Thursday, March 31, 2005

Liberals, libertarians, they're all the same to some 

Cold Spring Shops updates his comments on my post about the Lichter study of political attitudes of academics, questioning the direction of causality. He also points me in the direction of University Diaries (reminder to self -- read UD more often) who points out that libertarian views could get called liberal by that study.
UD skews liberal for the purposes of the study about which Kurtz is writing. �The professors and instructors surveyed are, strongly or somewhat, in favor of abortion rights [yup]; believe homosexuality is acceptable [acceptable? I think we can do better than that], and want more environmental protections �even if it raises prices or costs jobs.� [UD is an enviro-freak].� But on international politics UD looks much more conservative than her colleagues, and it�s too bad that it�s pointless for her to open a conversation about this anywhere on campus.

Except with her students, of course. They�re far more conservative than any of us.
Thank God. I am no enviro-freak (I hope ANWR gets drilled as often as ARod in the ribs with fastballs) , but on the others her views are at least within a standard deviation of my own.

What about a teach-out? 

Phil Miller wonders where does this idea of a teach-in come from?
Did this come from the same sort of source that the term "sanitation engineer" come from - i.e. some person trying to disguise the true value of stuff. How much teaching actually goes on at these things?

Some faculty and students at Minnesota State had a teach in regarding the "Social Security Myth." Here is the opening paragraph from the local paper's story (subscription required):

It was admittedly one-sided. But for the people who put on Monday's Social Security teach-in at Minnesota State University, it was seen as a chance to have their say in a debate they think already has been a one-sided affair.

Translation: we didn't invite an opposite viewpoint because we didn't want to.

Here's what he was complaining about.
Two MSU departments and a student group will sponsor a teach-in, "Debunking the Social Security Crisis Myth," at the University all day Monday, March 28.

...It is sponsored by MSU's Sociology and Corrections Department, Gerontology Department, and Students for Social Action (The Sociology Club).MSU professors will discuss proposed Social Security privatization and non-privatization ideas and how the myth of a Social Security "crisis" came about.
Students for Social Action. There is a perfectly elastic supply of Sixties poseurs.

Ouch, that sunlight hurts! 

Deacon picks up the New York Times coverage of Columbia University's conclusion of an internal investigation of charges of faculty intimidation in Middle Eastern Studies. Their report says grievance procedures should be strengthened on campus because dealing with outside groups like Campus Watch is undesirable.

Their recommendations focus on this rather than their findings of intimidation by Professor Joseph Massad. From the Times:
The most credible, the committee found, was an incident involving Professor Joseph Massad, who was teaching a class on Palestinian and Israeli politics. According to the report, a student, Deena Shanker, recalled asking if it was true that Israel sometimes gave a warning before a bombing so that people would not be hurt. She said the professor blew up, telling her, "If you're going to deny the atrocities being committed against Palestinians, then you can get out of my classroom!"

The report said that the professor had "denied emphatically that this incident took place" and had told the committee that he would never ask a student to leave his class. And it said that others in the "particularly tense" class differed about whether the incident, which was never formally reported, had taken place.

But the committee said that in the end, it found the account "credible" and concluded that the professor's "rhetorical response to her query exceeded commonly accepted bounds by conveying that her question merited harsh public criticism."
Massad denies still the allegation. The other allegations -- one in which a student who identified himself at an off-campus event as a former Israeli soldier was asked by Massad how many Palestinians he had killed, the other a student told by another Middle Eastern studies prof that she could be a Semite because her eyes were green -- were not denied but neither rose to a level that the faculty committee thought inappropriate.

C. Across the spectrum of these concerns, we found no evidence of any statements made by the faculty that could reasonably be construed as anti-semitic. Professor Massad, for one, has been categorical in his classes concerning the unacceptability of anti-semitic views.

D. We found no evidence that students had been penalized for their views by receiving lower grades.
Oh. Thanks.

Instead the committee argues for better grievance procedures and banning "unregistered auditors" -- meaning Campus Watch or The David Project -- from the classrooms. In other words, not only do they wish to ignore the actions of these professors, they wish to seal up the classroom and keep out the eyes of the public. As I often say, cockroaches hate sunlight, and they will scream when it's applied. The students of Columbia deserve better than this report which offers them nothing more than a bigger complaint box and a promise that the box will be checked more regularly.

UPDATE: The desire for whitewash is more evident.

In an effort to manage favorable coverage of its investigation into the complaints, the university disclosed a summary of the committee's report only to the Columbia Spectator, the campus newspaper, and the New York Times. Those newspapers, sources indicated to The New York Sun last night, made an agreement with the central administration that they would not speak to the students who made the complaints against the professors.

The Sun obtained a copy of the report without the permission of the university administration. Last night, when a reporter from the Sun came to Low Library, the central administration building, for a copy of the report, a security guard threatened to arrest the reporter if she did not leave the building.

According to one student, senior Ariel Beery, one of the campus's most outspoken critics of the professors, a Columbia spokeswoman told him that students were not being shown the report yesterday "for your own good."

Beery was interviewed and says the report didn't cover many of the incidents that student brought forward during the investigation.

Nat Hentoff is right: Columbia is still unbecoming. And unforthcoming.

Source: LGF and Random Penseur.

Love thy neighbor 

I think this Quaker student missed religion class:
Even a pie in the face couldn't silence conservative pundit William Kristol.

Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle, was splattered by a student during a speech about U.S. foreign policy at Earlham College Tuesday.

Members of the audience jeered the student, then applauded as Kristol wiped the pie from his face and said, ''Just let me finish this point,'' the Palladium-Item reported.

The student, who was not immediately identified, was suspended and could face expulsion following a disciplinary review, Earlham Provost Len Clark said Wednesday. Clark also issued a written apology complimenting Kristol for his ''graciousness.''

Earlham is a private Quaker college of 1,200 students in Richmond, about 70 miles east of Indianapolis.

Source: AP.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

If I slow down the rest of this week's because I'm working on three conference papers and taxes between now and April 15th. One of the papers is this weekend at Claremont, and in the process of getting ready I found a new Russ Roberts essay. It relates in a strange way to my paper, but it relates.

Get outta bed, Damarcus! 

Here are a couple stories trying to explain (or not) income disparities. First, John Ray notes a USA Today article in which black women of equivalent education are reported to outearn white and Asian women. Why?
...the tendency of minority women, especially blacks, to more often hold more than one job or work more than 40 hours a week, and the tendency of black professional women who take time off to have a child to return to the work force sooner than others.

But black men still lag behind white and Asian men even when each has the same education, which USA Today chalks up to discrimination. John points out that if you think black women make more because they work harder, then why would you not think black men make less because they don't work as hard? John also points out the poorer work histories of black men due to higher incarceration rates, but that last point doesn't hold up for the US -- black women are seven times as likely to be incarcerated as white women.

What could be the issue here? Joanne Jacobs points to a study by a University of Florida economist (NBER abstract here; here's a free copy of what appears to be an earlier draft) who studied scores and passing rates for Florida schoolchildren and found that those with more unusual names tended to be passed more easily because less is expected from them:
I suggest that teachers may use a child's name as a signal of unobserved parental contributions to that child's education, and expect less from children with names that "sound" like they were given by uneducated parents. These names, empirically, are given most frequently by Blacks, but they are also given by White and Hispanic parents as well. I utilize a detailed dataset from a large Florida school district to directly test the hypothesis that teachers and school administrators expect less on average of children with names associated with low socio-economic status, and these diminished expectations in turn lead to reduced student cognitive performance. Comparing pairs of siblings, I find that teachers tend to treat children differently depending on their names, and that these same patterns apparently translate into large differences in test scores.

That which could explain the black-white achievement gap in schools could also explain the difference in earnings behavior. Because we expect single mothers to get off welfare and jobs after the reforms in the 1990s, they may already be responding with better work performance and greater level of effort. Without holding black men to the same expectations, we can well anticipate the results of studies like that cited by USA Today.

People Respond To Incentives.

That one left a mark 

Reader Roger Lewis sends this Jim Rome-style letter published in the Arizona Wildcat:
Dear Lute Olson and the UA basketball team,

There is no shame collapsing down the stretch to an inferior team during the playoffs in one of the absolute worst chokes in sports history.


The 2004 New York Yankees

'an arranged marriage gone sour' 

David Warsh, long-time economics reporter at the Boston Globe, ventures into a discussion of Larry Summers' leadership at Harvard. Larry's problem, in short, is that he's an MIT guy, and that the presidency at Harvard cost him his wife and family (who live in DC). Never a shrinking violet, Warsh suggests that what little modulation there was of Summers' persona has disappeared. Caroline Hoxby, a professor of economics at Harvard whom, I would think, voted no confidence in Summers, let him have it at a meeting before the vote took place.
Hoxby ventured that it sometimes seemed as though the president possessed a view of the faculty, at least some of them, "that is a caricature: self-absorbed people who care a great deal about their privileges and not much about their students and the quest for knowledge."

As a result, Summers seemed to have adopted "a management strategy in which decisions are discussed with only a small inner circle, there are forums for airing views but few mechanisms for incorporating them, and resistance is assumed to stem from obstinacy, not thought and experience.

"I do not know where you got this caricatured view of the faculty, but it is not true to my experience." In her view, she said, the faculty "is passionate about research and passionate about students and struggles every day with the tension between the two."

I'm an admirer of Hoxby's work and have used some of it on this blog, but I wonder if the caricature she finds strikes too close to home for her ... or for Summers?

(Hat tip: Grant McCracken.)

A MOBster turns to podcasting: Runaway boards of trustees 

Douglas Bass of Belief Seeking Understanding is Podcasting. Today's is on academic freedom, and he adds a reading to his podcast.

His focus is on The King's College, who has lost accreditation due to one Regent, John Brademas. Stanley Kurtz picked up the story in the Corner yesterday, as well as the Naomi Riley op-ed in the NYPost that Douglas linked. The college has its own site on the issue, deciding to go at Brademas rather than pretend the accreditation issue -- which if left alone will lead to this school being shut down. These articles suggest that Brademas has bias against the religious nature of King's, and did not evaluate its educational mission and outcomes.

There is, atop the issue of Brademas' own behavior, the fact that the board of trustees voted with him and against the recommendations of its own staff. This board has had problems in the past.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

And, in an astonishing development... faculty are mostly liberal. (Gasp!)

Howard Kurtz reports on a study (you can get it here with free registration) by three political scientists of responses to six ideological questions, political and religious identification by 1643 academics at 183 universities across the Carnegie classification spectrum (from top-20 doctoral programs through comprehensive schools like us to small liberal arts colleges). From the abstract to the study:

A randomly based national survey of 1643 faculty members from 183 four-year colleges and universities finds that liberals and Democrats outnumber conservatives and Republicans by large margins, and the differences are not limited to elite universities or to the social sciences and humanities. A multivariate analysis finds that, even after taking into account the effects of professional accomplishment, along with many other individual characteristics, conservatives and Republicans teach at lower quality schools than do liberals and Democrats. This suggests that complaints of ideologically-based discrimination in academic advancement deserve serious consideration and further study. The analysis finds similar effects based on gender and religiosity, i.e., women and practicing Christians teach at lower quality schools than their professional accomplishments would predict.
Commentary offered by Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy and by David French at FIRE's Torch focus mostly on the former finding; Zywicki points out that this confirms the findings of two earlier studies by Dan Klein.

Since Zywicki and French (and nobody else I found, though this is a bullet item on Memeorandum and I didn't check them all) didn't concentrate on the information that "ideologically-based discrimination in academic advancement deserve serious consideration and further study." It's the first time, according to the authors, that someone has tried to see if professional advancement is held up through political views. Since that's a serious charge -- more serious to me than just finding out that most my colleagues vote Democrat -- we should examine what they did. All of the following come from the article.

...we examined the correlation between quality of academic affiliation (the dependent variable) and three measures of ideological orientation � left-right self-identification, political party identification, and the ideology index.

...An academic achievement index was constructed from items measuring the number of refereed journal articles, chapters in academic books, books authored or co-authored, service on editorial boards of academic journals, attendance at international meetings of one�s discipline, and proportion of time spent on research.

...There are various emblems of individual success among academics, ranging from monetary compensation to awards to chaired professorships. Perhaps the most
significant single indicator of the academic status hierarchy is the quality of the college or university with which an individual is affiliated. We can construct an institutional quality index by combining the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching classification with the well-known US News & World Report rankings of universities and colleges.

...Both the ideology index and party affiliation, when entered into multiple regression analyses, independently predict the quality of a subject's institutional affiliation. As we would expect, academic achievement matters the most in determining the quality of schools in which faculty teach. But ideology is the second most powerful predictor in Model I (beta=.09, p<.001), accounting for more than one-fifth as much variation in quality of institutional affiliation as does achievement (beta=.39, p<.001). That is, more liberal responses to the attitude questions predict a significantly higher quality of institutional affiliation, after controlling for scholarly achievement.

Second, religiosity is negatively related to quality of institutional affiliation among practicing Christians (beta=-.06, p<.05), but not among Jews. The other variable that is a statistically significant contributor to the equation is gender: Being female is a negative predictor of institutional quality (beta=-.07, p<.01). None of the other potential sources of discrimination for which we have measures is significantly related to the dependent variable. Overall, this regression model explains just under 20% of the variation in the quality of schools in which faculty teach. This analysis confirms the expected impact of achievement on professional status, but it also suggests that ideology plays an independent role. In effect, the ideological orientations of professors are about one-fifth as important as their professional achievements in determining the quality of the school that hires and retains or promotes them. In addition to conservatives, our analysis finds that women and religiously observant Christians are disadvantaged in their placement in the institutional hierarchy, after taking their professional achievements into account.

I could chip away on some items in the study: What constitutes a good institution varies some by field of study. Harvey Mudd College, for example, is a top 20 program in the sciences and engineering, but teaching social sciences there is simply service work and not a particularly desirable post. (I probably am in trouble for that line, since I'm visiting Claremont this weekend.) I'm sure liberal readers will wish to make hay with the result that females are underrepresented in academia as well, but I'm not sure if it's a demand or a supply problem. And that might be true for Republicans as well: Bright Republicans with terminal degrees may be disproportionately drawn to the private sector and away from academia.

I don't consider the results proof positive of much of anything. But as Zywicki notes,

Second, no one has provided any evidence that contradicts the central findings of these studies, whether Klein's or the apparent conclusions of the new study. I'm sure that advocates of the status quo will find something to pick at in the new study as well--but if the findings of these studies are fundamentally flawed, at some point wouldn't someone find something to the contrary? If the evidence was otherwise mixed, then nitpicking at particular studies is one thing, but when the evidence begins to accumulate, at some point it seems like nitpicking is somewhat unresponsive to the underlying issue.

If there is evidence out there that shows a libertarian/conservative takeover of academia, I haven't seen it.

Me neither. Lucky for us, Kurtz notes that the AAUP's representative says "a number of studies show the core values that students bring into the university are not very much altered by being in college." Thank God.

Keeping the faith 

Big Trunk and Bogus Doug both note the STrib's editorial and supporting article arguing for a hike in the minimum wage. It's a silly idea for many reasons. Here's why:

How many people in Minnesota make the minimum wage? 32,000. Here's your data source. When the STrib editorial says it would benefit 230,000 workers it must include in the increase many workers making above the minimum wage. We know that about 57% of workers in MN are paid hourly wages (broadly, 1.5 million out of 2.8 million workers). The last distribution of MN wages number I saw is for 2002, and the lowest decile percentage comes in at $7.22. Therefore the number should be more like 130-140k, not 230, unless the STrib wishes to argue that an increase in the minimum wage will push up wages 100k workers earning more than $7/hr.

A study from a few years ago from the Heritage Foundation notes:

Nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers move above the minimum wage within one year, and the median raise for those workers is over 10 percent. For full-time minimum wage workers, the median first-year raise is almost 14 percent. Entry-level jobs are not lifelong dead-end jobs. These jobs allow Americans to establish a track record of work that creates opportunities for better paying jobs.

...Just 1.9 percent, or 404,000, of the 20.8 million poor Americans over the age of 15 would be affected by an increase in the minimum wage ...Studies show that raising the minimum wage does not significantly reduce poverty. In fact, for some subgroups, minimum wage increases appeared to raise the level of poverty.

More than half of those who earn minimum wages are teens. Trunk does a good service bringing up Ben Zycher's rebuttal of the Card and Krueger study, but the point Tyler Cowen makes is also apt:

On this issue (and many others) I've been much influenced by my colleague Gordon Tullock. Gordon notes that the government can make an employer raise nominal money wages, but can't stop him from turning off the air conditioner. [A more optimistic scenario is that the employer invests in creating a higher-productivity job.] Surely just about every job out there can be made worse, one way or another, in a way that saves the employer money.

So the scenario is now simple. The government boosts the minimum wage. Low-wage workers earn more. Few lose their jobs. Workers sweat more too, one way or another. Few are much better off.

Cowen links to Steve Landsburg in Slate, in which Landsburg has an answer for the STrib:

Ordinarily, when we decide to transfer income to some group or another�whether it be the working poor, the unemployed, the victims of a flood, or the stockholders of American Airlines�we pay for the transfer out of general tax revenue. That has two advantages: It spreads the burden across all taxpayers, and it makes politicians accountable for their actions. It's easy to look up exactly how much the government gave American, and it's easy to look up exactly which senators voted for it.

By contrast, the minimum wage places the entire burden on one small group: the employers of low-wage workers and, to some extent, their customers. Suppose you're a small entrepreneur with, say, 10 full-time minimum-wage workers. Then a 50 cent increase in the minimum wage is going to cost you about $10,000 a year. That's no different from a $10,000 tax increase. But the politicians who imposed the burden get to claim they never raised anybody's taxes.

If you want to transfer income to the working poor, there are fairer and more honest ways to do it. The Earned Income Tax Credit, for example, accomplishes pretty much the same goals as the minimum wage but without concentrating the burden on a tiny minority. For that matter, the EITC also does a better job of helping the people you'd really want to help, as opposed to, say, middle-class teenagers working summer jobs. It's pretty hard to argue that a minimum-wage increase beats an EITC increase by any criterion.

So here's the challenge for the STrib staff. How about rather than advocate an increase in the minimum wage, you advocate a negative income tax (of which the EITC is an example) on a statewide basis to transfer income? Why should McDonalds and WalMart have to pay for our desire to give others more "economic dignity"?

You of course know the answer: To do so would mean that the costs of our "noble" desire to take money from someone to increase someone else's dignity would be exposed as a tax expenditure, and taxes on other would have to be raised, in broad daylight. It's one thing to slam Governor Pawlenty's continued commitment to no tax increases; it's quite another for the STrib and its DFL buddies to ask for a tax increase to help the poor. They know there are no votes there.

Is this a good diversity job? 

Loyal reader Pat Mattson sends me a job description for a post at the University of Washington Business School for a "Professor of Entrepreneurship with a Multicultural Emphasis".
Preferred applicants will have a combination of academic study, teaching and work related to small business and entrepreneurship that totals at least three years. The successful candidate must also have a demonstrated interest in teaching related to minority- and women-owned businesses. It is also expected that the candidate's research in marketing or management will include topics related to women and racial/ethnic minorities.

The individual selected for the position will be expected to teach one or more courses that currently comprise the academic content of the Business and Economic Development Program. This Program, now in its 10th year, provides technical assistance to businesses located in diverse communities in Seattle and other parts of Washington that are owned by individuals from a variety of racial/ethnic and national origins as well as women. The courses focus on student consulting experiences in which client projects are completed for mostly small businesses. Projects usually focus on developing marketing and business plans. Current courses enroll primarily undergraduate students and include "Multicultural Marketing and Business Development" and "Managing Change in a Multicultural Business Environment."
It would be easy, I think, to blow this off as another of those ridiculous "diversity" positions, but there's a way this can be helpful. Teaching entrepreneurship teaches one to evaluate risk and be creative. It involves accepting responsibility as an individual. I have no idea what the ideology of the people behind this position is, but it has the potential to be a great chance to show, how shall I put this, "compassionate capitalism."

Carrying me 

Among other things I do, I also sing for our church, and with a recent retirement of a couple from our church to a new mission we are left many weeks with only me singing and Mrs. S on the piano. (She is a fantastic pianist, btw.) Holy Week includes three services and that, the play and some other engagements have frankly taken a toll on my voice.

But they were no excuse for Sunday. Our pastor gave a sermon on how often we don't recognize God's grace in our lives, and the relationship of fathers to sons, using Mary Magdalene's question of Jesus before she recognizes him -- "c'mon buddy, where is his body? Hand it over and I will take care of it" -- and ended the sermon with a video clip of Team Hoyt, a father and son the latter of whom has profound cerebral palsy but whose father runs a triathlon using a dinghy and special bicycle and wheelchair to take his son with him. The music in the background was "My Redeemer Lives" (I think it's Nicole Mullen singing.)

I sang a few months ago for my father-in-law's funeral, and that was easier than singing after watching the video, which was right afterward. I'm sure the congregation wondered what the heck was wrong with me.

At that moment, nothing at all was wrong.

If you've never seen this video or know the Hoyts' story, you can watch a video clip about them here.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Blogspot loses some more traffic 

Doug has moved Bogus Gold to a new site. Update your links accordingly.

Righteous anger channeled how? 

Please read Saint Paul's and Captain Ed's considerable commentary on the reaction of our listeners to the NARN discussion of the Schiavo case last Saturday. They say much that doesn't bear my repeating. One comment will suffice.

What I heard in the phone calls was anger. Anger at the judiciary, anger at Governor Bush, anger at ... well, anger at anyone who was involved in the decision to starve Terri Schiavo or not intervene to reconnect her feeding tube. Mitch spent much time trying to move the anger onto something one could do within the law, which is political action.

I have no problem with righteous anger, which I can only define by reference to the Biblical example of Jesus throwing the moneychangers out of the temple (Matt 21) or when John the Baptist calls the religious leaders confronting him snakes and vipers (Matt 3). And anger as a state of mind is fine. The question is what does one do with that anger -- when does it become action, and can one act righteously on one's anger.

Thinking somehow that your actions can be righteous instead of God's actions lies at the base of all hubris.

If you are a reader and a Christian and you think Terri's death is wrong, I believe nonetheless your only action can be to pray for God to forgive Michael Schiavo. I confess to the urge to take a 2X4 to his comb-back, but I know that is wrong. So too is urging others to form a mob and seize Terri. Wouldn't it be more effective for the TV cameras to film hundreds to kneel in front of the hospice with a single sign that said, "Father, forgive Michael, for he knows not what he does"?

More than anyone else, he's the one in need of your prayers now.

UPDATE: Words in penultimate in italics were inserted to make that sentence clearer.

Oranges, tulips, and dominos 

We were going to talk some on NARN last Saturday about the 'Tulip Revolution' in the Kyrgyz Republic, but phone calls rolling in on the Schiavo case kept us from that topic. Captain Ed has been blogging a good bit about the divided opposition who now has to create a government in place of the Akaev regime. I'd like to step back and look at this a little more broadly, as someone who's worked in the FSU -- though never Kyrgyzia. I've got two broad points to make.

One of my projects in my professional life has been to look at how political economists measure things like economic and political freedom, or the independence of central banks, or 'trust' (yes, there is one), or more generally, human development. Within that discussion has been a desire to know whether some types of freedoms are antecedents to others, whether some freedom begets more, and whether or not freedom is good for growth. Your natural instinct, which was mine too, is that of course freedom is good for growth, but it turns out not always.

It turns out not to be so. Beginning with Robert Barro's Robbins lecture, we have understood that after some point, increasing political freedom could set off distributional battles between factions. Those battles might inhibit growth. That result isn't conclusive in the economics literature by any stretch, but it makes some sense.

We see this in many places: The creation of a power vacuum by decapitation of an autocratic regime has led to troubles in places as diverse as Indonesia post-Suharto or Phillipines post-Marcos, or the 'revolutions' of Ukraine and Georgia. We are rather spoiled by past experience in the decapitation of historically planned economies to think they will be unmessy. Romania is one case where it wasn't. I don't see any reason why Romania should have been an exception. That is, there's no reason why the messiness of transfer in the KR should be considered exceptional other than the good fortune we've had in peaceful Ukraine and Georgia.

The second, and broader point is where does this end with the FSU, after corrupt regimes fall in Georgia, Ukraine and the KR? Alex Rodriguez of The Chicago Tribune reviews the remaining candidates. The difference with the KR is that it was in fact the most democratic of the Central Asian regimes, and we now have evidence that a little movement towards democratization can get one quickly to a tipping point where full-blown political freedom comes to fruition. This is likely to cause some places to clamp down. Turkmenistan is run by Niyazov, a.k.a. Turkmenbashi "(leader of the Turkmen") who allows no dissent and has created cult status; same is true with Uzbekistan except for the cult part. I don't know whether we'll see democracy movements spring up there: I rather doubt it, but then again nobody expected Lebanon to pop. Uzbekistan's poor economic performance might make it more likely the place to see something happen.

Kazakstan's economic freedom is better than the others only by the comparison. It's still a pretty bad place and economic freedom is very restricted. Kazakstan does have an active opposition movement, and it seems a likely place for contagion. Of the others outside Central Asia, I would also tab Moldova as a possible place for more democratic trends, though it already has a parliament whose election appears to have been free and fair. Sitting with EU candidates on one side and Ukraine on the other, it has strong Russian roots (as does Belarus) but without a real geopolitical significance as a buffer state like Ukraine and Belarus. Thus, if Putin is relaxing its grip, that would seem the most likely place we'd observe it.

UPDATE: Onnik notes this Agence France Presse article that thinks it could be Azerbaijan, where parliamentary elections occur in 2008. He assesses the situation:
By most if not all accounts, Azerbaijan is more autocratic than Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan were. In fact, I think it was Freedom House that recently declared that it was effectively under a dictatorship. Even so, the last Presidential Elections were particularly bloody with clashes on the streets of Baku between opposition protestors and riot police.

The situation there, however, is not exactly the same as in those republics that managed to successfully stand up against a falsified vote and not least because there is no imminent issue of succession to the Presidency.
I doubt it for approximately the same reasons. When Aliev died he had handpicked his son to succeed him in a country that is not a monarchy. So there were protests. Such will not be the case in November.

Onnik is also unhappy that the government in Armenia is not held up to the same criticism. That may be because the US has much less influence in Armenia than in these other countries; taking on Russia in Armenia would be harder because both the Armenians and the Russians see the area as vital to each's security interests.

UPDATE 2: Fistful of Euros explains how I'm probably wrong on Moldova, at least in the short run.

Orange revolution strikes for academic freedom 

According to a note in todays The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers only), Viktor Yushchenko is calling for the resignation of university officials in Ukraine that tried to suppress students from participating in the Orange Revolution:
The president of Ukraine has told the nation's university rectors that he expects letters of resignation from those who abused their offices in the elections that brought him to power.

"This is my moral demand," Viktor A. Yushchenko said on Thursday in a speech at the Ministry of Education and Science in Kiev, the capital. "Everyone who allowed violations of the dignity of students must reflect thoroughly. Those who compromised themselves must leave the walls of the universities."

The government reportedly has investigated more than half of 186 complaints of abuses in the campaign last year between Mr. Yushchenko, who won in a runoff election, and Viktor F. Yanukovich, who initially was declared the victor in a vote widely regarded as rigged.

Some rectors allegedly forced their staff members and students to support one or the other candidate, but almost without exception the beneficiary of their alleged actions was Mr. Yanukovich. He was backed by the president at the time, Leonid Kuchma, to whose administration many rectors owe their jobs.
There were reports that students who actively supported Yushchenko were being tossed out of university housing (in the winter months) and actively discouraged from Yushchenko rallies. There will be some question whether the new government is meddling in academic freedom. I would think, though, that since university rectors are presidential appointments, they probably don't enjoy the same freedoms as the faculty.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Listen in 

NARN will have a fresh show today: Week in Review will definitely talk about Terri Schiavo and a new memo controversy, as well as the Red Lake tragedy. In the second hour we'll talk with state Rep. Rob Eastlund of St. Paul on his initiative to improve family law in Minnesota.

If you've been listening via the internet, time to update your link as we get away from that Abacast software.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Students in, what out? 

Via Joanne Jacobs, this article from a few days before the Red Lake shootings paints a pretty grim picture of education on reservations.
One out of 6 American Indian youths has attempted suicide, according to the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. That group also reports that 25 percent of native Americans live below the poverty line, compared with 12 percent overall in the US. And the teen birth rate is 50 percent higher than for non-Indians.

...a 2003 study by the Manhattan Institute found that a national average of 54 percent of Indian students graduate high school (not including GED recipients). That's roughly on par with Hispanics and African-Americans, but significantly behind whites (72 percent) and Asians (79 percent).

Test scores in reading and math paint another part of the picture. The 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that Indian students' scores are considerably lower than those of their white counterparts. In fourth-grade math, for instance 20 percent of American Indians and Alaskan natives scored at or above proficiency, compared with 44 percent of whites. The gaps in reading are similar for fourth- and eighth-graders, though they tend to outpace African-American students.

The usual suspect -- inadequate funding -- is blamed, but the article also cites the limited usefulness of multilingual education when the language learned only allows students to talk to their grandparents.

This seems to fit the pattern -- low levels of achievement and high levels of frustration lead to increased school violence.

Throw me a bone 

Inside Higher Ed reports that the living wage strike at Georgetown has won the day and that workers there will receive higher wages as a result. The wage increases are a compromise from early demands by the student hunger protestors, who now will get to enjoy an Easter meal. But IHE points out:

In several major ways, the policy was identical to the one the students had rejected eight days earlier.

For instance, the new policy will increase the total compensation package (which includes health care costs) for all workers to $13 an hour by this July and $14 an hour by July 2007 from the current $11.33, and adjust the pay annually based on the local cost of living. In rejecting that proposal last week, a coalition statement said that �$14 an hour is not a living wage now and it will not be a living wage in 2008.� Students had wanted Georgetown to raise the minimum wage of all workers, including those who work for its contractors, to $14.93 an hour by this July.

(Subscribers to the Chronicle of Higher Education can get a more detailed story here.)

Boulder may get it right after all 

I've argued here, strenuously, that pursuing the dismissal of Ward Churchill from CU for his 'little Eichmanns' dig was wrongheaded, and that instead we should pursue Churchill's academic record which has the accusation of fraud. It appears that the University of Colorado agrees.
Phil DiStefano, chancellor of CU's Boulder campus, said Thursday that he has determined allegations of plagiarism and fraud in Churchill's writings were serious enough to be referred to a standing university committee that investigates research misconduct. That committee also will determine if Churchill's disputed claim to be an American Indian is a violation of academic standards.

"We have concluded that the allegations of research misconduct related to plagiarism, misuse of other's work and fabrication have sufficient merit to warrant further inquiry," said DiStefano. "The standing committee also will be asked to inquire into whether Professor Churchill committed research misconduct by misrepresenting himself as an American Indian to gain credibility and authority for his work."

DiStefano said the review by the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct could take up to seven months to complete. If its findings are upheld, they would then be referred to the university's Committee on Privilege and Tenure.

...The chancellor said Churchill's comments about 9/11 were protected by the First Amendment. But he made it clear that the allegations of academic fraud could be enough to end Churchill's career at CU.

"Research misconduct is one of the most serious allegations against a faculty member," said DiStefano.

...[the report] pointed to a series of allegations against the professor:

� John LaVelle, a University of New Mexico professor, has alleged that Churchill has misrepresented an important statute in federal Indian law, the General Allotment Act of 1887. LaVelle claims Churchill intentionally distorted the act, falsely portraying it as a "formal eugenics code" that established blood standards for tribal membership. He says Churchill continued to make this a keystone of his research, even after being challenged on the facts. LaVelle also claims Churchill lifted a passage from a 1992 essay by scholar Rebecca Robbins for an essay he wrote in 1993.

� A Lamar University professor, Thomas Brown, has alleged that Churchill promulgated a false story that the Army deliberately distributed smallpox-infested blankets to Mandan Indians in 1837, causing the deaths of 100,000 people.

� Professor Fay G. Cohen, of Dalhousie University in Canada, has accused Churchill of plagiarizing her work in an essay that appeared in the book The State of Native America. Cohen also has accused Churchill of threatening her in a late-night telephone call.

The full report is here, and a copy of the letter Chancellor DiSteffano sent to concerned citizens is up at American Kestrel. (Begrudging linkage to RMA non-supporters.)

So Joshua writes to ask me what it all means. There are many possible violations here -- the report has more -- and a serious academic even accused of this stuff would be unlikely to have his or her academic career survive. The problem is that Churchill does not care and can drag this out for two more years, hoping either that the pressure will die down and the report can be buried, or that he gets a buyout.

But it will be impossible to dodge an inquiry like this, particularly if the Legislature keeps the pressure on to see it through. In the end there will be a report, and the report will show whether these claims against Churchill are valid. A single incident might go his way, but to find against all of them and completely exonerate Churchill simply seems unlikely, even to those most inclined to believe conspiracy theories. When the report is released, Churchill may still have his job, but what remains of his reputation as an academic will be destroyed.

It will release some pressure -- see Governor Owens statement in the RMN article -- though not all. But Churchill, already a martyr, now gets to become an academic eunuch. Nobody will hire him for an academic post again. He will always have a microphone somewhere, but the DiSteffano report will do for Churchill's speaking fees what a Congressional hearing did for Mark McGwire's.

UPDATE: John Hinderaker seems to have come around to the same view.

Florida legislative committee passes ABoR 

A committee of the Florida House of Representatives passed the Academic Bill of Rights on an 8-2 vote along party lines. The usual panic-stricken groups decided to take a trip down Reductio Road.

Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, warned of lawsuits from students enrolled in Holocaust history courses who believe the Holocaust never happened.

Similar suits could be filed by students who don�t believe astronauts landed on the moon, who believe teaching birth control is a sin or even by Shands medical students who refuse to perform blood transfusions and believe prayer is the only way to heal the body, Gelber added.

�This is a horrible step,� he said. �Universities will have to hire lawyers so our curricula can be decided by judges in courtrooms. Professors might have to pay court costs � even if they win � from their own pockets. This is not an innocent piece of legislation.�

I've made my arguments against this bill already, but this kind of argumentation doesn't help matters at all. The author of the bill has already figured out how to deal with these piddling complaints:

�Professors are accountable for what they say or do,� he said. �They�re accountable to the rest of us in society � All of a sudden the faculty think they can do what they want and shut us out. Why is it so unheard of to say the professor shouldn�t be a dictator and control that room as their totalitarian niche?�

In an interview before the meeting, Baxley said �arrogant, elitist academics are swarming� to oppose the bill, and media reports misrepresented his intentions.

�I expect to be out there on my own pretty far,� he said. �I don�t expect to be part of a team.�

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Request for help on China 

I have a student who is visiting China -- and taking years to do so -- who will do an independent study with me. We want to test the ability of an entrepreneur in China to set up a retail shop in and out of the special economic zones, and both formally and informally. This is a replication, somewhat, of the experiments Hernando de Soto explored first in Peru with The Other Path then continued in the first chapter of The Mystery of Capital; indeed, de Soto is our inspiration for the independent study.

I've been reading a good bit about China, but since I'm at heart a monetary economist most of my reading has focused on the RMB/dollar exchange rate. See this from Nouriel Roubini, Brad Setser, and Stephen Roach, for example. (I don't have time to comment today, sorry, perhaps another time.) But I would like to find something more on the costs of doing business in China, particularly after NARN's interview of Ethan Gutmann last year. I have some information on doing business in China from the World Bank, which is a good example of what we're looking for.


Whereas no candidate earned even 30% of the vote;

Whereas many voted for candidates that didn't even earn 5%, and thus could never gain admission to the Hall of Fame;

Whereas I at least outdistanced Da Kommisar;

And whereas I have been endorsed by the two members of RMA;

THEREFORE, I demand that a runoff beheld between my candidacy for CU president and that of Eric Cartman.

This isn't over.

UPDATE: From Hugh: "I reject the vote counting. Many people voted whose votes were not counted. Many dead people were not allowed to vote. The machines in Ohio were delivered late. I'm still in."

UPDATE 2: Dammit!
By a vote of 6 for Hugh Hewitt, to 2 for King "Call Me Provost" Banaian, the RMA has chosen its favorite candidate to be the next President of the University of Colorado.

I pray in color 

I can't do any better, so here's what James Taranto had to say in today's Best of the Web about this ranking by demographics of colleges and universities by Princeton Review. (Reformatted.)

Diversity University:
Lots of Race/Class Interaction
Diverse Student Population
Students Ignore God on a Regular Basis
Gay Community Accepted

Monochromatic Institute:
Little Race/Class Interaction
Homogeneous Student Population
Students Pray on a Regular Basis
Alternative Lifestyles Not An Alternative

We have no quarrel with the first, second and fourth of these criteria, but the third one is quite astonishing. If you "ignore God on a regular basis," you're "diverse," whereas if you "pray on a regular basis," you're "monochromatic"? What if you pray in a black church, or pray for a more diverse campus?

Schooling up 

A note from Dory Beutel lets me know that there will be a new charter school in St. Cloud this fall. She writes:
My husband and I have been granted a charter by the Minnesota Department of Education, and we are scheduled to open an elementary charter school for grades K - 4 beginning in September of 2005. The school will emphasize the high content standards developed by E. D. Hirsch and others (The Schools We Need and Why We
Don't Have Them
). In other words, children will study classical literature, Greek and Roman Mythology, core science, and other core principles that are often neglected (or at least not taught consistently and coherently) in our nation's public schools (depriving children of a common, core vocabulary to share with one another). In addition, teachers will be held accountable for achieving these high standards as the terms of their employment.

She also reports that she will be using Saxon math, which you know I like. It doesn't appear they will be able to take Littlest Scholar, as she is going to sixth grade next year, but it will be of use to our local readers. Go here to read more about Stride Academy.

I've also been visiting lately with LuAnn Walters, whose show Talk Education airs at the same hour NARN does over on Patriot II (AM 1570). She is now a MOBster, and you should check in on her blog. Her school, Accell Academy, is a 6-12 education designed to catch up your kid to get into the best colleges and having them ready to succeed. Sure wish she was closer to us in St. Cloud!

Meanwhile, Scholar's Notebook continues to discuss math education, and reports on the success of Wayzata High School's math team, which learned through the UMPTYMP program at the University of Minnesota. A colleague of mine has two kids in it and they are doing very well; LS will be testing for the program next month. I'm more nervous about that than any sports she's ever participated in.

You can't explain irrationality 

Chad at Fraters thinks I will have to ditch my loyalty to the Red Sox after discovering a Red Sox cap on the head of The Font of All Fiskwas.

My boy, my boy, let me explain something.

Citizenship in Red Sox Nation requires more than donning the cap. While irrationality and feistiness certainly help -- and Coleman has those two attributes going for him -- it takes much more. David Halberstam, who wrote what I still consider to be the best baseball book ever, offers this piece of anthropology:

It is relatively easy, of course, to identify the members of the Nation. Not just the cap or the T-shirt or even the sweatshirt, though these days a great many arrive at events or games with gloves and at least partially in uniform. But there is also, I think, a certain look that gives away membership in the Nation -- it's a look of someone enthusiastic, but wary, (or wary, but enthusiastic) and there's a certain noticeable hunger to it. It's all right to believe and to care, the look seems to say, but one would do well not to invest too much emotion in the idea of actually winning. You care but you care guardedly. I would describe the principal emotion as one of deep

It's a condition, being a Red Sox fan, not a cult, nor a religious affiliation, although there are on occasion certain religious experiences. (Think Yaz in '67, and Fisk in the World Series in '75, Ortizzle and JD18 in '05 --kb.) Most Americans are relatively indifferent to the past, believing that America is so powerful that history does not matter, that our nation is so strong and energetic, that we can mold the present to our needs, despite the burdens of the past. Not Red Sox fans: They know the past matters, and they know as well that you are, more than you realize, a prisoner of it. In a country where there has been an amazing run of material affluence for almost 60 years with the expectation built into the larger culture that things are supposed to get better every year, citizens of RSN know better. They know that things do not always get better. They know that the guys in the white hats do not always win in the last five minutes of the movie. They know the guys in the black hats have plenty of last-minute tricks, and that they can pick up just the right player off the waiver list in the waning days of a season (think Johnny Mize, 1949).

Coleman is not wary and his enthusiasm seems to be for smaller things like KAR than for the Crusade Against the Unholy Steinbrenner.

My name is King, and I am a member of Red Sox Nation. From Conig and Yaz to Rice and Fisk to ManRam and Tek. From Radatz and Monboquette to El Tiante and Spaceman to Petey and Jesus Christ Schilling Superstar. Because you're only young once, but you can be immature forever.

People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. ~Rogers Hornsby

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Word of the day, or, it's all Greek to me 

Hey! I have just found out what the word "Soros" means (as in Leftist billionaire George Soros). It is ancient Greek for "coffin". Rather fitting when you think of the way socialism killed millions in the 20th century.

From Dissecting Leftism. And by God, he's right.

John also notes this article from Christina Hoff Sommers describing the shrill pack of weaselettes snapping at Larry Summers' ankles, and the complicity of the MSM in choosing who wrote about it.

Dog bites man 

Division of Labour tells of a university president throwing a hissy and plays the race card. He tries to explain himself. Within the debate comes a letter that argues

As the language of that very resolution suggests, "the mere appearance of a [racial] conflict may be as serious and potentially damaging as" a conflict in fact.

The Superintendent is requested to seek placement in the sheepshead deck if all cards are not used yet.

A simple explanation why you fix Social Security now 

Someone pointed out to me this AARP ad against Social Security reform. My answer was, "So I'm driving down a highway at night and see a deer standing in the road 200 yards away. When do I start steering away from the deer?"

Alex Tabarrok is more elegant.
But almost inevitably a fix to social security will involve tax increases and the longer we wait the larger the costs of those increases will be. The technical explanation is that deadweight loss increases more than proportionately with an increase in taxes. The common sense explanation is that you don't want to take all your hits at once - instead, if you must take a hit, it's best to spread it out over time. Thus, the sooner we deal with the problem the lower the total costs will be.

A simple way of explaining some hairy public finance I had to learn long ago.

The fair-share bargain 

Hugo Schwyzer is a union member of the faculty at Pasadena City College, and he's glad others are now being obligated to pay fair share dues.

Since 2001, California law has permitted public employee unions to collect fees from non-members. The principle is simple -- no full-time teacher ought to receive for free the benefits that his or her colleagues have paid to negotiate. Membership in the union itself, of course, is voluntary -- and those who will now have the fair share fee automatically deducted from their paychecks will not be obligated to participate in union activities.

I confess I have mixed feelings about forcing some of my virulently anti-union colleagues into paying for union activities. ... I have to confess that when union membership was voluntary, I took a small amount of pleasure in gently reminding the non-payers in the department that my voluntary dues were subsidizing their benefits! Now, I expect to hear their outrage.

Non-union faculty at SCSU also pay fair share dues of 85%. Now the question is whether 85% of union expenses are directly tied to the costs of collective bargaining, which is what the law is supposed to allow. I have periodically requested an accounting of the expenditures of the union to verify that fair share rates are being spent appropriately. The data I get back are always vague.

Our union, for example, has a lobbyist who is supposed to help us get more money from the Legislature. Yesterday's letter included a lengthy discussion of the "anti-gay marriage amendment" and a discussion of his continued opposition to the bill for alternative teacher licensure, a bill which our administration and the Minnesota Association of Colleges of Teacher Education no longer oppose (they did last year.) Whose interests does he represent? Certainly not mine.

Scholar Dave has written several fine pieces on the curse of fair-share (non)membership. I would hope, for instance, that unlike our fools at SCSU, PCC will allow its fair-share members to still participate in faculty governance. I also hopes it has a structure that doesn't prove particularly harmful for fair-share faculty who wish to become administrators and work as department chairs as the natural first step. At SCSU chairs are still considered faculty and covered under the faculty contract. As such they cannot be grieved by fellow union members. If someone wants to grieve a chair they must instead take their claim against the administration. That sounds good, but then a grievance against a chair proceeds without the chair gaining any information about what is happening. Indeed, under labor laws in Minnesota the chair cannot be told what the grievance against him or her is. It's happened here several times, and faculty willing to be chairs as a result are harder and harder to find. My view is that the best way to handle this is to make chairs administrators and take them out of the faculty contract; there could be reasons why that's a bad idea, but they'd have to be weighed versus the serious lack of due process accorded chairs under present arrangements.

(In case any one is interested, no, this isn't about my own situation. I'm blessed to have a department that could run itself without a chair and with a great deal of camraderie. Of course, we don't have merit pay, which makes us poorer financially but reduces the chances to squander our bonhomie.)

I'm glad Mr. Schwyzer thinks his dues will fall as he is able to have costs shifted back onto what he views as free-riders in his faculty. I do wonder, however, how many other costs will be shifted onto his colleagues? Before they were free riders, now indentured servants to the union's agenda?

Measuring up monetary policy 

I got this graph from Chart of the Day, showing what has happened to the fed funds rate during economic recoveries and expansions:

I've said in my forecasts heretofore that I thought the fed funds rate would top out this year at 3.5%. I'm beginning to think, looking both at this and yesterday's change in the language of the FOMC statement taking the rate to 2.75%, that I need to up that number towards 4%. The markets are already heading there.

My watch list for the economy right now has expanded then to two parts: Business confidence, which needs to stay strong for this investment-led expansion to carry through; and now mortgage rates. If 30-year rates get much north of 6%, the housing market fears many have will resurface.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

None dare call it "break" 

I was commiserating today with a colleague with whom I had written a report during our semester 'break' period. I put 'break' in quotes because on my writing calendar that week is usually jammed, particularly spring break when it precedes a load of conferences. This week, while I am teaching, has actually been a more relaxed week because I don't have a conference for another ten days (which is a lifetime right now.)

According to Professor Blogger, I'm a missionary.
The missionaries are people who discovered somewhere along the way that they are completely incapable of living without learning more about their topic (what Quid Nomen Illius? calls "the seagulls of medievalism"). The missionaries have learned things that are important about the way that we live, and help us understand the world around us, so we research to satisfy our own curiousity, teach to share these delights with others, and serve to facilitate the research and teaching.
Like Prof. B, I've been a little light in the blogging department, and I expect to continue that way through mid-April as I work out three more papers and we complete three faculty searches. Your indulgences are greatly appreciated.

You want THIS guy to be your president? 

Seriously, just look at this mug shot.

Luckily, he comes with an endowment because the mother's milk of university contributions from alumni will be scared off.

In a related development, the Powerpuff Girls were given a certain address in SouthPark.


We still await the endorsement of the Rocky Mountain Alliance. Given that they've not yet been bought off by Hewitt and he's back in LA, I figure my chances are pretty good here. (I've got my eye on that Cannon guy, however.)

More on integrated math 

Matt Abe is still banging away on it, and reports on schools using Saxon math. Littlest Scholar has been instructed with Saxon and loves it; consider me a fan.

Depressingly too often 

Another multiple-death murder-suicide in a Minnesota high school happened earlier this afternoon, in Red Lake, on a reservation about 200 miles north of St. Cloud. Here's the high school's website. Details are still coming in; I'll follow it on the news all evening. Of course, in central Minnesota we had a similar story less than two years ago.

UPDATE 1: A few extra details in the AP report; the suspect also is believed to have killed his grandparents first, the father a police official on the reservation. It's a fairly impoverished place as are most reservations around Minnesota, with a poverty rate over 40%. One site suggests an umemployment rate of 39% though I think that might be high; the high school graduation rate is about 60%.

UPDATE 2: Hugh Hewitt:
This has been a year of extraordinary suffering, from the human costs of the war, the tsunami, and a hundred other stories. Terri Schiavo's suffering, and the suffering of the victims in Minnesota, begin Holy Week with somber reminders on suffering's universality, and the need for salvation --the reality of Good Friday and the triumph of Easter.
UPDATE 3: Death toll up to ten now. The STrib has a background piece on Red Lake Reservation as well.

UPDATE 4: Just watched local TV news coverage. Some other depressingly familiar parallels to other school shootings: One kid said other students told him they heard the shooter say last year he would do this. Same kid said the shooter was 'goth', which challenges my perceptions of Native American students. Because Red Lake is a closed reservation, it appears to be very difficult for both reporters and state police to gain access to the area.

William Polley notes that I had a link out to Red Lake County. My bad, the link is now fixed with better demographic information. This testimony from 2003 says the unemployment rate there is 60%. Median age on the reservation is about 20.1 years old. There's little doubt from talking with people who know anything about the place that it's considered one of the most impoverished areas not only of Minnesota but of the nation.

UPDATE 5: From the tribal leadership:

I am sorry to announce that the events that took place today involving the shootings at the Red Lake High School make this one of the darkest and most painful occurrences in the history of our tribe.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims.

I can assure the Red Lake tribal members that the situation is under control and secure. Several organizations and agencies have offered assistance in our time of need and the Red Lake Nation has graciously accepted.

The FBI, ATF, BCA, along with the Beltrami County Sheriff�s Department, the Minnesota State Highway Patrol and the Red Cross will be providing assistance to our public safety department through out the next several days. These agencies are all here with our permission.

An information line has been set up to handle your calls and to answer any questions you may have. The number is 679-4284.This is a 24 hour emergency line.

Bumped to the top.

UPDATE 6: Mitch asks whether this will get the coverage Columbine did, since the kids there were "folks like us" and Red Lake is not. Well, there's also the issue of its remoteness and the closed nature of the reservation to consider. I keep coming across Clyde Bellecourt's comment:

Everyone in the Indian community is feeling really bad right now, whether they�re a member of the Red Lake or not, we�re all an extended family, we�re all related. Usually this happens in places like Columbine, white schools, always somewhere else. We never hear that in our community.

..."No one would ever think that that type of violence would visit itself in our communities, it's not part of our culture and our traditions, so we're kind of puzzled by it all," Vernon Bellecourt said.

"But our young people are not exempt from the same problems young people have across the country," he added, "so our communities are now being victimized by this same kind of violence."

As Mitch says, both sides of the cultural divide are going to be working this one.

Norwegianity has a roundup of coverage as well focusing on the student's interest in the neo-Nazi movement.

Blogs as a substitute for peer review 

Rick at Stones Cry Out has taken his hand to writing a critique of a study on the exit polls that showed a victory for John Kerry, which a group of researchers argue could be evidence that something odd happened in President Bush's victory. Mystery Pollster says it's a good skeptical essay, which I think says a great deal. You're encouraged to read it.

I think a more interesting point in this case is whether blogs can be used to review papers in progress of non-peer reviewed pieces (which was one point Rick made in his posts yesterday.) I think the answer is obviously yes, but does it break new ground? I could always publish a piece that critiqued another piece. If it was in a peer-reviewed journal my best recourse was always to go to the same journal -- indeed, most journals won't take a comment or critique of another journal's article that doesn't break new ground. For non-peer-reviewed articles, the comment has more outlets.

The blog can comment on either piece. The question is whether a blog comment is a good place for an academic to comment on a peer-reviewed article. I think the answer is mixed. A comment that passes through the same screen that the original article did and is published carries a great deal of weight. As a writer, you want that. But at the same time, journal editors also are humans with egos, and pointing out that they published a flawed piece isn't always well received.

Of course the blog's readership matters a great deal. I think that's one reason why it's a good advantage for those of us who do research at more teaching-oriented institutions. Blogs don't suffer from the same snobbery as the editor who, according to economic lore, scoffed at the idea of blind reviewing of articles. "Of course I want to know who wrote it," the story goes. "How else do I know if it's any good?"

Monday, March 21, 2005

Catching on to Viktor 

I didn't see this until John Ray had put it up over the weekend, but Jay Nordlinger's review of Davos included this snippet on lunch with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko:

Amazingly candid, the new president of Ukraine. He says, "My country is a deeply corrupt country." He appeals to investors, and anyone else doing business in Ukraine: "Do not offer bribes to anyone." In fact, you can enter a new line, when you do your accounting: "Saved expenses on ungiven bribes to Ukrainian officials."

Although corruption in Ukraine is a "huge problem," other countries have "cured" it, and Yushchenko expects his to do the same. "And as an economist, I'm especially aware that over 50 percent of our economy is in the shadows. These people pay not a penny in taxes, and it hurts us all."

He discourses on the state of free speech in Ukraine � not good. Journalists have
been murdered "for telling the truth." The "information domain is controlled by two or three families. Our goal is an information market that is public and transparent." (There's that Davosian word again, "transparency.")

After his formal remarks, and before we begin our lunch, Yushchenko offers a toast: "I wish you prosperity in all your endeavors. I wish you physical and moral health.
[A striking phrase, that.] And may you have a white angel sitting on your left shoulder, taking care of you."There is some dispute after whether Yushchenko has said "wise angel" or "white angel," but it was one or the other.

Then he claims that the toast � the act of toasting � originated in Kiev, anciently. You see, the most popular method of eliminating one's opponents was poison. (This, of course, is all too meaningful, coming from Yushchenko.) So you clinked your glasses extra hard, so that some of his drink would spill into yours, and some of yours would spill into his.

I've said before, and ought to say again: To be in the amazingly noble and dignified presence of Victor Yushchenko is probably the highlight of the Annual Meeting.

And to think I had a year where I saw this guy weekly. I'm amazed, still. And I never met someone who gave a better toast (and not for lack of trying!)

I bet there aren't any econ majors in the bunch 

A group of Georgetown students are holding a hunger strike for a living wage for its maintenance workers.
"These are people we see everyday, who make it possible for us to go to class," said Foglizzo, 21, who is majoring in culture and politics. "We can affect their lives directly now."

She and 24 other Georgetown students participating in the hunger strike want to boost hourly salaries and job and wage security for the university's 450 contract employees, mostly custodial, food service and security workers.

The workers receive on average $11.33 an hour, which includes wages and health benefits, a Georgetown spokeswoman said.

Georgetown officials said they are committed to fairly compensating the university's workers. An advisory committee is weighing a proposal by Georgetown Senior Vice President Spiros Dimolitsas to phase in wage increases to a minimum of $14 an hour by summer 2007.

After that, wages would increase annually, taking into account inflation. In all, it would cost the university nearly $550,000 over the next two years.

If $14.93 was set as the minimum hourly wage right away for all its workers, including its 4,500 direct employees, it would add $1.8 million annually to the university budget, said Julie Green Bataille, a university spokeswoman.

Student activists said money should not be an issue. The university, they noted, raised $15 million for a new boathouse on the Potomac and is seeking $120 million for a business school.
Of course, a boathouse and a business school can carry names of the donors. The university has responded several times to my requests for a lab for my students to learn statistical skills to get a donor for it. I've tried to sell donors on the idea of a splash screen that thanks the donor for three seconds every time someone logs in. No such luck. I don't think selling ad space on the side of a rolling garbage can is going to do much better.

UPDATE: Some students are smarter than others.

Maastricht for thee but not for me 

The finance ministers of the European Union have agreed to let France and Germany off the hook for missing its limits for budget deficits under the rules that created the euro. The rules, created back in 1990 under the Maastricht Treaty and then better codified in the Stability and Growth Pact in 1997 (SGP) which led to many divisions in Europe ever since, called for Germany and France to face sanctions for violating the 3% limit on budget deficits. Back in January, Gerhard Schroeder told the EU to butt out of its affairs:
The stability pact will work better if intervention by European institutions in the budgetary sovereignty of national parliaments is only permitted under very limited conditions.
This has been going on for awhile. The pact virtually ended last year when this communique from the EU to Germany and France was greeted with virtual hostility from Schroeder and Jacque Chirac. The EU Council, which is a political organization, would not accept the report in November 2003 from the European Commission on the violations of the SGP by Germany and France. It led to a lawsuit which the EC won in part, and subsequently a paper was written that would have allowed for some more flexibility in how the EC enforces the SGP.

The European Central Bank is now caught in a bind. While they can express concern over the busting of the deficit limits, they have little ability to do more than hope the EU leaders tomorrow night tell their finance ministers to go back and try again. That's unlikely. The finance ministers signaled by their vote a lack of political will to enforce the SGP which holds European monetary union together. The ECB is now caught with either a declining euro and rising inflation in Euroland or will react with higher interest rates to hold inflation and the euro in check. The latter would also have the effect of offsetting any expansionary effects of the tax cuts or spending hikes Germany and France wish to use to boost their lagging economies. The latter course would be suicide for the ECB: it cannot win a conflict with the EU Council. As Captain Ed notes, the bond markets are already betting on inflation and a declining euro.

The impact is also on countries in eastern and central Europe seeking accession to the EU. Oxford Analytica noted last month that it's unlikely that loosening the SGP for the big fish of Europe will help those other fish hoping to jump into the Euro pond. This is likely to be the biggest problem facing countries seeking accession, and France and Germany have bascially told the joiners that they don't have to play by the same rules. The other impact now will be the effect of any decline in the exchange rate on the costs of joining Euroland.

UPDATE: Reader Brian Ferguson notes this post from my friend John Palmer, in which Ferguson is quoted as saying:
I think this is what's known in macroeconomic theory as a time-inconsistency, precommitment problem. Which in general parlance means that a committment from a politician is not worth the paper it's written on.

Yup. And I agree with John that this could signal the bottom on dollar devaluation.

Trading Wolfies 

Another thing I didn't get to last week -- and man, am I glad that's over! -- was commenting on Paul Wolfowitz' nomination to head the World Bank. My first reaction was 'whoa!' You might think one needs to be an economist or a banker to run the place, but that would be mistaken. The first president of the World Bank, after all, was Eugene Meyer, who was head of the Federal Reserve Board when it made a series of bad moves in 1931 which exacerbated the Great Depression. He lasted only six months before returning to operate the Washington Post. (He was Katherine Graham's father.) The Bank has had Robert McNamara run it 1968-81 and Barber Conable 1986-91. So it's not like Bush went too far afield in nominating Wolfowitz.

The left in Europe is aghast, of course. They've signed a petition upset that the US gets to pick the World Bank president -- a deal that has been around for decades informally, in return for the US acceding to Europe on selection of the head of the IMF -- and that the World Bank might actually try to help the U.S. with foreign policy. (The horror!) Indeed, David Steven reports this note from someone at the Bank:
The nomination has shown conclusively that the intent of the Bush administration is to try to use the Bank as a tool of its foreign policy. Only someone of Wolfowitz's stature and credibility with Bush can fight this - that is, once we at the Bank have partly sucked him in to our agenda.
So it's worth asking what is it that Wolfowitz would want to do? I can point to two things that can help, each of which Wolfowitz might be able to do. First, James Wolfensohn, the outgoing Bank president, was quite resistent to the changes envisioned in the Meltzer Commission's recommendations when they were made. The WSJ opines that these comments are valid since they were so vehemently resisted at the time. Retaliation at critics within the Bank have been rather public (Joe Stiglitz and Bill Easterly would be just two). While the Bank has made fighting corruption a priority, it still engages in massive lending to governments at favorable interest rates, creating a moral hazard problem. Meltzer said this about the Bank:
...they lend about $20 billion a year; it takes 9,500 full-time employees to do that. God knows how many others are there on part-time or consulting services, but not on the official payroll. And they have very little to show for their work. The places where they have success are places like China, where they're a drop in the bucket as to the total amount of capital that comes to China. The places where they have failure are places where they're the principal lender. They haven't been able to create the incentives for those countries to want to do the right thing. That's one thing we're continuing to try to do, trying to push them in the direction of getting more responsive to incentives.

In the 21st century, we have large parts of the poorest world where there isn't potable water, there aren't sanitary sewers, there isn't inoculation against measles�all of those things. People talk about AIDS, and AIDS is in the headlines, but lots of children die of measles, and for about 5 cents a person we know how to inoculate people against measles. So it just seems wrong that we don't have a system in place to do some of those things.
Could Wolfowitz fix that problem? The installation of Horst Kohler at the Fund -- who was Europe's second choice after the US pressured them over their first -- got several changes made there. So it's possible. Suffice to say, Wolfowitz will not be bothered by the Meltzer recommendations at all, as they've largely been part of U.S. economic development policy.

Second, Bush policy has centered on the Millennium Challenge Account, a grant that has $5 billion behind it. Quietly a corporation overseeing up to half of this money has been established and is in the process of understanding how to use the rules to get countries to focus on "governance, democracy, rule of law and human rights." Lost in the hubbub last week was that MCC just executed its first loan, to Madagascar. The reason for MCC is that the World Bank and other mulitlateral development banks have two major problems. First, as Meltzer also pointed out, the lending tends to be towards short-term goals.

Wolfowitz may fix that, as well as perhaps cut back on the size of the Bank's bureaucracy. If he can get that done, he'll go down as one of the Bank's best presidents.

How I know Strommie is one of us 

Who cares if the master who rules us is a Republican or a Democrat? We need limited government, not unlimited government run by the party of our choice...
'nuff said.

Summers history 

One may compare and contrast the actual discussion of the no-confidence vote in Larry Summers by Harvard's Arts and Sciences faculty with this investigative reporting by Prof. Blogger that such votes have occurred before. From the latter,
-- In Spring of 1492, the Harvard faculty voted "no-confidence" in the plan of Christopher Columbus to find a trade route to the Indies. According to the historical records, while the Harvard faculty conceded that the world may, indeed, be round, and that it may be possible to make such a trip (barring such unforeseeable circumstances as a continent or two blocking the way), they felt that such a trip might create a "chilling effect" on efforts to return to a geocentric view of the universe.

-- In 33AD, the same faculty voted "no-confidence" in Palestinian Jewish rabbi Jesus. According to accounts, they felt that his claim to be the Son of God was falsified by his arrest, torture, and execution. Economics professor and faculty senator Judas Iscariot also noted some discrepancies in the Messiah's application, as it listed his name simply as "Jesus of Nazareth," but many faculty members had assumed his middle initial and last name were "H. Christ." A blue ribbon panel was assembled to look into charges of identity theft.

Dang, I missed that 

A very long week last week meant I spent last night catching up on news. From Celebrity Death Beeper, I found that Dave Allen had passed away last week. When I was dating my first wife, we often sat at her parents' home watching British comedies. She and her mom liked Benny Hill, but right after that came on Dave Allen At Large, which was one of the funnier shows I've ever seen. Classic Dave Allen was a cigarette, a whiskey on the rocks and a stool, on which he would tell you jokes. Much of his humor lampooned religion and Irish culture. Some of them appear on a tribute page here, but here's one I can still tell by heart after nearly 30 years.

Seems there was a priest who bicycled along a rode each morning, and on another bicycle coming the other way was the bishop. "G'morning, Father," the bishop would say. "Good morning, my lord bishop," replied the priest.

One morning the bishop is bicycling and sees the priest walking on the road. "Good morning, Father. What happen'd to your bicycle?" "It's a terrible thing, my lord bishop. It seems to have been stolen." "Stolen, what a terrible thing," said the bishop. "Here's what you do. This Sunday at Mass, you give a sermon on the Ten Commandments. When you get to 'thou shalt not steal', the guilty thief will be overcome and return your bicycle." "Why thank you, Bishop! I shall do this on the very next Sunday!" the priest replied.

The next Monday the bishop was bicycling and sees the priest on his bicycle coming in the other direction. "Good morning, Father! I see our little plan worked and you got your bicycle back. Did you find out who stole it?" "Not exactly, my lord bishop," said the priest. "I was going through the Ten Commandments and I got to 'thou shalt not commit adultery' ... and I remembered where I left my bicycle."

At which point Dave would sip the whiskey, look over the rim and smile. I'll have to get the DVD; hope that one is on it!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Dumping calculus 

I was reading about integrated mathematics at Scholar's Notebook early this morning and left a comment to Matt asking what was the impetus for something that seems to be goofing up our students' learning of math. In response, he sends me to this article discussing the history of K-12 math ed.
Perhaps the boldest and most far reaching recommendation of An Agenda for Action was its proposal for "Mathematics educators and college mathematicians" to "reevaluate the role of calculus in the differentiated mathematics programs." The report argued that "Emerging programs that prepare users of mathematics in nontraditional areas of application may no longer demand the centrality of calculus that has traditionally been demanded for all students." The de-emphasis of calculus, when carried out on a large enough scale, would support the move away from the systematic development of the prerequisites of calculus: algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. The so-called "integrated" high school math books of the 1990s contributed to this tendency. While those books contained parts of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, the developments of these traditional subjects were not systematic, and often depended on student "discoveries" that were incidental to solving "real world problems."

This is fundamentally disconcerting to those of us who teach in areas where some ability to use algebra -- not calculus, but simply being able to take y = 3x + 7 and get x onto the left hand side and everything else to the right -- is no longer evident in our principles students. I agree that the problems we might solve in a principles class aren't all that "real world", but an ability to deal with abstraction should be something a college student can do. Increasingly, they can't.

The problem is not so much that this style of learning is taught. It might increase the math preparation for students who are unlikely to attend college, which still is a majority of high school students. Only 26% of America has a bachelor's degree. But for those that do attend, integrated math probably prepares them poorly, and is causing universities to either reduce their math requirements or do loads of remediation, since college level math courses are not integrated.

Hot Summers in the city 

I initially didn't care to post on Larry Summers getting pimpslapped by the Arts and Science faculty at Harvard because I thought David Bernstein had already said what I was thinking.
The far left at Harvard is extremely frustrated with political trends in the U.S. Their votes and activism against Bush were not only completely ineffectual, but they don't even have a Democratic governor in one of the most liberal states in the country. So they pick on the closest thing Harvard has to a powerful right-winger: moderate Democrat and university president Larry Summers, who becomes a stand-in for all evil conservative white men, from Bush on down. The far-left faculty finally participates in a vote that it can win, and experiences cartharsis...

Thinking about it some more, I thought I might chime in.

I've seen Summers at conference back before the Clinton Administration, when he was your basic academic economist at a top-flight institution. You might say he has an attitude, but when he'd written so many good articles so early in your career, you might also say he'd earned the right to the 'tude. In short, he could walk the walk, and didn't suffer fools gladly who got in the way. That doesn't exactly make him unique in academia. If it matters to you at all, I would put him alongside Krugman in that regard; Brad Delong, in contrast, can walk the walk but is very approachable. (Delong is the only one I've actually spoken to at a meeting, but I've seen all three at American Economic Assoc. meetings.)

When Bob Rubin was getting ready to leave Treasury and Summers was to take the mantel of leadership, there were several articles about the differing styles of Rubin and Summers. This one, for example, describes his transition to leadership.

Rarely do economists make the transition from university life to government as successfully as the 42-year-old Summers has. Indeed, no one else in his generation has been in Washington for as long, or in a series of such high-profile posts.

Along the way, he has bruised more than a few egos, from Republican members of Congress who complain they have been lectured on economic principles as if they were classroom dullards, to administration colleagues who have felt some sharp bureaucratic elbows. In recent months, as Summers' authority and world view have expanded, he has clearly tried to tone down.

"I've learned that being precisely analytically accurate is neither necessary nor sufficient for being constructive in Washington's debates," he said recently over lunch a block from the White House. "After being a professor of political economy, I guess now I'd give more weight to the political than to the economic than when I first got here."

And this in his own self-reflection:

And there are still questions -- usually uttered off the record -- about whether Summers' sometimes impolitic style could prevent him from moving to the other side of the elegant, antique-filled suite he shares with Rubin. He is frequently the target of a lot of political vitriol, in part because he will say things in public that Rubin will not.

"Bob is legendary for speaking in an extraordinarily restrained way," Summers said, when asked to compare his style with Rubin's. "But if you thought about my speech pattern, you'd go through a lot of other adjectives before you got to 'restrained' and 'unprovocative."'

Summers, in short, is not one of those people about whom Washingtonians or economists have neutral opinions.

That was very unlikely to change when he got to Harvard, and indeed it has not. It wouldn't be too big a stretch of the imagination to think the Summers who said something impolitic in a lunch meeting probably has done so as well in private meetings with department chairs, deans, and faculty. In a discussion on the Becker-Posner blog, Justice Posner argues that because of misaligned incentives, there is no chance that the reforms Summers has attempted to institute at Harvard would get any assistnace from below.

Larry Summers can be seen as attempting an incremental shift in university structure toward the business model. Compare a university department with the corresponding division of a business firm. The department is likely to operate as a self-perpetuating oligarchy, with the chairman appointed by and dependent on the faculty of the department and owing all fealty to the department rather than to the university. Rarely will a department chairman aspire to a leadership role in university administration, and so he will have no incentive to bring a university-wide perspective to his job. In contrast, the corporate division head will be looking to rise in the corporate hierarchy, and this will require him to manage his division with due regard for the division's role in the corporation as a whole.

...It is plain that with all their strengths, American universities have plenty of problems. Neglect of teaching by academic stars is one. The reign of political correctness, which makes a mockery of the academic commitment to wide-open debate, is another; a related point is the political imbalance of university faculties. The continued advance of specialization, which threatens to destroy any general intellectual culture and further estrange the universities from the society as a whole, is a third problem. Universities need better management to solve these problems, and better management may require changes in organizational structure.

Better management would help allay the problems Summers faces. Gary Becker notes that faculty are the university, and Posner believes it's time to retire that idea. While I don't want, as a department chairman, the powers Posner argues we might have, there's no doubt we could use a better incentive structure than we have now.

Somebody missed the tragedy of the commons lecture 

In my paper inbox this morning, from the Husky Bookstore:
In order to receive the "Six Foot Sub" from Subway (as opposed to the six foot sub, which is actually six feet and a submarine sandwich--ed.) for the first department to completely turn in their Summer and Fall book orders, please have your adoptions turned in by March 22, 2005.
There are eighteen faculty in my department, plus three faculty lines to be filled by hires this spring. Exactly how much time should I devote to getting my book order in, given that I can only win the award if every other faculty member, including those who haven't even been hired yet!!! has to turn in their order too?

The Garrett Hardin Society will be displeased.

Ode to a breakfast spot 

I think it's an East Coast thing*: I almost never eat breakfast at home, except for Sunday after church brunch with Littlest (and #1 Son when he's around; Mrs. eschews the practice). I like going to a place, having someone know how I like my eggs and puts the Tabasco next to my plate, keeps the coffee flowing, and throws a few extra hash browns on for me. I can't eat that way any more most days, and thankfully I didn't miss it when I had a breakfast place that was a bagel shop.

But my breakfast place closed its doors almost two weeks ago, and yesterday a copy editor at the St. Cloud Times wrote his paean to Bagelman's.

That's a shame for St. Cloud. In the area's lust to embrace the "next big thing," the little guy got lost in the lurch.

And there's a lot to be said for the little guy.

Even as the store closed, [co-owner Jill] Herr didn't focus on herself. She thought about her regular customers.

"I feel the worst for the regulars because they appreciated the service," Herr said.

"Knowing an order when someone walks in, knowing people's names � that can't be duplicated by larger chains. We said more than 'Hi, here's your order, bye.'"

And they went beyond that. I showed up well past closing a few times, and they'd come to the door and let me in, buttered bagel at the ready.

They'd try to persuade me to break out of my banana-nut bagel with butter habit, usually without success. They were the type of people who made sure they hugged each and every one of their regulars on closing day. But just remembering me was the big thing.

When my last physical showed cholesterol levels above where they should be, Jill and her staff kicked me off my egg sandwich and gave me egg substitute and suggested low-fat cream cheese. We had a guy in the group who liked his coffee extra strong, and they would put out a pot for us with an extra ounce of French Roast.

So, you must wonder, wha'happened? Simply put, there are many of the chains in the Cities that are putting franchises and branches into St. Cloud. The Panera mentioned in the story as set up across the street -- and where most of the posts you've read the last week or so have come from -- is only one. But even more to the point, the strip mall where Bagelman's was had lost two large stores, an Audio King and a Pier 1. With that went the foot traffic and walk-up business that a place like Bagelman's needed to survive.

Many of the people I know in St. Cloud off campus are friends I made at Bagelman's. We'll keep getting together, but sitting in the cookie-cutter Panera storefront isn't going to help me forget the joy of your own breakfast place.

*--though, now that I think of it, the Red Hill Cafe in Rancho Cucamonga fit the bill for me when I lived in southern California, or the Village Inn in Claremont. So maybe not just East Coast.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Is it a lie, or is it harassment? 

Last summer I posted a story about Jason Antebi, who at that time was a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He was bounced from his political talk radio show at the college station for "sexual and gender hostile environment harassment," which was considered then to be a violation of his academic freedom and of the Leonard Law, which is a California statute extending academic free speech to private college campuses. The school responded with an angry letter accusing Antebi of vandalism and harassing phone calls, which FIRE believes it refuted.

The story had been below the radar for months, and Antebi graduated from Oxy. But now he is suing his alma mater for millions of dollars. What they seek is a complete apology for the administration's attack on Antebi.
�While we seriously doubt that Jason would have been allowed to graduate without FIRE�s aid, Occidental has yet to repudiate its actions and its campaign of deception,� remarked FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Greg Lukianoff. �No student should be put through what he has had to suffer�and no student government should be dissolved on the pretense of �offensive� speech. With this lawsuit, we hope that college administrators and trustees at Occidental and across the nation will realize that they will be held accountable for their employees� abuses of power.�

As I noted last July, Antebi was hardly a model of decorum on his radio show, and a suspension of his show would have been appropriate if I was in charge of the station or an Oxy administrator. But if the charges of the April 2 letter (see page 3 infra) were false and the school does not repudiate the letter, Antebi has been viciously slandered and deserves his day in court.

See what you've started? 

An intrepid senator ventured into the university faculty senate's meeting on Tuesday and reported back to me this information in real time regarding the appearance of an item on Ward Churchill.

Fun stuff now, Ward Churchill. OK, not really about Churchill. It�s something about an Academic Bill of Rights. A sample resolution in support for Churchill. (The sample from LSU.)

OK, the thin guy with beard ... thinks something has been left out, basically, the procedure when something involves academic freedom, who is the judge?
It took me a little time to find the LSU resolution. Evergreen State (the earthly home of no-longer-earthly Rachel Corrie) has also adopted a resolution that wraps together Churchill and ABoR. (Worth noting: that link is to a Marxist website.) And now the chickens come home to roost here at SCSU.

This is what happens with this witchhunt for Churchill: Not only are you creating a martyr, not only are you about to see CU's trustees give someone millions for being a Marxist a$$hole, but you are also giving rise to resolutions that can wear a patina of legitimacy. The "thin guy with a beard" (I know who that is, but I'm not going to blog his name) is echoing the point I've made before, that it is up to us to clean up the Churchills of academia by proving them to be frauds or buffoons. Cockroaches hate sunlight.

We are the judges. We run the spotlights; we know that the way to stop Churchill is to continue to hammer away at his fraud and foolishness.


Captain Ed watched the South Park episode that I missed last night, and reports that Cartman is indeed running for CU president. Since Parker and Stone are CU alums (I guess I don't know if they graduated), I will offer them full control of the film studies program at CU in return for the withdrawal of Cartman's candidacy.

The fruits of mandatory diversity training 

At a Catholic New Jersey high school, kids are walking out of class after the state superintendent of education inflamed racial tensions with a "preacher-style" talk about racial justice. Captain Ed notes:
That's why speakers at high schools should be well advised to temper their rhetoric around teenagers; they're not politically or emotionally developed enough to understand the preacher-style stemwinder that Thomas used. (Hell, neither are some adults.)
I think we need to be careful about this. If we tell people that the fruits of preaching about racial justice are inflamed passions and resentment, do we not just feed back into the perception of the diversity community that whites are all latent racists? On the other hand, if Superintendent Thomas' intention was to create racial healing, could she not have known that her style might cause problems? Of course. And how do you deal with this? The problem isn't her; it's that her remarks are not challenged or probably even discussed in the classroom. It isn't necessarily a matter of maturity but one of preparation.

I would love to find a transcript of what she said.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

How to teach principles 

There has been a delightful discussion going on between Phil Miller, John Palmer and John Chilton over a professor's constituency, particularly as it relates to economics professors teaching the first course their majors will take. Many argue that students are consumers, but Palmer dismisses that idea:

I like the concept of student as customer, except that in a market explicitly based on asymmetric information, it makes sense for students to pay professors to make/encourage/induce the students do something they would not otherwise do. Students are an important constituency, but catering to their current wishes is probably not a very good idea since profs know the subject (and one might hope) more about how to teach it than the students do. In this sense, teaching evaluations by students should probably have no more than a 10% weight on overall assessments of professors.
Chilton argues that the professors in the upper-division courses are the customers who receive students trained by the principles instructor. Miller wonders if it isn't the student's employers after graduation. Palmer, though, echoes my thoughts in touting the benefits of principles in and of itself.
Paul Heyne made his name as a teacher, in fact, from not following this advice. And
although I'm no Paul Heyne, one thing I know is that there are many aspects of the Economic Way of Thinking that I must teach my students because if I don't do it, they won't learn them in their upper-level courses. In other words, if I take the upper level courses as a parameter, then I could teach nothing but technique and math and really give my students a leg up for those courses. I don't think that would be doing them a great service, though, and it completely ignores those students who will not be taking any more courses in the subject.
There's a debate within my own department over this very question right now. As you might take it from this post, I'm in agreement with Palmer. Heyne is a wonderful book that teaches much economics but will be of little use to prepare students for the math in most intermediate theory texts. And in a school like ours, with 1100 of 1200 principles students taking no more economics, do you really want them spending much time learning constrained optimization at the expense of learning the nature of economic thinking?

Russell Roberts gave a lecture I heard once many years ago in which he summed up economics as three postulates, which he represented as acronyms:

1. SI -- people act as if motivated by their self interest.
2. NFL -- no free lunch, or more often known as TANSTAAFL.
3. MC=MB --marginal benefit = marginal cost, the notion that rational decision occurs at the margin. The corrolary I always teach is sunk costs or "don't cry over spilt milk", which is something Heyne does so well.

If I just send students armed with those three concepts, understood well, will they do well in intermediate theory? Probably not. Will they understand the principles of economics? My view is yes, but your mileage may vary. For a young professor it would be a hard decision without departmental support.

UPDATE (3/17): Phil suggests we add PRTI as a second corrolary to MC=MB.

Selling out is sweet 

It comes to the attention of the Banaian for Colorado President campaign that there's been a surge in the polls for a certain cartoon character not named Ward Churchill. I also note that Girl In Right has issued her candidacy on the basis of having a cute kid. I have had to take some time from the campaign to hold down my real job, but I intend to renew my effort today without resorting to impregnating my wife.

Thus, this letter appears in the morning's St. Cloud Times.

I see that St. Cloud State University is sitting on $11 million in unused taxpayer money and is looking for ways to spend it. With the state government running in the red, plus many cities and counties in similar condition, you would think that university President Roy Saigo would salt that money away for a rainy day.

After all, we pay him a substantial salary to manage university finances.

However, I believe that in the near future we will again hear the pleadings for more money for education.

As I have pointed out earlier, the majority of the money we receive on this campus actually comes from student tuition. I have proposed to President Saigo that the better use of this money would be Roychex, a rebate of tuition to students. The university has decided it knows what students want more than students themselves do, and has committed to building a parking ramp.

Under my au-tor-i-tay, Kingchex would be issued to students of CU should CU ever run a surplus. Since my first act at CU would be to abolish the education school, students may expect a gusher of money, certainly enough to keep football recruiting stations awash in beer sales.

I expect rallies of support on campus within the day. If not, screw you guys, I'm going home.

So vote, often.

The good, the bad and the ugly 

Thanks for sticking around. I got home yesterday at 11:05pm, which has been pretty common over the last two weeks, and I barely got the clothes off before laying down and doing nothing more until 6:30am. Then four student appointments and a dean's council meeting this morning. That would be the bad.

The good was Winter Institute, which was great. Speakers were wonderful and my talk went well. Great to see some alumni of our program and to meet again with the other speakers on the panel. I learned a lot and much of it is still percolating for new thoughts and new writings. Some you'll see here over the next month or so.

The ugly was my standing in for Mrs. Scholar's solo in JTLM. Missed the queue, got lost and never found my way back until the chorus. I have now defined the lower bound for performance on a stage. At least until Nick Coleman takes up acting...

Back to just my own roles for the play the rest of the week, and a slight slowdown in my speaking schedule until the end of the month.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Gotta run 

I'm between meetings and unable to blog much today. Interested readers should visit this exchange between Michael Munger, Chris Lawrence and Dan Drezner about a session that discussed blogging at the Public Choice Society meetings. (It was a tossup for me between that and the Midwest last weekend.) My two cents: blogging has probably hurt some of my relationships with people on campus and helped other relationships. I've been offered a good job elsewhere since blogging -- and the potential employer knew of the blog.

Should junior faculty blog? I agree with the idea that junior faculty should blog about their research, which Drezner calls "an unalloyed good". But I can't imagine that adjuncts blogging about the stress of finding a t-track job is helpful to them, and probationary faculty are probably wise to keep their heads down. Since I'm tenured and in that quasipseudosorta role of half prof-half chair, I get some unique perspectives that I think are helpful. But to be tenured and decide to blog just to piss and moan about academia ... dude, that's boring.

OK, have a presentation to get ready for and I substitute for Mrs. S's solo in JTLM tonight, literally running from one gig to the other. Back tomorrow.

Monday, March 14, 2005


That was the name of a horse I won a lot of money on one day at the LA County Fairgrounds. A friend and I put $10 on its nose at 26-1, and took our wives out for dinner when it won by three lengths. We bet it because we liked the name; we were both editing papers for a professor who was quite prodigious with his daily output but had many tangents in his writing. "Make a note of that," we'd say to the tangents, throwing the stuff down into footnotes.

I'm still a footnote lover; it's probably a character flaw that I will not excise a tangential thought but rather stick it in a footnote as if to say "you can go here if you like, but it's the road I've not taken." I instruct my students to be careful with them, but I like them to learn proper footnoting as more than following Turabian, APA or whatever style. Good footnoting is an art.

So I'm reading this article (subscribers only) on how many papers now use URLs in their footnotes which end up being dead links. This is of course troubling; one has difficulty enough verifying good scholarship without having references to disappeared sources. But this caught my eye:
Anthony T. Grafton, a professor of history at Princeton University who has written a book about footnotes, has read a draft of the Iowa State professors' study and agrees that citation decay is "a real problem."
Makeanoteofthat: You can be a history professor at Princeton writing a book about footnotes.

That's a job I want.

Our two friends are at it again 

Remember these two? The ones who send letters to high schools with large minority student populations telling them not to send their graduates to SCSU? They've published another letter to the St. Cloud Times which they believe documents race problems in St. Cloud. They go for a shotgun approach, accusing the local NAACP chapter of not helping blacks enough in the community, the local police of racial profiling, our university faculty as being too timid (this caused inadvertant coffee spillage at the Scholar household), and of local blacks needing to rise up. They conclude:

We suggest that committed anti-racists should consider several reports about racial conditions in St. Cloud as a storm warning and invent ways to cost the community for its racism.

It requires no system approval, no critical mass, no more facts, no tenure/promotion and no attitude changes.

Area black males should consider traveling in groups, using cameras and wireless microphones for collecting evidence, hiring Twin Cities lawyers with reputations for beating cops and with pro bono or contingency fee arrangements.

At least this time they didn't send sneaky letters about White Cloud to people in faraway places. They at least had the courage to make their views known.

But their views are little more than race-baiting. They call for the provocation of racial tension and creating incidents to cast more light on race relations here. The issue of the race in the St. Cloud community contains several threads, including an influx of Somali families; their children face problems at an area high school. How the recommendations of these two Eldridge Cleaver wannabes would assist the Somali population is beyond me. What would it do for African-American families coming to Minnesota from Gary, Indiana, or other places in the midwest, often encouraged by local religious groups seeking a rather peculiar notion of social justice? Again, I do not know.

First they don't want blacks getting an education in St. Cloud. Now they want to get the ones already here in trouble with the law.

With friends like these...

Counting certain noses 

The story could happen anywhere and the details would differ, but here's the one I get to live. A colleague from another department discusses your search for a new faculty member. You can't talk too much because of confidentiality, so what's out is saying much about who they are, what's their research like, how they seem they would perform in the classroom. But you're talking and it comes out that one of the candidates for your position is a woman.

"I hope you hire the woman," your colleague will say.

"Why?" I ask.

"Because you don't have that many in your department."

This conversation is an archetype: I have had it with several people in the university at various times over the last six years as we've hired four or five new positions. These people are well-intentioned but it causes me to bristle every time I hear it. We are trying to hire the best teacher and best colleague, and all these people think of is the sex of the candidate. And we have women in the department and have made offers to others who've gotten better job offers elsewhere ... as have other men.

The market sorts itself out; because there are fewer women in the field than men (still about 1-to-2 at the doctoral level, though it was 1-to-4 twenty years ago) and because of PC pressures in academia, women get premium salaries and go to better schools. Those of us teaching at Directional State University in Somestate, with limited budgets, seldom get them. And so it goes.

I thought of this again today after Mitch and Ed posted about this entry on Twin Cities Babelogue, which I take it is a reference to the Tower of Babel and not a travel guide to brothels. My NARN brethren are indignant about her coverage of Powerline's Farewell to Dan Rather tribute last Wednesday. The entry in Babeliciouslogue (those of you who've seen City Pages ads will get that) is by one Molly Priesemeyer, who from her archive appears to be a relatively young and new reporter for the City Pages. She writes:

Is it really white in here, or is it just me? En route to the Power Line/Center of the American Experiment Dan Rather retirement party, I rode in an elevator filled with white men in suits who made observations like "I can�t wait" and "This oughtta be good." These were received with hale-fellow-well-met white-guy laughter that abruptly stopped when the elevator doors opened to reveal a group of young black men in Roc-A-Wear gear who were apparently not attending the same event. Then the elevator doors closed and took the bunch of us back to 1952 for an event that felt like a dinner at a segregated country club in the days when Perry Como ruled the airwaves.
I am at a loss here. When I'm on an elevator with friends and a stranger comes aboard, I don't usually continue chatting loudly with my friends, regardless of the stranger. It's impolite to impose your loud voice on other eardrums.

My question for young Molly: Why are you counting the number of black people in the room? If Clarence Thomas' whole family was there, what would that prove to you? Kevin Garnett's family? 50cent's?

We fear the answer Molly would give: If your event has too high a proportion of white people, it might be racist. Just as if my department has a high proportion of males it might be sexist. Then, if you don't happen to like the political views of the people in the room as well, the might becomes a maybe, and in the effort to write a witty piece the maybe becomes a form of to be.

The correct answer to Molly is simple: How many would be enough. She counted three, one of them the video recorder of the event. Would five do? How about ten? How many noses of a certain color would verify to you that conservative hearts are not tinged with racism? And does it matter if they are middle- or lower-class? I mean, the event was a $35 ticket; chances are most poor whites were also not in the room. Any concerns there?

Molly's not alone, and I don't think the preconceptions she shows towards conservatives in that piece are any more egregious than the well-meaning friends drilled in political correctness on my campus counting how many categories we fill on an affirmative action report. But recognize it, please, for what it is: The perception that to the left, the right is not only wrong but morally suspect.

UPDATE: Mitch tries out as Scott Ott.

The best economist's doggerel 

John Chilton has remade "If I had a hammer" for economists. Sing along!
Well, I've got a hammer
and I've got a bell
and I've got a song to sing
all over this world

It's the hammer of tradeoffs,
it's the bell of equilbrium,
it's a song about trade between
my brothers and my sisters
all over this world
Protectionists everywhere, take heed of the music in our ears.

(H/T: The Eclectic Econoclast.)

UPDATE: Craig Newmark offers more gains from specialization and exchange. Yowza! Maybe it will help get the song out of your mind, Ed.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Some guys have all the luck 

Some of them go to Arizona just while I'm going to Milwaukee. Only there for lunch and a talk, then right back, so I guess it wouldn't have mattered. I'm beginning to think Hackbarth doesn't really exist. Stephen does exist -- maybe see you there?

Some people get to have an extravaganza on the radio. It's our first anniversary of NARN, and the list of guests is incredible, so be sure to listen in. I'll ring up around 2:40 from aforementioned conference, or a cab heading back to the airport.

As my kid brother often says, I've got an assload of work to do. Posting next week will probably be even worse than this was. I need an easier job. See you Monday.

This is how you get fired 

The temperature of Ward Churchill's water is rising.
University of Colorado officials investigating embattled professor Ward Churchill received documents this week purporting to show that he plagiarized another professor's work.

Officials at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia sent CU an internal 1997 report detailing allegations about an article Churchill wrote.

"The article . . . is, in the opinion of our legal counsel, plagiarism," Dalhousie spokesman Charles Crosby said in summarizing the report's findings.
Churchill and university attorneys are nearing an agreement on a settlement that would lead to his resignation from the university. It has been a plank in my platform for the presidency of CU that Mr. Churchill will not be fired and will not be paid anything to leave the university, but rather that he will continue in a non-teaching capacity. Interestingly, a sticking point in the settlement discussions is that Churchill wants to teach through the end of the term.
In response to suggestions that Churchill, 57, might not agree to a settlement unless he was allowed to complete teaching his spring semester classes, [Churchill attorney David] Lane said, "I don't think there are any sticking points. It's just a matter of drafting an agreement that's acceptable to everyone."
Doug Sundseth in comments on a post here at Scholars suggests that regents voting for this settlement would lose in the next election. I would go further and offer a slate of candidates that would denounce the settlement and inform CU faculty that no more greenmail will be paid by the trustees.

RMA, take heed.

Oh this should be good 

I have the Winter Institute to go to on Tuesday afternoon and then I'm speaking at the Economic Outlook later that day (and of course the Passion Play that night -- did you get your tickets???) but on my Faculty Senate agenda, also for Tuesday afternoon, I see this:

7. Unfinished business
a. Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado

Oho! What pray will this be about? What possibly does SCSU's Faculty Senate have to say about Mr. Churchill? Who cares? Why you do, dear reader. Stay posted.

What $9 million can buy 

Chad the Elder discusses the economics of Wendy Wilde
She had been discussing the proposal to raise the minimum wage, especially Senator Bachmann's opposition to it. Then, just as she was going to a break, she mentioned the $28,000 in pay raises that members of Congress had given themselves since 1996 (the last time the federal minimum wage was increased) and calculated that those raises totaled somewhere around $9 million (not exactly sure how the math works on that one). She then asked:

"Couldn't they have spared a few pennies of that $9 million to go toward raising the minimum wage?"
.According to the last survey available, there are 545,000 workers earning exactly the minimum wage. That means that we could distribute $16.51 to each minimum wage worker instead of the $9 million she thinks is paid additionally to Congress. Since these workers are probably working around 1500 hours a year (two-thirds are part-time workers, mainly teens) and since this is distributed from 1996 to current, I think, it's unlikely $9 million could raise wages even one cent.

Of course, minimum wages are paid by firms; Congresscritter wages are paid by taxes. In Wendy Wilde's world, those might seem to be the same thing.

Quantity versus quality 

That's how Chester Finn poses the following question in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal (subscribers only)
Over the past half-century, the number of pupils in U.S. schools grew by about 50% while the number of teachers nearly tripled. Spending per student rose threefold, too. If the teaching force had simply kept pace with enrollments, school budgets had risen as they did, and nothing else changed, today's average teacher would earn nearly $100,000, plus generous benefits. We'd have a radically different view of the job and it would attract different sorts of people.

Yes, classes would be larger -- about what they were when I was in school. True, there'd be fewer specialists and supervisors. And we wouldn't have as many instructors for youngsters with 'special needs.' But teachers would earn twice what they do today (less than $50,000, on average) and talented college graduates would vie for the relatively few openings in those ranks.
Rule one in economics: People respond to incentives.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

A novel method of avoiding the ax 

It's that time of the year. Universities decide who makes the cut and who doesn't among its faculty, except for those who are tenured. Many who don't make the cut will make noise that they've been wronged, sacked for bad karma, personality conflicts, witch hunts or what have you. But this is a new one.
Environmental ethics instructor Adrienne Anderson has filed a federal whistleblower complaint against the University of Colorado, after she learned recently that she would be dismissed in May.

Anderson, an instructor at the Boulder campus since 1994, learned last month that the school's environmental studies program was planning to offer new classes and that she wouldn't be reappointed to her position. She has called CU's decision political, the result of complaints from corporate and government polluters she has criticized over the years.

Anderson has formalized that claim in a request for whistleblower protection filed last week with the U.S. Department of Labor. The complaint cites seven federal environmental statutes that provide such protection.
She would be fired still if I were president of CU, but I'd hire her lawyer. I need that kind of creativity in legal advising.

Meanwhile, the greenmail dance between Ward Churchill and CU continues.
"We have authorized our attorney to talk to his attorney to see where we are in this situation," Regent Patricia Hayes told CBS News 4. When asked about a dollar value, Hayes said she couldn't comment.

"I'm sure there is a price tag that he's talking about, and I'm sure there's one we're talking about," she said.

Hayes later told The Associated Press that regents were looking at several options, but stopped short of saying attorneys were in negotiations.
Yeah, you were caught saying it, Ms. Hayes. As I said before, Churchill would not be bought out in my presidency, but would be on a speaker tour for as long as he held his position at CU, with cameras. Gary Barnett would be reassigned to carry his bags and give entertainment tips.

Importing PAYG payers 

stopping or reducing legal immigration 'would worsen the solvency of Social Security, harm taxpayers, and increase the size of the long-range actuarial deficit of the Social Security trust fund.'
From a Wall Street Journal editorial today. The quote comes from a study recently done by Stuart Anderson at the National Foundation for American Policy. The flip side, from the study:
Over the next 75 years, new legal immigrants entering the United States will provide a net benefit of $611 billion in present value to America�s Social Security system, according to official Social Security Administration data.

...Increases in legal immigration would provide a significant boost to Social Security. The size of the actuarial deficit would be reduced over 50 years by 10 percent if legal immigration increased 33 percent (an additional 264,000 immigrants a year) and by 6 percent for a 20 percent rise in legal immigration annually (160,000 more immigrants a year.) A 33 percent increase in legal immigration would increase revenues to Social Security by a present value of $169 billion over 50 years and $216 billion over 75 years. A 20 percent legal immigration increase would add $101 billion in present value to the trust fund over 50 years and $128 billion over a 75-year period.

It's not clear whether or not legal immigration makes our country's living standards grow faster -- you get more GDP, but you also have more people. The NCAP study seems to view those as a wash. But unless legal immigration included a percentage of seniors as high as the share of seniors in our current population, you get a rise in the critical workers-to-retirees ratio by allowing additional legal immigration. (The study notes that "typically arrive near the start of their working years and may contribute to the system for up to four decades before receiving any benefits.")

This has been something I've thought about as I write some papers lately on remittances of emigrants and migrant workers. Though my particular area is the former Soviet Union, the issue is perhaps of greater import in the Western Hemisphere, where the U.S. brings in many legal and illegal workers. One strand of literature I've read lately is called "the New Economics of Labor Migration", which argues that many migrants come to the industrialized economies to work with a specific goal in mind, to earn enough money to buy property or start a business in their home countries, and then they return. This would strike me as an even better bargain for Social Security, since they would pay but never draw on the fund. The Bush Administration seems to get this point, which maturally leads to policy proposals like the guest-worker program, which allows a worker three years to earn that income and be able to travel home to make her or his reinvestments in the home country, and would not create a path to permanent residency in the US.

It will be interesting to watch the anti-immigration forces, many of them on the right, dismiss this WSJ editorial.

A P.C. Catch-22 

Captain Ed:
Only in a world where sticks and stones break no bones but words hurt like hell can a story this stupid arise. IKEA, the Swedish furniture behemoth, has been targeted for allegations of gender bias because the manuals for their furniture show no women assembling them. IKEA defends itself by claiming it wants to protect Muslim sensibilities by avoiding showing women at work.
I have to say this made me laugh. You can easily see how, had women been shown assembling furniture CAIR or some other group would claim IKEA was culturally insensitive. Maybe women in burqas with hammers?

Of course what will have to happen now is separate assembly instructions for furniture pieces going to the Islamic countries, which drives up cost. And there will be suspicion that the Muslim IKEA furniture is somehow wrong, or part of a Zionist plot, or ...

I shouldn't laugh.

Oooh, that left a mark 

A new site set up to help pick a new president for the Univ. of Colorado discusses my candidacy:
Banaian's willingness to say and do anything is both encouraging and a little, well, Clintonian. Still, he's demonstrating a willingness to learn, rather than assume, as Hugh tends to do.
Nobody does obsequious better than me. Nobody.

The endorsements are rolling in from John Palmer, Psycmeister, and 63 voters at this moment.

Of course, Hugh's hanging out with the RMA next week, so he'll certainly offer many bribes then.* We may have to check on FEC rules about this given his candidacy and their position as a screening committee. Barring that, I'll have to spend that raise we got in the last contract negotiation. Oh, that's right, there wasn't one.

Still, if all it takes is for me to get collegiate baseball back in Colorado, well, I'm your guy. I never played the game beyond the sandlot at Highland School in Manchester NH, but I've sat through many games of D3 baseball in Claremont and a few D2 in St. Cloud, as well as the summer St. Cloud River Bats. (A former River Bat is Joe Gaetti, now in the Rox' farm system.) If it just takes ending Title IX to get CU's baseball program running again, I'll muscle aside the steroid hearings in Congress and get a repeal bill on the floor.

Gotta tell Mrs. S to pack her bags. We're on our way.

*And pay no attention to the Girl in Right.

Not quite a media alert 

Local readers -- yeah, the three of you over there -- may be interested in our second year of the Passion Play: Jesus the Last Mile at The Lighthouse. It is very, very hard to get people to come for a new show or something they don't quite know. But it's a great script and original score, and we need people to see it and tell their friends. The guy that acts as Jesus is very special.

The play is done with modern music, an excellent set, and an enthusiastic, talented cast. Even if it does include me. It's particularly humorous because I have to change characters more than once, and go from pretty loveable to pretty hateable. Just like my career at SCSU.

Evening shows Friday and Saturday this week, and T-F next week. We have two Sunday matinees the next two weeks. It's a dinner theater, or just come for the show. Tickets here.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Peter Swanson:
It is one thing to ask that a reporter be reassigned to a different beat during an election. It is quite another to interfere with a civilian journalist's day job in retaliation for something he writes on his blog. That is what happened when both the Nick Coleman and the City Pages went after Scott "Big Trunk" Johnson's employer (which is my employer, too). They took a look at the time stamp on posts and decided that he was blogging during work hours. This, they rationalized, justified their attacks on his day job. At the time of the controversy (coffee break-gate?), I asked Scott where and when the City Pages reporter called him. He replied that he got the call at work, at around 5pm. So to prove that Scott was engaging in politics when he should have been working, the reporter calls him AT THE OFFICE. It is true that waiting until typical quitting time is better than calling during the day, but the fact that he was still at the office sort of undercuts the whole slacker accusation.
Combined with RedState's and Hugh's assessment of the American Prospect's misfire, you can clearly see the markings of a counterswarm, when, as Doug tells us, we never started the swarm. And swarming the City Pages would give that scratchy toilet paper more attention than its worth.

Business school ethics 

There are some people unhappy with the story that students who hacked their way into a computer to check on their admission status to prestige business schools would not be admitted to them.
His decision came late at night, with his laptop propped in front of him in bed. Instructions on a Web site promised business school applicants an early online look at whether they'd been accepted. Intrigued, he began typing.

A minute later he'd accessed the Harvard Business School's admission site, though all he saw was a blank page.

That split-second decision cost the 28-year-old New Yorker a chance to attend Harvard Business School this year. On Monday, Harvard became the second school, after Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, to announce its blanket rejection of any applicant who used a method detailed in a BusinessWeek Online forum to try to get an early glimpse at admissions decisions in top business schools.

On Tuesday, some of the 119 applicants denied Harvard admission because they visited the site said the school overreacted, and disputed that accessing a public Web page with their own identification numbers was either a "hack" or "unethical," as Harvard Business School Dean Kim Clark said in a statement.

The applicant said he spent months completing Harvard's rigorous application process.

"For all that to be trumped by a poor decision made in the middle of the night is incredibly unfair," he said.

Another rejected applicant, who, like all applicants interviewed, asked their names not be used, said he's guilty of bad judgment for looking at something Harvard didn't want him to see. But by calling it "unethical," he said, Harvard is equating it with the kind of behavior that spawned scandals such as Enron.

"I think that's a gross misrepresentation of what's going on," said the man, who is in his 20s and lives in the South.
Somebody in his 20s in the South needs to grow up. To quote a certain defendant in a murder trial, don't do the crime if you can't do the time. Are there degrees of unethical? Sure. Does a business school have the right to not admit students who have acted unethically in an academic context? Of course they do. If someone posted how to hack into my computer and see next week's macro exam and you did it, I'd want you expelled from school. Period.

Such ethics will be enforced at the University of Colorado when I become president.

Sanford Kreisberg of Cambridge Essay Service, which helps students apply to elite U.S. business schools, said the applicants made a stupid mistake, but added Harvard was guilty of "ethics grandstanding."

He said while the business world is getting battered by stories of ethical failures - such as fraud or excessive salaries - Harvard can make an ethics point by taking on an easy target instead of a more powerful constituency.

"They can swat it hard and preen," he said.

Hey, if presidents aren't about grandstanding and preening in the search for more alumni donations, what are they good for? Do you think we could raise more money by admitting these students and sending them to ethics training?

UPDATE (3/10): TangoMan, who's disagreed with me in comments, expands his thoughts at Gene Expressions.

Own or rent? 

One of the leaders and the front of the Finance and Economics section in this week's Economist suggests that there is a big bubble in housing prices and suggest it's wiser to rent. This is not just in the U.S. but worldwide. From the former article:
Homebuyers tend to underestimate their costs. Once maintenance costs, insurance and property taxes are added to mortgage payments, total annual outgoings now easily exceed the cost of renting an equivalent property, even after taking account of tax breaks. Ah, but capital gains will more than make up for that, it is popularly argued. Over the past seven years, average house prices in America have risen by 65%, those in Britain, Spain, Australia and Ireland have more than doubled. But it is unrealistic to expect such gains to continue. Making the (optimistic) assumption that house prices instead rise in line with inflation, and including buying and selling costs, then over a period of seven years�the average time American owners stay in one house�our calculations show that you would generally be better off renting .
Buttonwood blames the government-sponsored mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Though the pace is likely to slow a bit this year, people keep on buying, and borrowing to do so. There are all sorts of tempting mortgages on offer, including 110 LTVs (110% loan-to-value mortgages), which lend the full price of the house plus a bit extra for transaction costs. Turnover is frenetic: as one commentator puts it, �Day traders in shares have become day traders in real estate.�

Does all this amount to a bubble? Without a doubt. Alan Greenspan�s attempt to save capitalism from the burst dotcom bubble in 2000 (and the effects of terrorist attack in 2001), by cutting short-term interest rates from 6.5% in 2000 to 1% in 2003, produced a new bubble in the credit markets. One sign of that is the compression in bond yields, with riskier assets paying investors only slightly more than governments and blue chips. Another is the debt-fuelled explosion in property prices.

Yet people do keep buying. The National Association of Realtors reports that 36% of homes are bought as second homes for investment or vacationing in 2004. (H/T: Newmark's Door.) An article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal last week (subscribers link) indicates that many people are getting into the rental market still, mostly mom and pop landlords. " The National Association of Realtors estimates that 23% of home purchases last year involved investment properties." Discussing a private company that buys single-family dwellings to operate as rentals,
To choose its markets, Redbrick is turning to economic models. One of Mr. Lee's partners is William Wheaton, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former director of the MIT Center for Real Estate. Dr. Wheaton crunches numbers on local economies and housing markets. The firm also has studied the costs of being a landlord, including vacancies, bad debt and management time. Most "amateur" landlords, Mr. Lee says, fail to factor in all their costs and "just don't know what they're doing."

Could we have a housing bubble caused by low interest rates and an increase in homebuying by investors (rather than house consumers)? It seems so. People buying houses that are paying low rents now are speculating on higher house prices in the future. Investors may have a lower time preference for money; they may be more patient in waiting for prices to turn around than the family who buys a home, needs more room as their family expands, or alternatively leaves a larger home as the nest empties.

But more succinctly: If the Greenspan pin prick deflated financial asset prices in 2000-01 and pushed people out of those markets, where else would the money have flowed? Precious metals? Yes, somewhat. But there's simply not enough metal to absorb the size of the outflows. Investment has to flow to other assets.

Personal anecdote: the insurance firm that covers my house insists now that I have to buy more insurance since replacement costs have risen so much; the amount of rise since purchasing my home in 1996 is 72% if their number is to be believed. That's in the city of St. Cloud, not one of those Cities burb explosions.

Pick it up and run 

We are pleased that the Rocky Mountain Alliance of Blogs has decided to accept our call for a screening of candidacies for the blogs. When Hugh was notified last night, his response in full was "King would make a good provost." How horrible! I pick on the provost here at SCSU often, but truth be told it's an even more thankless job than being a department chair. It's like being the plant manager but not the owner of the factory.

Expect to see more information here about my candidacy, with new planks to my platform and further willingness to prostrate myself before Denver sports teams. I hear they have a pretty good hockey team in Colorado -- I would be willing to learn to like hockey. And I have no illusions about the necessity of mansierres.

I know, I know, it's all about the academics. I would seek someone who could start a Great Books program at CU's campuses. As mentioned yesterday, I would send Ward Churchill out to any place I could get him to speak, and be sure cameras were available. I would give him 100% reassignment from teaching to this new task as director of the new Center for the Propagation of the Faux Native American Left. I'll find someone named Faux to contribute a dollar to its creation in return for the naming rights.

Thansk to Clay Calhoun, Joshua Sharf, Ben DeGrow and Jim Cannon for their notes and the RMA's willingness to perform this vital task.

And don't forget to vote at the Fraters poll. At this moment, my candidacy is a slim five votes ahead of Hewitt's. We don't want someone going all King County on us now, do we?

No longer alone 

At least not in St. Cloud. If you haven't found Psycmeistr's Ice Palace yet, you should, and see this post on whether Norm Coleman has gone RINO. He's confirmed in MOB as a recent visitor the The House that Terry Built; be sure by the way to get there tomorrow night for Trivia with the Fraters (and the Nihilist in Golf Pants).

We're efforting the outstate MOB gathering right now. Mankato and St. Cloud are the two current options being explored. Others? Drop a line to comments at scsuscholars dot com.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I need your support 

After being ahead most of the morning and early afternoon, I've fallen behind Hewitt in the Fraters' poll for new president of CU. Vote early and often, please.

University honors 

At least one school is doing it.
Widener University will announce a scholarship program today that will cover tuition at the university for children of U.S. soldiers killed while serving in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The university, which was a military academy until 1972, will support a total of 16 students each year. It will provide $25,000 in tuition per student each year for four years.

'We feel strongly about giving back to those who made the ultimate sacrifice,' said James T. Harris III, president of the university, which is located in Chester, Penn. 'It's unfortunate that this is necessary, but we think it is the right thing for Widener to do.'

I'd like to see our school follow suit.

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers link).

My letter of application 

Last night I listened to a certain talk show host and publicity maven campaign for 2.5 hours about his desire to be president of Colorado University (not Univ. of Colorado, Hugh). We know he's just in it for the salary, if what NARN's earned from Salem is any indication. And while Hugh's a lawyer and itinerant law professor, I think a tenured economics professor in a public university is just what Colorado needs. We economics professors make pretty good presidents, too. And looking at a poll going on at Fraters Libertas, I'm a frontrunner, at least in the sense Howard Dean was once upon a time.

So with no further adieu, I hereby apply for the position of president of Colorado University. You can find my professional site for qualifications.

Why me?
  1. Limited salary demands. I will work for a tripling of my current salary, which would still be less than half what it will cost you to get a president among the others you might consider. This kind of thinking is what allows Mike Tice to get and keep his job. You can even pay for my salary by firing a few of the assistant underprovosts or whatever titles you have for underlings at CU.
  2. Within three years, my salary would be paid entirely by donations to CU. I'm thinking about linking up with L.L. Bean for a backpack contract so that every CU student has a Bean bookbag.
  3. Ward Churchill not only keeps his job, but we will send him on a tour and make sure there is media coverage of every event. He will get weekly appearances sitting next to Alan Colmes. I can make this happen. Fox will thank me for such a perfect foil.
  4. I will however eliminate every department with the word "Studies" in its name. The savings in salaries from the faculty there will be used to hire buses to send 40,000 Buff fans to Lincoln for the next NU-CU tilt. Every year. Time to let Cornhusker fans feel a little diversity.
  5. All Buffalo football players get ankle bracelets accessorized by Martha Stewart. Whenever a player is found in corpus flagrante a shock will be sent to an electronic collar worn by the coaching staff.
  6. We will contest Title IX.
  7. Everyone takes calculus, western civ, and a course in speech. The math department will triple in size, but they will hate me because they will actually have to teach students who need math rather than those who just want it.
If you think my qualifications and vision for CU are what the citizens of Colorado need, please consider voting for me in the Fraters' poll. I will send out a message to the Rocky Mountain Blog Alliance asking for their support, to offer a real alternative to a guy who likes the Cleveland Browns. (I have no AFC or NL affiliations, so I would adopt the Rockies and Broncos. I do draw the line at the Nuggets, however.)

Monday, March 07, 2005

Scholars 38% evil 

I have no idea what to make of Nihilist's latest post, but if somehow Douglas Bass comes out as 13% more evil than me, I'm thinking we've got a scale problem. To put it politely.

OK, that's two self-serving posts in a row. Back to work. I love it when the school is on break.

What hath Scholars wrought? 

After receiving credit (sorta) for creating the word "fiskwa" (to h or not to h? roll your own), Swiftee has decided to create a blog of same name. It apparently has decided to declare the first fiskwa on your favorite columnist, Mr. Laura.

Suggestion: Biofeedback. Tune the radio to ErrAmerikkka at the appointed hour, hook up an EEG and jpeg the pages. Ask Stromie for hints.

Worst. University. President. Ever. 

No, not our guy.

That girl.

University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman announced Monday that she is
resigning amid a football recruiting scandal and a national controversy over an activist professor who compared victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to a notorious Nazi.

Hoffman, who has been president for five years, told the Board of Regents in a letter that her resignation is effective June 30 or whenever the board names a successor.

Here's her resignation letter. It's worth remembering that not only has she been an impediment to the process of dealing with Ward Churchill's unusual grant of tenure and his questionable scholarship -- to the extent of playing the New McCarthyism Card (tm) -- but also she's not been forceful in dealing with the sex scandal that has gone on in CU's football program, and in which new details emerged last week. She calls herself a tiger, but she pulled out her own teeth a few days later.

Too bad she didn't let herself be fired. That's a proven career path for presidents at my school.

Too weird for words 

The list of possible successors to World Bank President James Wolfensohn includes one guy who you wouldn't expect.

Treasury Secretary John Snow yesterday would not rule out the idea of Irish singer Bono, an activist on debt relief and AIDS, making the short list of potential candidates to lead the World Bank, even though an American is expected to get the job.

"He's somebody I admire. He does a lot of good in this world of economic development," Mr. Snow said. "Most people know him as a rock star. He's in a way a rock star of the development world, too. He understands the give and take of development. He's a very pragmatic, effective and idealistic person."

"Pragmatic, effective and idealistic"?

Luckily this isn't likely to go anywhere: by convention, the U.S. gets its own choice as head of the World Bank while Europe chooses the head of the IMF. This idea of Bono for the job, coming from a goofy LATimes editorial, should have been stillborn. It would have been easy for Snow to say, "I like Bono, and he's done good work in development, but the job traditionally goes to an American."

If anyone needs another reason to fire John Snow, look no further.

ABoR: Good policy, bad law 

I hope you caught the 1pm hour of Saturday's NARN show to hear the discussion of the Academic Bill of Rights, because if you read the newspapers you won't learn anything about what is in it. And anyone discussing it in Minnesota is still discussing a possibility: there's no bill yet introduced into the legislature.

Not that you could tell from Laura Billings' sneering column yesterday.
The so-called "Academic Bill of Rights" she introduced this week would prevent professors at publicly funded colleges or universities from expressing their personal, political or ideological beliefs in their classrooms.
That's a lie on two scores: No bill, and if it follows the model bill the Students for Academic Freedom offer there's is no prevention of professors speaking their beliefs in the classroom. Yet all you hear is that these people want to shut down ABoR. For example, AAUP is protesting the bill in Ohio.
Our academic freedom is under attack. The national campaign for an "Academic Bill of Rights" has made its way to Ohio in the form of Ohio Senate Bill 24. The bill would, among other things, outlaw "persistent" discussion of controversial topics. The bills authors have cynically distorted much of the rhetoric from our own "Red Book," the founding collection of documents on academic freedom, shared governance, and tenure. The AAUP therefore has a particular duty to respond.

With your help, we can put an end to SB24 and return to the real issue--state funding of higher education.
And Billings again:
This is because the whole point of a college education is to develop those tiny muscles in the back of the brain pan that focus on discernment � distinguishing between different points of view, weighing the weight of opposing logic and deciding which worldview best defines the direction you want to go.
Great, but tell me what is in the model legislation -- which is all you have because there is no bill yet introduced -- disallows this? Here's the closest plank to what Billings could refer:
Curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social sciences should reflect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge in these areas by providing students with dissenting sources and viewpoints where appropriate. While teachers are and should be free to pursue their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views, they should consider and make their students aware of other viewpoints. Academic disciplines should welcome a diversity of approaches to unsettled questions.
So there's a load of misinformation here, but it's not just the DFL's alleluia chorus who can't wait to tag anything Michele Bachmann does with a series of smears, especially desirous to soften her up before her U.S. Congressional campaign. Their behavior is quite easy to explain. But there's more to this than that.

For truth be told, ABoR is actually a bad idea, and center-right bloggers who want to help keep Democrats a minority party for years to come would do well to keep clear of it.

The question for me comes down to this: Do you want judges and legislators deciding what is �appropriate knowledge of the subjects and disciplines they study� or do you want professionals? Obviously you want the latter, but it requires that we behave like professionals. We are reaping the whirlwind for allowing ourselves to be cowed by political correctness and cries of McCarthyism from evaluating whether faculty are behaving professionally. The courts have been very reluctant to impose their judgment of professionalism on us, but may only continue to do so as long as they see we can police ourselves. Having a statement like ABoR in the student handbook would be evidence that we can.

If we are to have the individual independence described in the document while consuming taxpayer resources to deliver higher education, there must be some mechanism that guards against abuse. If not faculty (or their unions) then who? Who will speak for protection of student rights? Whom would you prefer do so? Campus liberals may think students are protected, but we have ample evidence of conservative students at SCSU being attacked for supporting gun rights, Israeli self-determination, or traditional gender roles.

I understand conservative anger at campuses, but use of the law to get a good policy put in place is wrong. Conservative faculty need to think hard about how to get these protections for students put in place.

If we don�t do it, it�s going to be done to us. It is our job to police ourselves. It�s not the government�s job. But you don�t have to be a libertarian to realize that government seeks to expand its influence when it�s given half a reason to.

Meanwhile, government, if you want to stop this stupidity on campus, there's a much better idea than passing academic bills of rights. To paraphrase Eddie Murphy from Trading Places, if you really want to get universities' attention, take their money away.

Come out, come out, wherever you are 

Last month I wrote a piece in which I described a set of cases involving campus free speech, including reference to a site at St. Lawrence University. Steve Horwitz, an economics professor and a dean there -- and occasional contributor at Liberty&Power, where I've posted as well in the past -- wrote me a note yesterday defending the administration's attempt at a copyright infringement suit.
This blog is not just a "criticize the administration" blog. If that were it, so be it. The problem is that they have attacked and harassed other students by name. What they're doing is in violation of our student conduct policies. The decision to block access was an attempt (feeble yes) to protect those students from harrassment. The lawsuit is not designed to shut down the blog, but for discovery to find out with certainty who the students are behind it. If the president wanted to shut them down, he would have gone to the ISP.
Looking around their blog I can see Steve's point. It's not just sophomoric attacks on faculty and administration but some rather rude things to say about students, which according to SLU's student handbook seems a violation. The bloggers' response -- that they can harrass as long as it's not discriminating -- is lame legalistic garbage.

Steve's email raises an interesting question: can a university require an anonymous blogger to reveal his identity? Given that the ISP is Blogger, and it's not clear under our terms of service whether whether or not Blogger would be able to reveal an anonymous blogger. Given that, it may be that blocking an IP address from campus computers might be the most effective means of enforcing a code of conduct. While the TBOC people surely have speech rights, they agreed to attend a private school and signed a code of conduct as a condition of enrollment. If they actually believed the code protected their blogs vis-a-vis students, they could be a cause celebre by revealing their identities and daring the school to take disciplinary action.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

NARN at White Bear Lake Superstore 

I've hit the busy part of my academic calendar so I won't be there today, but the Northern Alliance Radio Network hits the White Bear Lake Superstore today at noon. If you're in the Cities and out shopping, go on over and see Mitch, Saint Paul, Rocketman and Captain Ed. Highway 61 at Cedar (between County Roads E and F) in White Bear Lake.

Your favorite professor will return to the airwaves on the 19th.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Give that guy a 'B' 

I was going to disect the latest unemployment numbers, but Sean at the American Mind has beaten me to it. Still he left me something to discuss.

Sean says the reporting on this report is messed up:

I'm going to pick on Reuters and reporter Tim Ahmann a little bit. Here's the lead to a story on the release of February jobs numbers:

U.S. employers added 262,000 jobs last month, the biggest gain in four months, but the good news for workers was tempered by a rise in the jobless rate.
...The unemployment rate is the percentage of workers actively seeking work divided by the emplyed workforce. There are times when the lots of people are finding work expanding the employed workforce. If the number of workers looking for jobs doesn't grow as fast the unemployment rate falls. There are also times when the number of workers looking for work grows faster than the employed workforce. When that happens the unemployment rate goes up.

From the February numbers it appears the number of job seekers are growing faster than the total number employed. That means many people who previously didn't think the economy as good enough to bother looking for work are now jobseeking. Why bother looking for a job if you think the economy stinks so much your effort will fail?
It's a good story, but unfortunately the data won't support it.

It's worth remembering when you hear the statistics that the employment number the press reports comes from the Current Payroll Survey (thus often called payroll employment) while the unemployment rate comes from the Current Employment Survey, which is a household survey. They are separate measures. So the 262,000 new payroll jobs reported are from CPS and are quite strong and broad-based. The numbers in the CES instead are:

Additions to #labor force: 153,000
Additions to #employed: -97,000
Additions to #unemployed: 251,000
Additions to #not in the labor force: 51,000

The CES number went down, not up, contradicting Sean's story. For a few years now we've been commenting that the CES has shown much better performance on employment than did the CPS and that the Bush Administration had not gotten enough credit for the economic expansion last year. What this month's survey could be is the reversal of the divergence between CPS and CES employment.

The argument normally used is that CES is only designed to measure the unemployment rate, and that CPS is designed to measure employment. Republicans didn't like that story last year because it made their guy look not so good. But it nevertheless might be right ... in which case today's news should be an unqualified positive.

Whose line is it, anyway? 

I was talking about this regarding something else with a friend, and this morning Tyler Cowen notes a paper by Walter Enders and Gary Hoover. Here's the abstract:
This paper reports the results of a survey regarding the instances of plagiarism reported by journal editors in the economics profession. The survey finds that nearly 24% of responding editors encounter one case of plagiarism in a typical year. In addition, the survey reveals that less than 19% of responding journals have a formal policy regarding plagiarism. Moreover, there is a great deal of variance in what is considered plagiarism and what an appropriate response to plagiarism should be. A majority of editors believe that the economics profession would benefit from a professional code of ethics.
Prof. Cowen reports a similar event to one I experienced several years ago:
Not word-for-word copying, but rather using a borrowed idea --and the major idea of the paper -- rather directly without attribution. (In each case the instance was pointed out to me by somebody else as well, so I am inclined to dismiss the possibility of self-delusion on my part. Plus in each case I know the plagiarizer had access to the paper.) In each case the plagiarist took an unpublished paper and improved upon my original idea. In neither case did the plagiarist gain anything concrete from the action, nor have I suffered any real net harm.
In my case, the publication of the paper precluded our ability to get our paper -- I had a co-author -- published in a refereed journal. And it's common enough that the percentages reported in the Enders/Hoover study strike me, if anything, as too low.

Ukrainian suicide: Too desparate to shoot straight 

Another one bites his own dust:

Ukraine's former interior minister was found dead of an apparent suicide Friday, just before he was to meet with prosecutors for questioning about the 2000 slaying of an investigative journalist, dealing a blow to an investigation that could also implicate former President Leonid Kuchma.

Yuriy Kravchenko had been implicated in organizing the killing of Heorhiy Gongadze, who wrote about top-level corruption under Kuchma.

The death of the journalist � who was found decapitated in a forest outside the capital � sparked months of protests against the former president, who the opposition alleged had ordered the killing.

Kuchma, whose decade in power ended in January after the election of opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, repeatedly has denied any involvement.

"Before God, before the people, before my conscience I'm clean," Kuchma told journalists in Karlovy Vary, a spa town in the Czech Republic where he has spent the past few weeks. He said he would return to Ukraine on Saturday and was prepared to talk to prosecutors, Czech and Ukrainian television reported.

I hope he has bodyguards provided by the Yushchenko government. Neeka says it's definitely two bullets in Kravchenko. She also quotes Kuchma,
"...not many people would've been able to bear the crazy pressure [Kravchenko had been subjected to lately]. [...] I knew him well. He would've never given that criminal order [to kill Gongadze]."

Jeez, I wonder where that pressure came from?

Neeka's got lots more: just scroll. Bob at Abdymok has some of the background.

I see no reason not to think Kuchma's hands are on the gun(s) that killed Kravchenko or the previous ministers I discussed in December. If Yushchenko intends to get to the bottom of who killed Gongadze, he will have to move faster.

(Hat tip: Spitbull.)

Leading indicators 

When I went to graduate school 25 years ago it was my expectation to become an economic forecaster, and I still do some forecasting though it probably isn't what I spend most of my time researching. Still, I think the Cranky Professor has found a leading indicator of the decline of the MSM.
According to the Pulp & Paper Products Council's (PPPC) latest report, released Feb. 23, consumption by U.S. dailies fell 3.1% in January 2005 compared to January 2004, despite an extra Sunday this January.

While Canadian newsprint demand was up 2.2% year-over-year in January, total U.S. demand dropped 8.4%...
The thought of trees in Maine dying for another Nick Coleman column, I guess, was just too much to bear...

Omigod! They killed Kenny! 

It's discouraging to find out from the paper that the bagel shop you go to for years is closing. Bagelman's has been my morning stop weekdays for at least four years, and the group I hang out with, sometimes called by their staff "The Emperors' Club", contains some of my best friendships off campus in the St. Cloud area. It has been a longstanding view of the Club that we try to support other local business owners, and the closing of Bagelman's leaves us struggling to find another local business that has decent breakfast sandwiches and strong enough coffee for my friend Burt to not bitch at the owners. (Not that he didn't at Bagelman's!)

Unfortunately two national chains that anchored the mall Bagelman's was in have closed, and the big-box Panera set up right across the street. I guess I'll get to try some of that hospitality that Chad the Elder experienced over there for awhile until the Emperors regroup.

Until then, farewell Pete and Jill!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

School Accountability Raises Educational Performance 

This won't make MisEducation Minnesota very happy. A recent NBER report says that not just testing matters to increase student performance, but testing with consequences.
In looking state-by-state, Hanushek and Raymond find that the introduction of accountability systems leads to higher achievement growth than would have occurred without accountability. But simply reporting results of tests has a minimal impact on performance. The systems are much more effective if poor educational results have adverse consequences for the schools, thus supporting the contested provisions of NCLB that impose sanctions on failing schools.
Interestingly, though, testing-with-consequences increased the black-white achievement gap because the improvement in black test scores is less than the improvement in white test scores. The report also shows that blacks are hurt by higher minority concentration in their schools. From their paper:
The finding of differential effects of accountability raises a clear policy dilemma. A prime reason for the U.S. federal government to require each state to develop a test based accountability system involved raising the achievement of all students, particularly those at the bottom. It has done that, but not at the same rate across groups. We conclude from this that additional policies are needed to deal with the multiple objectives. Again, as is frequently the case, a single policy cannot effectively work for two different objectives � raising overall student performance and providing more equal outcomes across groups.

Speaking of page ones... 

What gets covered on Page One of the larger papers? The rejection of the smoking ban (though see Craig's analysis that there's less here than it appears to be.)

The introduction of the Academic Bill of Rights in Minnesota gets shoved inside both papers. The PPress can't even bother to use its own writer, relying on an AP wire story. From the STrib

Horowitz spoke at the news conference, saying it was unprofessional for professors to impose their political ideologies on their students.

"You don't go into a doctor's office and expect to get a political lecture or see on his
office door cartoons bashing John Kerry or bashing George Bush," he said.

You mean like this one? Or this one? Yet the refrain from the AAUP is that there's no problem. Hmmm.

Mitch has some more thoughts.

I am now complete 

You ain't nuthin' 'til you've been lampooned at KAR. And it appears they've learned Armenian, too.

Are they trying to get him fired? 

You really have to wonder if the local newspaper has considered what it's doing with its headlines today. It's top story is titled "SCSU Hockey in Academic Cellar".

The Academic Progress Rate report, which details academic eligibility, retention and graduation of student athletes for Division I sports, revealed St. Cloud State had the second-lowest score among 57 men's hockey teams.

Each student athlete on athletic scholarship is evaluated on four points: academic
eligibility after fall semester, returning for spring semester, academic eligibility after spring semester and returning to school the next year. St. Cloud State attained 97 of 108 possible points last season.

The report converts the points into a percentage of the points attained versus the possible points. For St. Cloud State, that was 89.8 percent, for a score of 898, after
the 2003-04 school year.

An APR score of 925 is equivalent to a graduation rate of about 50 percent, according to the NCAA. ...

Teams with scores below 925 after two years of measurement are subject to a loss of scholarships for players who were academically ineligible.

But how does a student athlete become academically ineligible, particularly when the GPA of the hockey team as a whole is 3.08?

The Huskies lost two points after sophomore defenseman Tim Conboy was released from the team and signed a pro contract with the San Jose Sharks. He left school during the spring semester, leaving him academically ineligible to return. They lost two points after freshman forward Brent Hill left at the semester break to play in the Western Hockey League. And they lost two points after sophomore forward Brian McCormack, who became academically ineligible, was released from the team.

St. Cloud State lost one point each after redshirt freshman forward Bille Luger was released and transferred to Division III St. John's, junior forward Garrett Larson was released and transferred to Division III Wisconsin-River Falls, and senior forward Matt Hendricks and senior defenseman Colin Peters did not return in the fall to finish their degrees. Hendricks and Peters are playing minor-league hockey this season, and Peters also was one of the 10 players who made the all-academic team. The Huskies lost a point because defenseman Greg Tam did not return to school in the fall of 2003. He transferred to Division III New England College.

If any combination of two points from the above players had been retained, the Huskies would have been above 925. This year's team could attain a perfect 1,000 score, but it's expected seniors Peter Szabo, Mike Doyle, Dave Iannazzo and Matt Gens will pursue pro hockey before finishing their degrees. If everyone else on athletic scholarship returns in good academic standing, the score will be 958.

So Coach Craig Dahl has recruited some players that turn pro, raising the cost of recruiting good players. With other players who aren't cut out to play D1 hockey, he encourages them to transfer out rather than burning up scarce scholarships. And for this he is punished. Remember that at this university, less than 45% of students who enter SCSU graduate within six years.

The newspaper then runs at the top of its sports section, "Harrington Settles in at SJU" describing how the coach at St. John's, John Harrington of Miracle on Ice fame, is doing such a great job out on the edge of town. One wonders whether the newspaper is running a campaign to get Craig Dahl fired?

Two points about this report besides the context above. First, this sort of thing gives players some great leverage in dealing with the coach. "I better have more ice time soon, Coach, or I am leaving for Stinkhole State. Sure my time on the ice might cost you a point or two in the standings, but another APR point could cost you a scholarship." Regardless of whether you think college athletes should be paid or not, that's a lousy incentive program.

Second, one way to avoid this problem is to keep your marginal players in school but not let them lace up skates. Now, which schools could afford to do this and which schools could not? This seems a naked attempt by bigger schools to squeeze smaller programs out of D1. If SCSU won't give Coach Dahl the ability to keep those students around (i.e., a scholarship for a player you won't play) and they transfer out, that's not his fault. You might fault him for recruiting players who end up not cutting it at D1, but that shows up in the record already; accusing the program of not graduating people is disingenuous.

BTW, the one school ranked in the APR below SCSU? Ohio State. Hugh Hewitt, call your office!

So what's with the exchange rate? 

I've written less here lately because I've been busy writing up the new Quarterly Business Report for the St. Cloud area*. One of the questions we keep coming back to in writing this is whether or not foreign trade makes a difference to the local economy. We asked some special questions in the survey last summer, and were surprised to find nobody really interested in international markets. So while we economists keep worrying about the effect of exchange rates on area businesses, their owners and managers seem not to feel affected.

The Wall Street Journal (subscribers only) runs a story today about a new Federal Reserve Bank study that argues that rapid changes in exchange rates don't seem to cause problems for financial or product markets in the U.S. If anything, the rapid decline in the dollar recently should help, not hurt, the U.S. economy. From the WSJ:
The study responds to growing concerns that the U.S. current-account deficit -- the shortfall on all trade and investment income with the rest of the world -- could trigger a crisis. The deficit topped an estimated $600 billion, or more than 5% of gross domestic product last year, which was financed by the U.S. selling an equivalent sum in stocks, bonds and other assets to foreigners. Some analysts worry that foreigners will soon balk at buying more U.S. assets, triggering a sharp drop in the dollar, a drastic increase in interest rates, and a recession.

But the study finds almost no evidence of such "disorderly corrections," the phrase it uses rather than "crises," in its review of previous episodes when the U.S. and other countries had to shrink large deficits. "We ... find no evidence that current account reversals are associated with sharp declines in asset prices," says the study, posted this week on the Fed's Web site.

Far from currency depreciation leading to a recession, the study finds that economic growth was "positively correlated" with the decline in the exchange rate. While in some cases economic growth did slow, the study argues that "shortfalls in growth led to declines in currency values rather than vice-versa."
The authors of the study are pretty cautious in their evaluation of their results, which were based on a study of 23 "disorderly corrections" in 16 (by my count) different countries. Only one of the episodes are in the U.S., which would be the 1987 decline after which we had three years of economic expansion (up to the first Gulf War.) They are concerned about extrapolating those results to current day.

If the study is right, however, it would suggest that we should not be too concerned about rising interest rates in the near term. This would be a positive development for the economic expansion we are in currently.
The study cautions that some of its findings may not apply to the U.S. now. The U.S. economy is the largest in the world, and its current-account deficit is larger than for most episodes examined. On the other hand, its economy is less dependent on trade and more flexible than others.

Still, the study's authors are clearly skeptical that a crisis would befall the U.S. since it happens so seldom among developed countries. It is more likely in a developing economy, perhaps due to heavy borrowing in foreign currencies, meaning a depreciation drastically raises the burden of repaying those debts. Those countries also often peg their exchange rates to other currencies, and when the peg breaks, a disorderly decline often ensues.
*By the way, the new QBR should be out in its new vehicle, ROI, later this month. I can't tell you all that's in it, but this report has some really great survey results that my co-author Rich MacDonald gathered for us. I will get to talk a little about them at the St. Cloud Annual Economic Outlook on March 15, though, if you want to get an advance peek. Free registration required; go here.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The value of a Yale degree 

To believe this form, $35,000 annual tuition is nothing. Nothing.

Damn. Got one of these at Dartmouth, boys?

A feeding frenzy needs food 

It seems as if the initial reaction to Swarm the Strib, an idea Hugh Hewitt broached on the air last night has, in the light of day, found cooler heads. (And one not so cool. BTW, no 'h' in fatwa and one 'a' less than in my last name. You're welcome, LF.) After being out until 10:30 last night I flipped on my Replay Radio to listen to Hugh discuss the idea, listened to his callers (and note the new blog of a listener) and thought it sounded like amateur hour.

I think you can swarm particular stories. I think a low-volume site (contrary to Anti-Strib) that collected swarms/vox blogoli on particular pieces -- all written voluntarily, spontaneously though perhaps with prompts from NA blogs -- would be effective. A link aggregator, designed like maybe Memeorandum, could prove useful. But I do not think a daily hammering of whatever Nicky wrote lately would be effective, because 50% of his columns are just tripe that warrants no mention. Only one in 10 of STrib editorials. And who knows which ones?

If you're going to have a feeding frenzy, you need a host on which to feed. Not every issue of the STrib will be a host; maybe only one in four will. That won't sustain a daily swarm.

More to the point: What would drive eyeballs to the site? What's the value of an aggregator, or a point-by-point dissection of every issue? Besides Memeorandum, one could say that the aggregator exists in Instapundit. Many blogs are linkers, and thinkers frequently link out to other blogs thinking about the same things. And there's Trackback (which I wish was more automatic in Blogger, but that will come because bloggers want it). Is SwarmtheStrib a linker site? That's what it sounded like last night. And I have trouble seeing what brings it eyeballs, for it would have to be for people asking "What was wrong in the STrib today?" and wanting a filter for the web to ask that question. Why would I want that?

More likely it would be a place in which we would focus our disgust at being a state with a large, crappy paper. And disgust is not a useful emotion; we were disgusted with Clinton, but disgust got us nowhere but to frustration.

Craig says it best in his online letter to Hugh:
Let�s not waste our efforts trivializing ourselves with unnecessary concern about a second tier newspaper. Let�s focus on our ideas and treat the Strib as a �useful idiot� only when it suits our purpose.

Faculty union shakes the tin cup 

Over the email transom this AM came a plea from our faculty union to "Stop the Slide" in our compensation.
� Although we serve the people of Minnesota best when we are able to attract and retain our high-quality faculty, we continue to slide further behind the market on national faculty salary scales. Our faculty are compensated below the national average for comparable institutions.

Given what we're hiring these days, I'd suggest we're paying too much still.
� Governor Pawlenty's proposed $10 million line item for competitive salaries is a
form of merit pay intended for a small number of faculty and staff at campuses
with so-called designated "centers of excellence."

I.e., "we can't give money to people who deserve it because we're all excellent!" Our faculty union leaders are listening to too much Keillor, I guess.
� Minnesota's "effort" for higher education, measured by state appropriations/$1000 of personal income, has fallen from $15.08/$1000 in 1978 to only $7.55 in 2004.

Of all the things I hated when I took public finance in grad school, "effort" measures were the ones that pissed me off the most. This statement assumes no efficiency gains in education can accrue to taxpayers; that taxpayers cannot shift funding to other items because their demand for higher education changes (for example, higher ed spending driven higher by young men going to school to avoid the draft in the 1960s and early 70s -- this didn't go back to pre-Vietnam levels overnight); or that more money would be well spent.
� Minnesota has slid to 47th among the 50 states in terms of increases in state appropriations for higher education for this year (The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 2004).

Did you watch the legere de main that occured in that sentence? "In terms of increases in state appropriations." That's not comparing levels of state appropriations for higher education on a per capita basis (we're 16th) or on a per $1000 basis (we're 25th, i.e., right at the median.) Source.
� Minnesota spends less per capita on higher education than Mississippi or Alabama (2003 Governing Magazine Sourcebook).

I'm sorry, but isn't that redneckism? Oh right, they're not a protected class. But seriously, what the hell is with all the comparisons to Alabama? Last I heard, they were still part of the U.S. The numbers, by the way, are Alabama $267.50, Mississippi $272.18, Minnesota $249.63. We're also much more populous states. Wouldn't one expect some economies of scale? California spends less than Alabama and Mississippi too ($253.59) -- think Gray Davis underfunded those schools? (Same source.)
� State appropriations for MnSCU this year (FY 2005) are $3 million less than they were in FY 1999. Since 1999, MnSCU�s FYE enrollment increased from 106,000 to 130,000, and cumulative inflation has been nearly 15%.

But what they don't tell you is that the growth in MnSCU is far more in the lower-cost colleges than the higher-cost universities. If you merge the two- and four-year colleges and try to gain efficiencies by using the colleges for first- and second-year students, wouldn't you expect to see some decline in appropriations?

And of course, the thing they really won't tell you is that what they are protecting with this discussion is a middle-class entitlement.

Glad to be of service! 

PZ was also at the Horowitz talk and wasn't happy with what Horowitz said. He also notes:
Students are required to read the Communist Manifesto several times during their undergraduate career, and there are no professors who give a different point of view. This was very surprising news to me. My son the economics major is always coming home with books by these guys named Smith and Hayek and Friedman and Galbraith and Krugman and Greenspan; I had no idea they were all lousy Marxists. Clearly the economics department at SCSU needs a severe dressing down, and maybe the commie who runs it needs to be fired�too left-wing.
My guess is PZ hasn't read Galbraith, because you wouldn't find a conservative thought anywhere in that book. And I do assign Krugman from his pre-NYT days when he was just writing good international economics. I appreciate PZ's affirmation of the intellectual diversity we provide his son (who is one of my students and whose intellectual curiousity and respectfulness shows evidence of good upbringing. Well done, sir!)

But to clarify: I don't think of Horowitz as much more than a bombthrower for the right. As he said last night, he doesn't want to install an Academic Bill of Rights by legislation; he believes it is something honest institutions of higher education would install on their own but might need a little prodding. For public universities like PZ's and mine, that prodding often has to come from legislatures because boards of trustees seldom have a Candace deRussy on them. The ABoR bill introduced today in Minnesota (link to follow when available), one can only hope, leads to university presidents hoping to improve their campuses in meaningful ways, by restoring intellectual diversity such as the book list PZ cites for us giving his son.

We're glad to do it. We only wish others would, too.

Two campuses, two talks 

I issued a call a while ago that the Badger Blog Alliance cover Ward Churchill's talk at Wisconsin -- Whitewater. Sean and Jib took me up on my request. Sean reports on a prayer vigil before Churchill's talk held by protestors.
For a prayer vigil this was the peppiest I ever attended. It was more of an act of defiance toward Churchill and the UW-Whitewater administration. There were cheers when Charlie Sykes and the other speakers pointed out Churchill's hateful rantings. There was a plan to walk silently to the University Center where Churchill would speak, but the College Republican who was to lead us got the crowd all riled up by having us thank everyone who put the event together. Solemnity gave way to passionate indignation.
Jib and Sean also have a few pictures of Churchill's supporters (just scroll through Jib's home page for several). As to the talk itself, the Milwaukee paper seems to indicate he spent most of the time repeating some old material defending his essay comparing 9-11 victims to little Eichmanns.

Meanwhile, David Horowitz spoke in strong terms at St. Johns. I went with Littlest Scholar, who mostly played with the card games on my cellphone. No signs were held up, but Horowitz' sharp criticism of peace studies programs as being helpful to the terrorists drew sharp questions and at least one guy issuing a loud f-bomb. An SCSU student who served in Iraq had the last comment, thanking Horowitz for the notice of peace studies and saying troops in Falluja as he was when Kerry called it "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time" were indeed demoralized by Kerry's words. Horowitz responded that it saps strength, and leads to military deaths. Aside the one rude student -- whose effenheimer was met with angry stares from many other students, including some whom I think agreed with him -- the crowd was challenged and challenging, respectful and respected.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

How could they tell the thesis was done? 

Just got back and have to be out again in an hour. I am going to try to get to St. John's tonight to see David Horowitz as I mentioned earlier. 8pm, Steven B. Humphrey auditorium. I heard Michele Bachmann on Hot Talk with the Ox this morning advertising the piece, and she asks Dan Ochsner if he's ever had me on his show?

I still do not get over hearing my name on a radio.

Well, if Ox had today, along with the other pieces of evidence of why the left is begging the right to pass the Academic Bill of Rights I could add this one from today, an invitation to a job talk.
Dr. So-and-so, candidate for the position in such-and-such, will be on campus for an interview. ... Prof So-and-so did his dissertation on Social Responsibility Activism, focusing on global social change.
I haven't read the guy's c.v., but I'm going to guess he didn't vote for Bush.

Has there ever been Social Responsibility Passivism, by the way?

Also, I notice that St. John's is not advertising Horowitz' visit.

A Rose for Cedar 

It's one of those days where I'm flying all over town, and I was letting Littlest Scholar use the laptop tonight to research her science fair project (on mold), so there will be little posting here until late afternoon. Meanwhile, a quick thought about Lebanon.

My grandmother and her younger sister ended up in a German orphanage in Beirut in 1910, after her father was killed in the massacres around Adana in 1909 and her family was driven from their farm. Nana liked Beirut very much. She left the orphanage to be a nurse on Marshal Foch's staff in 1917 (she said) and managed to stay in Beirut through the end of the war. Though she lived in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt, for four years and met her husband there, and lived in America from 1922 on, she always considered Beirut her place.

When the war in the 1970s began to blow up Beirut in slow motion, I was a college student and driving down to visit Nana from time to time, as my first wife and I loved talking to her. She watched the news on TV but would talk over it -- until the pictures of Beirut came on. "How terrible," she would say, "for this to happen to the most wonderful city in the Mediterranean." She had seen Cairo and Alex, Damascus and Athens, but none could compare to Beirut. "There were Europeans of all kinds there after the war," she would tell us, "and it was like living in Paris." And Beirut in the post-WW2 era was indeed very multicultural. Nana would watch the TV with pictures of blown-out buildings in Beirut, and she would cry.

If Rose were here, there's little doubt where she'd be.