more effectively.

...Dr. Summers's actions yesterday echoed his handling of the outcry that followed his dispute in 2001 with Cornel West, a prominent member of the African-American studies department. At that time, Dr. Summers publicly affirmed his commitment to affirmative action, and Harvard subsequently created several new positions in that department.
What's that again about Danegeld, Craig? President Saigo, take note.

The penalty for being a dope 

NARN in for Hewitt last night had on Bill Owens, the governor of Colorado, who was asked about Ward Churchill, and the governor replied that the matter was being looked into. He's gone a lot further than that.

No one wants to infringe on Mr. Churchill�s right to express himself. But we are not compelled to accept his pro-terrorist views at state taxpayer subsidy nor under the banner of the University of Colorado. Ward Churchill besmirches the University and the excellent teaching, writing and research of its faculty.

...His resignation as chairman of the Ethnic Studies Department was a good first step. We hope that he will follow this step by resigning his position on the faculty of the University of Colorado.

The resignation was a good step, Eugene Volokh thinks, but firing Churchill from the university is going too far.
If the Ward Churchills of the world are fired for their speech, disgusting as it is, that would be a perfect precedent for left-wing faculties and administrations to fire right-wing professors for much less offensive statements. And given the political complexion of universities these days (and the fact that most of the decisions will be made by university administrations and not by elected officials), this will end up happening to conservatives much more often than to liberals. So I think that protecting Churchill from being fired is both good in principle and good in practice.

But if he lied about his ethnic background to help him get his position at UC, that's entirely a different matter. Falsifying one's resume is grounds for dismissal, even at SCSU.

That girl is now the first female PM in the CIS 

I'll be damned. Ukraine's parliament approved Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister and the government's plan of action. She received 373 votes out of 450, which is the record for appointment of a prime minister. Things are moving fast there right now. Yulia knows it and is properly humbled by the weight of what she has to do now.
We have awakened the faith and hope of the people that the government can work not only for itself, that it can work not only to solve its own problems, but that it can work for those people who have only observed the government for 12 years and now want results from it.

...I want to assure you that I will under no circumstances disappoint the people of Ukraine, the president of Ukraine, or any one of you [members of parliament]. I want you to know that I view the trust you have given me today as the highest value in my life, and I will not damage it by any step I take.

And what she does may have impact on the rest of the former Soviet states that still are struggling towards freedom.

Not just any woman who can pull off that lace look. But it will take more than that.

Truer words have never been spoken 

Michael Munger is my homie.

There are two kinds of people in universities.

1. People whose idea of work is going to meetings.

2. People whose idea of work is what we do BETWEEN meetings. You know, stuff like thinking, reading books and articles, writing new research.

Here's the problem: American universities are being absolutely taken over by by people of type 1. As a department chair, I can protect my faculty against some of this, but only some.

I have been buried of late getting departmental schedules ready for next year, three (3!) searches for new faculty, an external review and so forth. After months hiding, President Roy Saigo all of a sudden has shown up on campus again, like a baseball player the year before he becomes a free agent, to spend a "positive budget balance" -- none dare call it a "surplus" since some have taken to calling it "blood money", with our blood -- and I have had meetings with him yesterday and today. The university has also decided to put in schedules for a whole year at a time, but didn't bother to tell the Registrar's office until yesterday I'm told ... and their due next Friday.
Whole floors of academic buildings are being converted from faculty office space (ie, place where work is actively done) to administrative office space (ie, places where work is actively prevented).

Last year here it was the old library, where whole floors that were thought to be for classroom space or department offices for the college of business became offices for BLT-Hold-The-Mayo Student Services or some such.
I have to deal with faculty, and graduate students, every day who can't believe the ridiculous, counterproductive, and petty edicts from above. They assume that I am the source.

Today a student comes into my office from a school in Bangladesh (I think, maybe Pakistan). He has courses to transfer but needs them to count from the various departments. He must go to each department to get each course approved. He is the fourth students from this particular school -- I've read that syllabus before -- yet I have to write him a letter saying the course transfers as our ECON yyy. (I'd use the previous letter but you know how Google works.) He will have to go to six departments to get this done. Reminds me of registering a car in Ukraine. Under Stalin.
The problem is not top level administrators, who (at Duke, at least right now) are the best I have ever seen. The problem is mid-level administrators who, knowing nothing about research, decide it is a "product" that needs to be managed and measured. And of course, we need to meet about it, a lot. Because that is what work is.

If only I worked at Duke. President Saigo handed down his edict on the "positive budget balance" -- our college got scant equipment money. But do they just send us the $58k and have us spend it where it is most needed? No: the Provost sits and tells the dean which projects, out of the over $1 million we proposed, will be funded. It would be nice if they even tried to measure research. They don't. They have no clue. They give it to instructional items because all they know how to count are fannies in the seats.
I can always just lay low. But what will happen to the new generation? A lot of the time faculty spend doing "nothing" is the most productive time they spend.

The SCSU Corrolary: No faculty member is safe when the Faculty Senate and Academic Affairs Council are in session. Send 'em back to their offices, let them read and write, if they can. And keep the provost out of deciding which labs get funded and which do not. You'd think he had better things to do.

And you wonder why I don't come on Hewitt's show? You're better off listening to Mitch's cough than my bile.

Off to write my piatiletka schedule.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Last call for Hewitt-Beinart, with a sweetened ante 

You've heard them on Hewitt's show, so you know there's love between Hugh and Peter. If you go here to get tickets for the event -- Feb 10, 5-9 at the Minneapolis Hilton, c'mon, you knew that, right? -- and if you get the $69 packages, there should be a free copy of Blog with it. And there will be a bunch of stuff given away, says Chumley, that looks to be perfect for Valentine's Day. (And nothing like a good debate to get the romance back in your life!) So order those tickets. I'll see you there.

NARN in for Hewitt right now 

The rest of NARN will be in on the Hugh Hewitt Show 5-8 central time, meaning in about ten minutes. Mitch is with Ed for hour 1 and John and Scott for hours 2-3 today. Mitch has the Fraters in next Tuesday, Feb. 8. Here are Hugh's stations, and here's where the streams are found. Go!

Now 40% less pliable 

John Ray reports on a survey done at UCLA that says college freshmen are more colorblind than ever. And, guess what!, that's a bad thing. Matthew Peterson reports,

Sylvia Hurtado, director of HERI at UCLA, said "the freshman views on race were troubling." Why? "'There are different groups in society experiencing life differently in the United States, and that's always historically been the case,' she said. 'If they don't see these issues as important, we won't be able to change that.'"

Apparently the tautology of her statement escapes her�what if the reason students "don't see these issues as important" is because they are increasingly "experiencing life" together, and in much the same way? After all, we are all equally human beings, aren't we?

Anthony Lising Antonio, Assistant Professor at Stanford's School of Education, is quoted as saying:

I worry about these trends, because they may indicate that our youth are beginning to take on an attitude of color unconsciousness, a kind of colorblindness that allows them to ignore racial diversity...

Professor Antonio's remarks reveal the naked absurdity of the new science of diversity that infests the academy. He is worried that students are increasingly

...The UCLA study provides no data on how college seniors respond to the same questions after four years in the artifical environment of the modern academy with the likes of Professor Antonio�one wonders. But if the survey is to be trusted, Karina and others like her will weather the silly, race-baiting world of the academy well.

The executive summary of the article is here.

Out of controls 

Last seen losing Republican primaries for wearing bad flannel shirts, an old warhorse for education was heard from again. At a meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Sen. and former education secretary Lamar Alexander said price controls in higher education are a bad idea. But he told the schools that political correctness has gotten out of hand.

The idea of price controls from Washington for colleges and universities is a bad idea. It's a bad idea because what has made our system of higher education superior is autonomy and choice.


While Mr. Alexander supported colleges on price controls, he chastised them for what he described as their double-talk on diversity, suggesting that some colleges have become intolerant of unpopular views. As evidence, he cited recent attacks on the president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, for his comments on women in mathematics and science. Mr. Summers was vilified by some academics for suggesting that one reason fewer women make it to the top in math and science may be because of innate differences of ability from men.

Colleges and universities "get a little obnoxious sometimes in their self-righteousness," said Mr. Alexander. "Institutions that preach diversity and then don't allow diverse questions to be asked are not doing a very good job of what I think colleges and universities ought to do."
Good for him. Source: Chronicle of Higher Ed. (subscribers only)

How far off was advanced GDP? 

The Eclectic Econoclast has a story (attributed to Phil at Market Power, who needs to be in MOB) that a computer changeover in November at Statistics Canada may have cost us half a point on GDP growth in the last quarter.

The Commerce Department three days ago said the U.S. economy cooled to a 3.1 percent annual rate last quarter, damped by a record trade deficit that included a widening gap with Canada. StatsCan, the agency responsible for Canadian trade and GDP figures, today said it mistakenly underreported November imports from the U.S. by C$1.31 billion ($1.06 billion) on Jan. 12.

Estimates for how much the error will add to U.S. GDP when corrected range from 0.1 percentage points from Morgan Stanley in New York to 0.5 points by Joseph Carson, director of economic research at Alliance Bernstein in New York.

Add this to the report of a large revision in residential construction, and I'm thinking we may end up with GDP growth in the last quarter of 2004 revised upwards to 3.8% (a full 4% is possible but not likely.)

Those unfamiliar with GDP statistics in the U.S. -- I expect that makes up most of us -- may not be aware that the Dept. of Commerce issues three estimates of GDP for a quarter. The first one is called the advance estimate, given thirty days after the end of a quarter, and it contains assumptions. The second is a preliminary (at 60 days after the end of a quarter) and the final at 75 days. Advance has a tendency to underreport relative to preliminary and final, though not by very much. Still, about one in six of the revisions to GDP numbers between advance and final are 1% or more.

It's possible this is one of those quarters. That suspicion may as well be the reason that the Fed raised the interest rate target yesterday.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

What a concept 

I have to have one of these.

No, this has nothing to do with economics or academics. It's just cool.

Can I get credit for protesting Michael Moore? 

The fellow who runs our GLBT/L.S.M.F.T. services program sent out a request to the campus announce list for faculty and staff "who are willing and able to assist undergraduate GLBT students with academic tutoring and or mentoring". One faculty member replied to the whole campus offering his services:
I teach racial issues courses, social justice issues, ... as well as offering independent studies, especially to activists seeking credit for what they are doing, and those with defined research projects for which classes are otherwise unavailable.

Emphasis mine. Is this what we mean by "academic distinction"?

Hungry suburbanites 

As regular readers of the Scholars know, I'm not too much into the Nick Coleman Fiskathon that consumes much of MOB and the wider blogosphere. His writings of late, particularly when pointed in our direction, remind me most of the Jon Lovitz character Frenchie -- it's contrived annoyance, something nobody will remember six months from now, and with good reason.

But Chad pointed out a sentence in Coleman's latest that is egregiously wrong yet serves to demonstrate the warped view of the Left of the economy in which they laze about. It is for that wider purpose that I point it out. It just happens to be Coleman repeating this in print that makes us attribute it to him.

In a society where good-paying jobs are vanishing and costs for everything are climbing, there's at least one growth area: hungry suburbanites.
On what basis does Coleman make this claim? Let's take a look: It is the height of hilarity, as I drive back and forth to the Cities, through ever-growing Maple Grove, its wannabe cousin Rogers, the expansion of St. Michael and Albertville, and the crawl down I-94 of my own St. Cloud, to think that somehow there are starving suburbanites with worse and worse jobs. The expansion of the I-94 corridor between our city and The Cities is tribute to the fact that things are not getting worse but better for suburban Minnesotans.

Obscuring your tracks 

The only difference between Ward Churchill and many of my colleagues in academia is that someone actually decided to write down what he said. I found myself mostly shrugging; "if they could get a microphone around a lunchtime conversation in HURL, oh what editorials they could write!" But this morning while waiting for the bathroom here at home I ran across Henry Farrell giving Robert Conquest and Glenn Reynolds the business.
On the one hand, Conquest�s language and claims are less inflammatory and offensive than Churchill�s. On the other, Conquest is one of the right�s most senior and respected figures, a fellow of the Hoover Institute, and a key player in the Anglo-American right�s intellectual network. Churchill, in comparison, is a relative nobody who represents no-one except himself. I�ve always had a fondness for Conquest; he was dead right on Stalinism, and he comes across as a very human figure ... But if he�s seriously trying to claim, on the basis of no apparent evidence, that leftwing professors in Western universities shoulder some of the blame for September 11, he should be deeply ashamed of himself. It�s a vicious, disgraceful slur, and it�s every bit as unacceptable as the claim that the West and the US had September 11 coming to them. Still, I don�t think that Reynolds or any of his cronies will be following their advice to the left and disassociating themselves from Conquest (indeed, judging by Reynolds� dishonest and hate-filled post, I wouldn�t be surprised if he agrees with Conquest�s claims).
What, you must wonder, set Farrell off? This:
And we are told that a number of members of the Middle Eastern terror groups had originally been in the local communist movements ... The members of [the Real IRA and the Shining Path], as with those in Italy or, for example, the Naxalities in India, were almost entirely recruited from student elements who had accepted the abstractions of fashionable academics. And the September 11 bombers were almost all comfortably off young men, some having been to Western universities and there adopted the extremely anti-Western mind-set.

The reviewer of Conquest's book, though not Farrell, makes the point that the attempt is to draw an analogy between Conquest's long-standing observation that the left in America had sympathies with the Soviet Union and that the 9/11 attackers specifically learned anti-Western attitudes in Western universities from folks like Churchill. The syllogism Conquest is arguing runs like this: Many Western university professors hold anti-American sympathies; some students of these professors adopt these sympathies; some act on them, occasionally in ways that lead to violence and tragedy (Rachel Corrie says hello*); some of the 9/11 attackers went to western universities where such faculty were. Yes, that's circumstantial, and I would not have been comfortable making the statement, but asking me to back away from Conquest as the left should back away from Churchill is hyperventilation.

And an attempt to obscure the tracks that lead from Churchill to the comfortable, tenured Left.

Reynolds links to Naomi Klein, who said in part (adding to what Glenn quoted):
I was talking to a journalist a few weeks ago and I was saying that I believe our responsibility is to hold Bush to his lie. They promised democracy, sovereignty and liberation. They haven't delivered, but our job should be to demand that these become realities. His response was, "So what you're saying is that something good could come from the war, right?" He was trying to trap me. I realized when he did this that this was a big reason why anti-war forces have refused to have positive demands � precisely because it will be used against us. It will seem as if something good could come from this war. My response to this is: Who the hell cares? Who cares about our anti-war egos?

If you hang around American universities, you know who cares. It's all about ego, because once you have a job for life at a decent but not hefty salary in the liberal arts, ego is coin of the realm.

*--I'm sure someone will now think I blame in part leftist professors for sending her to her death. Let me be explicit: I do.

Put your money where your mouth is 

Today's Wall Street Journal runs an editorial on law schools' flaunting of the Solomon Amendment, which requires higher education institutions taking federal dollars to provide access to military recruiters. The schools are making a political statement about the military's policies on openly gay enlistees.
...the same liberals who object that the military includes too many lower-class kids won't let military recruiters near the schools that contain students who will soon join the upper-class elite.
Conservative schools that wish to avoid the government's strictures of affirmative action and other intrusions, such as Hillsdale College, have simply refused to accept federal dollars. Law schools, with generous benefactors and well-heeled alumni, should explore that option too.

UPDATE (2/4): The appelate court that ruled for the law schools and against Solomon Amendment has delayed enforcement of its decision pending Supreme Court review. (Source: Chron Higher Ed, subscribers only.)

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Outsourcing skilled labor, part II 

Or, how to keep an economist entertained. My colleague Rich came into the lunchroom and wrote on the blackboard there a question a student asked: Does the increasing trend towards outsourcing cause an increasing divergence of GDP and GNP? Gross Domestic Product measures the production of goods and services for final use within a given geographic location, regardless of ownership of the firm. Gross National Product measures the production of goods and services for final use of all firms of a given country, regardless of the location of production. Toyotas produced in Tennessee are part of GDP but not GNP for the U.S.; they are part of Japan's GNP but not their GDP.

The difference between them is known as net foreign factor income. A country owns its factors of production -- land, labor, capital and entrepreneurial activity. It can use them here or abroad. Goods produced here could be produced by domestic or foreign factors of production. Net foreign factor income is the income of domestic factors earning income abroad less the income of foreign-owned factors earned domestically.

The key word there is "net". For the most part, this difference between GDP and GNP has been miniscule on net, though as a gross it may be rather large. In 2003, we received factor income of $294.4 billion and paid out to foreign firms factor income of $261.1 billion. On net, then, the difference is $33.3 billion out of over $11 trillion in GDP. And as a share of GDP, if anything, the difference has decreased.

What we see more these days is not outsourcing of jobs but an increase in the flow of remittances from workers who immigrate to the U.S. to their home families abroad.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, Dept. of Commerce. That blip down in 1991, by the way, is the payments into the U.S. from our partners for the 1991 Gulf War. While these increased outflows of money are part of globalization, they are not outsourcing of jobs. They are an increase in work here for workers who send money to families abroad, not at all the same thing.

Outsourcing skilled labor, part I 

Alas, Minnesota is outsourcing most of its models.

Stacy Klimek stars in a prime-time network series and stands a good chance of securing a seven-page layout in the red-hot Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.
For a model, that's like winning the Super Bowl or receiving an Oscar.

So why was the South St. Paul teenager folding infant jumpers at the Mall of America on Monday, just two days before NBC airs the semifinals of "Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Model Search?"

While Klimek may be one of just three remaining competitors vying for a magazine spread and a million-dollar contract, she's still a 19-year-old struggling model in the Twin Cities.

It's a location where high fashion is defined by designer snowmobile suits.

"Everyone notices me in Minnesota because there's, like, no famous people," said Klimek ...

Al Franken, call your office!

A shame too, nice girl like that. But Klimek has decided to move to Los Angeles, since she also is interested in acting.

(H/T: reader Steve Frank)

Don't forget! 

Hewitt says the Patriot Forum debate between himself and Peter Beinart will be "old school". We'll see what he means. Come to see this on the 10th: Get your tickets today, because they won't be sold after Friday. NARN will be in the house.

Does SCSU have designated free speech zones? 

After Dave posted a variation of this piece to the campus discussion email list, we got this reply from Anne Zemek de Dominguez, the university counsel who's the subject of this article on campus free speech.

Just for clarification, I certainly did not mean President Saigo when I suggested "the President" was a threat to free speech. I meant the President responsible for the appointment of John Ashcroft. I recall that Mr. Palmersheim did ask me after the presentation what I meant by "current political situation" and we had a brief discussion about the Patriot Act. Mr. Palmersheim did a very credible job, in my estimation, of covering the event-a public presentation on free speech and civility, which was strictly fact-based on the current laws and policies. None of my beliefs or opinions were injected into the subject, though in one sole instance I addressed the legal wisdom of imposing a campus speech code on students, which I noted was my own legal judgment. My beliefs and opinions were irrelevant to the presentation; why I hold the beliefs I do are nobody's business. Our student reporters work hard enough covering the story-why also make them plumb the circuitous and etiolated depths of my mind for publication?

Telling in so many ways. First, what does Ashcroft have to do with campus free speech? Have there been any announcements by Ashcroft and academic freedom? I understand and share some of the concerns over Patriot, but it appeared nowhere else in the report on her talk. I would like someone to point to a professor who was prosecuted for speaking on campus under Patriot.

Second, she had offered some beliefs. For instance, she held that only certain areas of campus were free speech zones. From the article:

...the University has designated areas on campus in which people can gather to express their opinions.

"The university may open up areas to the public," she said. "The university may also restrict areas for speech; that would be (an area) like the president's office. That is not where you would have a lively debate."

The designated public forums that people can protest or speak on without any permission are limited to the pedestrian malls around Stewart, Atwood and Halenbeck's plaza.

"The president's office ... is not where you would have a lively debate." That has a .sig quality I might wish to exploit. But it is more telling that she has now allowed for restrictions on free speech anywhere on campus except for pedestrian malls, not exactly conducive to speech during a Minne-So-Cold winter day. By what authority does she do so? When was this decided, and who decided it?

She also opines here:

...she noted an apparent double-standard in the wording of some of these laws.

For example, employers cannot refuse to hire someone because they are homosexual. But, in Para. 363A. 27 in the [Minnesota Human Rights Act], it states that "nothing in this chapter shall be meant to condone or authorize or permit the promotion of homosexuality."

Doesn't the use of the word "double-standard" (which is the reporter's choice, but apparently her intent) suggest some opinion being offered? And...
"You would not believe -- or maybe you would -- the things that people come and ask him to do," she said. "They ask him to come to Atwood to take away material that offends some of them. They ask the president to do a lot of things, and they don't really understand the role of the president. He represents the institution to the public-- it's a public institution. He really ought not to favor one particular group over another." not an opinion?

Scholar Jack tried to pursue Dave's questions further with Ms. Zemek, only to be told curtly that "My personal views are none of your business". Jack answered
Interesting response. And clearly in the spirit or rational, learned campus discourse. No wonder President Saigo chooses you to speak to the campus community on free speech matters.


Costs of hiring international scholars rise 

The cost to colleges of hiring foreign faculty members, researchers, and medical residents is about to go up, thanks to recent revisions in immigration-labor law.

The changes, which go into effect on March 8, will require college employers to pay all foreign workers holding H-1B visas 100 percent of either the actual or the prevailing wage for their job -- instead of the current 95 percent -- and will impose a new $500 antifraud fee on institutions for each petition for an H-1B visa that they file on behalf of an employee.
At the margin this means fewer foreign faculty members will be hired. A dangerous precedent.

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers only)

Why Dad never took me to the bleachers in Fenway 

Because he didn't want me to hear the cheering. What he didn't try to do was to stop people from cheering.
uring the Michigan hockey team�s last two games this weekend, the University has started to enforce a ban on profanity at Yost Ice Arena. The athletic department recently changed its policy regarding profanity and, in particular, the profanity-laced C-YA cheer. Students who use profanity will now be ejected from Yost.

Executive Associate Athletic Director Michael Stevenson sent an e-mail to student season-ticket holders on Wednesday explain the policy change. The change was made after a home weekend against Alaska-Fairbanks in which Stevenson said he saw no improvement in fans� behavior since talking with student season-ticket holders on Jan. 11 during an MSA-run meeting.
The C-YA chant -- basically a string of profanities ended with a SEE YA!, shouted at an opposing player heading to the penalty box -- seems to have grown to add a three-syllable word (the last two appear to refer to a lollipop) that is particularly egregious. According to one security worker, that's the magic word that gets you bounced. (Those of you old enough to remember Ball Four know about "magic words".) Apparently there are magic hand motions at Yost as well.

Somehow I think shouting "bedwetter" at the end of C-YA won't quite capture the feeling.

(H/T: N.E. Hampton)