Friday, April 29, 2005

In case I can't get back to this today 

I've been trying for six months to run some statistical estimation using a technique I'm damned unfamiliar with ("stochastic frontier regression", if you must know). If the potential answers weren't so interesting, I'd've quit before New Year's. About two weeks ago the 2% inspiration combined with the 98% perspiration and we're rapidly moving to the endpoint. Not to break the momentum, I'm focused on that and not the blog today.

It's the story of my life. A non-MOB economist based in Minneapolis writes how economics is helping his dating life. Be sure to get down to the comments, where Michael Munger's lovechild JMPP explains to Captain Capitalist how the Ball in Court Theory leaves you sleeping with, well, a tennis ball.

If I can get back, I'm dealing with this next. And then I'll explain how to drive women wild by saying the words "stochastic frontier regression" just so.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ideology as coursework 

Intrepid reader and sleuth jw sends a piece from that caught his eye.
A professor at North Carolina Wesleyan College (search) in Rocky Mount is defending her course titled, "9/11: The Road to Tyranny," which teaches that the official story of the 9/11 attacks is actually a government cover-up. According to one required text, the attacks were orchestrated and carried out by U-S government elites themselves. Professor Jane Christensen (search) insists, "I teach the truth about 9/11 ... This is a war by the extreme right wing motivated by the Zionists to quash academic freedom." So what does the school think about all this? Well, its President says, "We don't tell professors what to think. We don't tell professor what to teach. ... that's what [Saddam Hussein] did."
Jon Sanders of the
Pope Center, who writes a column called "Course of the Month" of which I'm a fan, has much more detail in this piece a couple weeks ago on FrontPage. As FrontPage's David Horowitz says, how can you get a full education when they're only giving you half of the story?

Branching out 

Matt Abe, author of Minnesota Education Reform News, has decided to branch out with a new blog, North Star Liberty. He writes me that "It will be more of a general public policy and politics blog than Scholar's Notebook, which I want to keep focused on education." I've tried this dual blogging thing and it didn't work for me. Good luck, Matt!

Yeah, I saw that too! 

I saw the ad in this morning's paper, and then sawPsycmeistr's post on an ad that is being published in the St. Cloud Times after an incident here a few weeks ago in which a man was rendered unconscious and eventually died after tangling with a bouncer at a local nightclub. The ad seeks potential plaintiffs from other people who may have been injured at "a local bar". Psycmeister writes that
I have called this law firm (got the answering service after hours) to voice my utter shock and disbelief, and I plan on calling them again tomorrow. After seeing this ad, I will never again listen to trial lawyers complain that they have an "undeserved" reputation that places them just below pond scum (with apologies to any pond scum I may have offended in this writing).
I think that's painting with far too broad a brush, but I do think this particular -- and local! -- law firm deserves a little heat from others. In particular if you were a personal injury lawyer, I think you'd want to call them and suggest they pull that ad as it's in extraordinarily poor taste.

UPDATE: While getting a haircut later in the day, I heard that someone is driving around with a car spray painted "Justice for Justin", Justin being the deceased victim. The back window of the car, according to this same person, says "Red Carpet Kills."

Enjoy your fifteen minutes, pal 

Remember when we reported on this guy who calls in on a city cellphone to a talk radio station to support Ward Churchill? At a recent rally in Boulder supporting Churchill, he's now becoming a cause of his own.:
Glenn Spagnuolo, the Longmont city worker who is being investigated after a phone call he made in support of Churchill, told students to stop worrying about Paris Hilton or about marijuana bills.

"This is bigger than me and Churchill," he said. "Don't sit back and wait for an invitation to the revolution. Riot about something real, like Ward Churchill."
I encourage the city of Longmont to give Mr. Spagnuolo more time to "riot about something real".

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Are we smart enough for Social Security reform? 

I just got back from class, where I talked about an article that covers a survey of economic literacy done by the National Center for Economic Education. The paragraphs that caught my eye, given a discussion about Social Security reform (and this article):

Other analysts said they thought that the findings added to a growing body of evidence that the typical American is poorly equipped to take advantage of what proponents call the ownership society: a future in which individuals are free to invest their own retirement money, rather than having to accept the returns offered by the Social Security program or a group retirement program at work, like a pension plan. Many surveys have shown the public has doubts about the Social Security program, with young people, in particular, confident that they could do better by investing on their own.

Yet even their concern is poorly informed, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, a nonpartisan research organization that is financed by companies and labor unions. The institute's own research showed that fewer than 20 percent of workers thought that Social Security would be their primary source of income in retirement, even though Social Security is currently the primary income source for more than two-thirds of retirees.

William Polley points out that this is a misleading piece.
Is it realistic in the current environment with 401(k) plans, IRAs and so on, to expect that the number of future retirees (current workers in the survey) whose primary income source will be Social Security will equal the portion of current retirees who rely so heavily on Social Security? I don't think so. Now, do I think there will be as massive a shift as the survey implies? Of course not. Would a shift be a good thing? I think so. This story just doesn't give me enough information to say any more than this...

Mark Thoma is skeptical that the shift will be enough. It comes down, as we said in class today, to questions of myopia, and how people respond to incentives. It is like a game of chicken: Individuals are more profligate when they expect they can compel others to pay for their profligacy. If baby boomers think they can always force the political system to redistribute income to them in retirement, there is little incentive to save more. Can a democratic system that has old-age pensions ever commit to the "tough love" of telling profligate sixty-year-olds that they must lie in ill-appointed beds of their own making as pension reform occurs? These folks hope so.

More on academic freedom committee at SCSU 

As I reported yesterday, we made a committee, to which I've been elected, to study academic freedom at SCSU. I posted the blog comment to a faculty discussion list, and the only reaction I got came from Scholar Jack:

Faculty have become interested in academic freedom in the wake of David Horowitz (who I have always found an interesting guy; does anybody else on campus remember Ramparts in the 60�s?) and Ward Churchill.

But we have earned academic freedom precisely to the degree that we have created a climate of genuine freedom of thought for our students. And that climate
is measurable precisely to the degree that we have tolerated the least acceptable student beliefs, attitudes and assertions. I�m guessing, given campus philosophy and politics right now, the least acceptable student beliefs are those of conservative Christian students towards homosexuality. To the degree that we have tolerated, even respected, those students and their beliefs, and to the degree that we have worked to protect those students from the faculty who have chosen to discriminate against them, we have earned our own right to academic freedom. To claim we own a right we�ve denied to others is hypocrisy and others, such as legislators, will quickly see our claims as silly.

An example of not earning it is currently underway at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire (the Flying Pigs!), where, according to FIRE, a new policy forbids any group that supports a �particular ideological, religious, or partisan viewpoint� from receiving student activity fee monies. Of course this results from previously having been found discriminating against a conservative paper and students wanting to use volunteering for religious groups to satisfy their community service requirement. Their understanding of "viewpoint neutrality" was to stop all funding for any group that has a viewpoint.

It's unclear if an Academic Bill of Rights would prevent a policy such as UWEC's, but obviously it should. The goal is more speech, not less.

Stupidity at another SCSU 

I think this student is a little full of himself, but at Southern Connecticut State, Edward Bolles was kicked out of a class for writing satire about globalization. Alexis Zoberg reports on FIRE's Torch:
Bolles, who is pursuing his master�s degree in creative writing, wrote a satirical poem for his poetry class titled �Professor White.� In it, the protagonist, Juan Diego, becomes sexually involved with the fictional professor�s college-age daughter (named Snow White). Professor White fears that the relationship will corrupt the �purity� of Juan�s Hispanic heritage, and after being accused of racism toward Mexicans, Juan is sent back to his farm in Mexico, his racial and cultural identity thus �saved.�

Bolles, whose political views frequently clashed with those of his professor, wrote the fictional piece as a commentary on globalization, and admits he was poking fun at the �anti-globalist ideology� of his professor, Kelly Ritter. Ritter was so �disturbed� by the poem, which she felt was about her and her daughter (who is three years old), that she called the police after reading it. Bolles arrived at the next meeting of class only to be escorted out of the building by SCSU officials. He was told he could not return to the class until a psychiatrist had evaluated him, allegedly because of the threat of sexual assault that he (vis-�-vis his satirical poem) posed.

As soon as the piece became public, of course, the administration of that SCSU caved in and returned Mr. Bolles to class. (They of course say it was handled in the usual way.) What was brilliant about this, however, was Mr. Bolles' means of getting publicity. From the first Washington Post article,
Bolles began publicly protesting the university's decision Monday, wearing a "Save Professor White" shirt and handing out fliers on campus.
Zoberg reports there were buttons and pens handed out as well.

Questioning a reading 

My NARN colleague Scott Johnson has a post about the experience of Southern Illinois University, where a history professor teaching a course titled "Civil Rights and Civil Disorder" used this article from FrontPage as a source for describing the Zebra killings in San Francisco in the 1970s, an example of black-on-white violence. The article included a link to a site of an anti-Zionist and perhaps antisemitic group called the European and American Issues Foundation. (I reviewed their site -- it's sufficiently disgusting to me that I will not provide the link.) The professor distributed photocopies of the article to the class through his graduate assistants. Apparently in an effort to keep the copying to two pages, the URL of this group was deleted.

Because FrontPage did have the link, the leftists in this professor's department published a letter and an ad which denounced the faculty member for his poor editing, and more.

The professor abridged it in a way that disguised its full context and photocopied it for his teaching assistants to distribute.

The article is distorted and inaccurate. It quotes questionable sources without documentation, uses unsubstantiated statistics and repeats inflammatory rumors. Its combination of falsehood and innuendo presented as objective historical commentary seems designed to take advantage of those who may not be trained to analyze sources critically.

Big Trunk reports in an update that the letter writers now say they are only concerned about "the use of improper sourcing and not whether or not he had a right to distribute the article." Clearly from the letter provided above, they are backpedalling. One of the signers went further and called the original piece "white supremacist propaganda."

This is why it is important, whenever and wherever it appears, that faculty challenge attempts to limit their academic freedom. That is why it's important, whenever and wherever possible, to publicize incidents like this. The main point of the article was the nature of the Zebra killings and the seeming presence of a black nationalist ideology in its perpetrators. The issue of the link is a sideshow at best. What they are more concerned about is this "taking advantage of those who may not be trained to analyze sources critically": What they mean is, those whom have not yet been indoctrinated by the leftist majority in SIU's history department.

Frontpage provides additional coverage.

I wonder why 

...our local women's center is not sponsoring or organizing a Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day this Thursday for our campus? When the sons were not included, they did.

Mitch in a different hue 

Mitch Berg will be sitting in for Hugh Hewitt tonight. Other NARNies may be around, but I have dress rehearsal for a play I'm in (along with aforementioned Mrs. and Littlest) so I will be absent, and I'm not sure what the order of appearance of others will be. Thank God for Radio Replay -- I'll be up late with the ol' aircheck.

Bragging on my girls 

I'm entitled to a little vanity post once in a while, right? Mrs. and Littlest are mentioned in a story in the St. Cloud Times on cooking with kids. They have taught cooking classes for community education for the last four years. Once in a while, Dad gets to help, particularly when they decide to do a Mediterranean cooking class.

Alicia and the wolf 

There was an incident at Trinity College that turned out to be a hoax.
A black student at Trinity College has confessed to sending racially charged hate letters to minority students at the Illinois institution -- mailings that sent the campus into turmoil and led to the temporary evacuation of the letters' apparent targets.

The student, Alicia Hardin, 19, said she had perpetrated the hoax because she wanted to transfer away from Trinity and hoped to convince her parents that the campus was unsafe, Lt. Ronald D. Price, of the Bannockburn Police Department, said on Tuesday."

Alicia wanted to go to Jackson State, where she has some friends. An LA Times article on the same subject quotes someone from the district attorney's office:
Whatever happened to getting a doctor's note to avoid school, or just saying you don't want to go? There's got to be an easier way to get out of college than to bring in the FBI.
What would make you think that was true? Since any such threat will be taken so seriously, and university officials will go to such extremes as evacuating any minority student, why wouldn't you do this? It's precious little different from the student who calls in a bomb scare at lunchtime because the big bad macroeconomics midterm is at 2pm.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A committee on academic freedom at SCSU 

My university's faculty union is forming an Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Freedom. I have sent my name into the union as a candidate for a seat on the committee, on the basis of the old line about keeping your friends close. I am 0-for-1 using this blog for campaigning for academic positions, and I suspect I'll be 0-for-2 after this afternoon's vote, but herewith is a message for the faculty senate.

Dear Colleagues,

This committee's genesis was a motion to discuss Ward Churchill's status at the University of Colorado (vid. the minutes of Senate meeting of 22 February) but which quickly became a concern over Senator Michele Bachmann and Rep. Ray Vandeveer's bill (SF1988 and HR2164) titled "Free Speech for Faculty and Students Bill of Rights." The IFO's lobbyist, Russ Stanton, sent an email forwarded to the faculty here on March 4 titled "Bachmann bill on "Academic Bill of Rights" which urged faculty to
1) wait until they see what legislation is introduced (we don't want to appear like we are going off half-cocked), and 2) speak out against portions of the legislation, if any, that threaten academic freedom, but 3)keep their arguments against the legislation temperate, factual and well reasoned.

I've read the legislation, and I've spoken out against it, but it's not for the reasons that Stanton, or those who've argued against it on our discussion email list -- itself a threatened venue for free speech -- and in faculty senate. There is a problem on this campus as there are in many places in the American university.

Much fulmination from the left on college campuses has focused on David Horowitz, whose work led to the creation of the Students for Academic Freedom, a group that has pushed academic bills of rights around the states. Horowitz is undoubtedly an agitator, and I believe he knows it. Nonetheless he makes a strong case for ABoR yesterday in describing his treatment at the University of Hawaii -- a school at which Ward Churchill received a hero's welcome. Before his public lecture he went to a reception at the political science department.
The first thing I noticed was that the Chairman's office door was adorned with a large Anti-Iraq War poster. I have made a personal campaign against such political statements on professorial offices. Students go to these offices for counseling. Such partisan statements create a wall between the professor and the student who it is his or her professional responsibility to help. They serve no purpose but to vent the spleen of these tenured individuals who are apparently so frustrated as to be unable to maintain minimal self-discipline in the presence of a captive audience students who -- if they disagree with the statements -- have no choice but to suffer them. I asked Jamie, who is a senior and whose father served this country in the military, if
he had ever taken a course with Professor [and Chairman Johnathan] Hiller. When he said no, I asked him why. He pointed at the sign.

... While I was standing in the outer office with Jamie, I noted a man looking nervously at me. His expression was conflicted as though he had an obligation that he absolutely did not want to perform. I knew immediately it was the department chairman, Professor Hiller. I should interject at this point, that though I myself am a partisan figure and not a professor and therefore have no obligations to students in my charge who may disagree with my politics, when I invite liberals or leftists to events that I host I make a special point of welcoming them and protecting them from attack. Sometimes a conservative in my audiences will not be able to contain their distress at the presence of a political opponent and let their hostility be seen. In those cases, I go out of my way to reprimand such individuals and to defend my guests and make them feel comfortable.

I didn't let Professor Hiller suffer in his quandary long but went right up to him, gave him a reasonably warm smile and said "I'm David Horowitz," and was about to put out my hand when he retorted, "I'm one of the liberals on your list." What he meant was my McCarthy list. The left was at first non-plussed with having to oppose a campaign for academic freedom, but has recovered itself to put on its accustomed mantle of victimhood and claim that the attempt to defend students from political harassment is actually a witch-hunt against their political views. Not very clever, but effective nonetheless.

Of course the Academic Bill of Rights begins with a defense of their right to their political views, but facts are no obstacle when you are the educational establishment and media is accustomed to being your echo chamber. The actual blacklist in this university as others is instituted by the faculty. There is only one conservative in Professor Hiller's department, of course, and it was he who was pointing the finger at me. (Not to mention the campus leaflet attacking me as a rightwing demon.)

...But my tone did immediately change in response to the professor's insult and I said, "Well, since you've dropped the hammer, how come you put political propaganda on your office door where students come to you for counsel? What would you think if I were a professor in this department and put up a sign on my office door calling peace protesters traitors?" 'You're not a professor in my department," he said testily. "Of course not," I replied, "and I couldn't be one since liberals like you have instituted a blacklist against conservatives like me." That was the end of our conversation.

Jamie and I left the outer office and walked about twenty feet to where the Political Science Department had reserved the room where the professors were to meet with me. On the wall outside the room and just to the left of the entry door there was a poster, which had a picture of me next to Joseph McCarthy. Very subtle. And very thoughtful of Hiller not to take it down.

Ask yourselves: How many of our doors are walls to discourse with students who hold different views? I've seen one or two. There's nothing illegal or even unethical about these expressions of opinion, but they do not create the kind of campus our students deserve. A bulletin board in my department's hallways became at one time a virtual shouting match between faculty who disagreed ideologically. What kind of message are we sending with this, I thought. I've been impugned by one of them for taking all the materials off that board, as if I was somehow stifling someone's free speech. But it's a public board in an academic department wing, a department for which I'm responsible as a chair. My students deserve professionalism in faculty offices, and I've tried to give it to them.

The Ad Hoc Committee's charge is to develop a working definition of academic freedom. The problem is that we have one -- faculty working with professionalism towards each other and towards students -- that we toss away. We have policies and processes already, there is no need for any more. We have procedures for investigating academic misconduct. Those are working through the Ward Churchill case now in Colorado, and we can have some confidence that they will work towards a conclusion that shows whether or not Prof. Churchill met his professional obligations as a tenured faculty member. If I am elected to this committee, I will work simply to assure that we not only treat all faculty as professionals, but that we also expect no less of each of us.

This requires a massive cultural change, in my view, of the faculty. How many of us stick out a hand in greeting to those with whom we disagree? Many in fact do; I have many friends on this campus who vote differently than I do. I hope they're reading this. I hope they will agree that Professor Hiller's reaction to Horowitz was unprofessional. I hope they'll agree that a diversity of intellectual views on unsettled questions is the sort of thing that should happen on a university campus, and that that is what our profession stands for.

Because that's what this is about. The reason a faculty union should have a committee on academic freedom isn't to protect their own rights to free speech but to build a better university. It is up to us to do so, because the students cannot and the administration will not (and this cantankerous, adversarial union wouldn't let them if they wanted to). I don't like SF1988, and I don't want it to become law. But what I do want is a hearing of stories like Horowitz' and students like Jamie.

Senator Bachmann will have hearings on her bill soon. If you have stories like this and are anywhere in Minnesota, she needs to hear from you. So do we as faculty. We need to know where the walls are constructed between us and students, between us and knowledge, between us and truth. You need to tell your stories. And at the end of the day, we need as faculty to say convincingly to the public that we understand we have sometimes failed to act in a professional manner, and that we will double our resolve to protect the academic freedom of all faculty and all students on our campuses.

Because if we don't, the public will remove the privileged status we hold, and it will be future generations that will reap the whirlwind of lessened intellectual inquiry.

I am resolved to be part of that solution, and for that reason I want to be on this committee.

UPDATE: Shows what I know. I was unopposed for my college's seat.

"Culture is left" 

Lead editorial in today's Wall Street Journal comes from Thomas Sowell, who says it isn't race or racism holding back America's "black rednecks". Citing examples such as the Guinier-Gates study of the background of black alumni from Harvard Law School, he notes what the difference is:
There have always been large disparities, even within the native black population of the U.S. Those blacks whose ancestors were "free persons of color" in 1850 have fared far better in income, occupation, and family stability than those blacks whose ancestors were freed in the next decade by Abraham Lincoln.

What is not nearly as widely known is that there were also very large disparities within the white population of the pre-Civil War South and the white population of the Northern states. Although Southern whites were only about one-third of the white population of the U.S., an absolute majority of all the illiterate whites in the country were in the South.

The North had four times as many schools as the South, attended by more than four times as many students. Children in Massachusetts spent more than twice as many years in school as children in Virginia. Such disparities obviously produce other disparities. Northern newspapers had more than four times the circulation of Southern newspapers. Only 8% of the patents issued in 1851 went to Southerners. Even though agriculture was the principal economic activity of the antebellum South at the time, the vast majority of the patents for agricultural inventions went to Northerners. Even the cotton gin was invented by a Northerner.
This extends over generations, Sowell adds.
As late as the First World War, white soldiers from Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi scored lower on mental tests than black soldiers from Ohio, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania. Again, neither race nor racism can explain that--and neither can slavery.
What does explain it is culture, as the settlement pattern of whites in America was geographic in nature, "and they differed as radically on the other side of the Atlantic as they did here--that is, before they had ever seen a black slave." It is not a problem of the availability of educational opportunities any more that holds back those places, as "redneck culture" erodes over time -- though, Sowell argues, it's much slower in the U.S. than say in Britain, and he allows that Southern whites have had more opportunities for education than Southern blacks -- but that the culture is allowed to continue.
The counterproductive and self-destructive culture of black rednecks in today's ghettos is regarded by many as the only "authentic" black culture--and, for that reason, something not to be tampered with. Their talk, their attitudes, and their behavior are regarded as sacrosanct.

The people who take this view may think of themselves as friends of blacks. But they are the kinds of friends who can do more harm than enemies.

Monday, April 25, 2005

My, aren't we obtuse?!? 

Sometimes I think economists are their own worst enemies. In discussing Alan Greenspan's recent comments on China's exchange rate policies -- in which Greenspan argues that the peg of the RMB to the dollar is coming off sooner rather than later --Nouriel Roubini shows he has great lungs in creating the following single sentence:
Leaving aside that Martin Wolf and others happen to strongly agree with my views on not biting the hand that kindly feeds you, what is more important here is that, reading carefully the Chairman's remarks, one notices that the Fed has finally realized - and is repeating quite closely - what Brad Setser and I have been saying for a while (see for example here and here and here), i.e. that the Chinese exchange rate and forex intervention policy is leading to major financial imbalances in the Chinese economy, i.e. difficulties in fully sterilizing the forex intervention leading to excessive monetary and liquidity creation that is potentially inflationary, and that is thus exacerbating the financial and investment bubbles and misallocation of economic resources that risk causing a Chinese hard landing; and that is thus in China's interest to move its peg sooner rather than later for internal balance reasons.

One of my undergraduates was equally confused by this article in this morning's WSJ in which Mary Kessel quotes Stanford economist Ronald McKinnon:
Mr. McKinnon argues that if China lets go of its fixed exchange rate of 8.28 yuan to the dollar "that won't reduce its trade surplus," with the U.S. and other countries. "It's an illusion that it would," he says.

Mr. McKinnon reached that conclusion after tracking the experience of Japan's currency in the years following World War II as the yen moved from a fixed-rate to a floating-rate currency. Like China, Japan set its currency-exchange rate to the dollar during its early period of rapid expansion. Like China, Japan was heavily export-oriented. Like China, Japan's economy expanded an average of about 9% a year while it kept its currency's peg in place.

Mr. McKinnon attributes much of Japan's success during the first two postwar decades to its exchange-rate peg, which kept prices for tradable goods from fluctuating wildly, allowing Japanese companies and consumers to plan spending and take manageable risks.

In 1971, however, U.S. inflation spiraled out of control and Japan was forced to move to a floating-exchange rate. The yen strengthened to 80 to the dollar from 360 to the dollar during the next 25 years. The yen's appreciation was at least supposed to fix Japan's trade imbalance, by making imports less expensive. But the imbalance stubbornly remained -- partly because of Japanese savings habits and partly because as Japan's trading partners put political pressure on Japan to push the yen higher, asset bubbles formed, then burst, and the economy slumped. In other words, a stronger currency may give Asians more buying power, Mr. McKinnon says, but it doesn't mean they will spend more.

This conclusion, that a change in currency-exchange policy may not predictably influence spending habits, challenges core modern economic models. "It's a widely held theory by respectable economists, but it's a widely held false theory," Mr. McKinnon says. "And that can lead to very poor policy making."
My student asks how this is possible? "Does this mean that the Japanese still bought domestic goods even though they had become relatively more expensive, and, or did foreign countries continue to buy japanese imported goods even though they had become more relatively more expensive?" The answer is of course that a large trade wall, in the form of interlocking merchant associations and retailing laws that favor small vendors and domestic supply chains, have hindered the ability of American firms to compete there ... but the same could happen in China. I recall living in Ukraine and at first jumping for joy if we found Polish products on the shelves, for we knew they were better than the domestic stuff. By the time I left, barely a year later, Italian and Greek products dominated the more upscale grocery shops. In that case it was simply building the supply chains up. In the case of Japan and China, there may be more legal barriers in place.

Kash is concerned that revaluation will have major repercussions on the U.S. -- "I have in mind actions similar to those taken in 1998 as the LTCM affair was unfolding" -- but I think this is overblown. According to the Treasury, Chinese holdings of US Treasuries is under $200 billion. (Japan has 3.5 times as much.) They may hold some U.S. currency, but that is largely for liquidity purposes and not to be sold off on forex markets. Unless you think the selloff would be more than half this number, it's hard to believe the volumes overwhelm those experienced during the LTCM wind-down. In other words, there will be an effect to floating if the Chinese decide to do so, but it's manageable.

Twins chump change 

Over at the Sports Economist, Phil Miller reports on the possibility of a new stadium for the Twins, to be paid in part by a 0.15 sales tax surcharge. Phil quotes from a STrib article:
Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, and House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, both said on Saturday that they would support the proposal.

"This is a very workable plan because it does not require any state general fund money," Johnson said. "Three cents on $20 falls out of most people's pockets before breakfast."

So it's workable because the state doesn't have to pay for it. It's workable as well because the city's residents don't get to vote on it, with only a government official saying they would "keep the public's involvement as reasonable as possible." Governor Pawlenty says only that he needs to see the details.

They tried this before, in St. Paul. There they voted, and the voters said no.

As Phil also points out that, since the bonds would be issued generally by the municipality and backed by sales taxes, they would be tax-exempt. This guarantees that Hennepin County will get a lower interest rate on the bonds; the extra cost is transferred to the federal government in lost income tax revenue on interest payments. Like many stadium deals, this one is a massive transfer to Pohlad or his successor, leveraging a $125 million investment into a $468 million stadium. We'll wait to see what the details are, but betting on taxpayers getting the better part of this deal is like betting on Shannon Stewart throwing out anyone at home plate.

Chad the Elder succumbs to the siren song of OPM. (Though please do not malign the movie of the same name: There is a scene of the back of Penelope Ann Miller walking upstairs that still causes shivers, and the stockholders meeting clip is one of my favorites.)

UPDATE: They don't like market economies around Fenway either, as John LaPlante points out.

MOB Road Show -- time to plan 

Last month I broached the idea of a MOB event away from the Cities. Some argued for Mankato; I obviously prefer St. Cloud. I will put up a poll here for MOBsters to vote between those sites. If you have a preference for a third place, please indicate so in the comment box.

Where shall we hold the first MOB Road Show?
St. Cloud
Somewhere else

Free polls from

AAUP reports out Cumberland 

MOBster Douglas Bass has found that the AAUP agrees with him on the firing of Robert Day from Cumberland College. Go there to read the details of the report; Douglas has been tireless in pursuing this case for 16 months. While Professor Day has had to move on from Cumberland, the administraiton remains, and its president tells AAUP that it doesn't care what AAUP thinks.

cf. Inside Higher Ed.

Friday, April 22, 2005

They'll have me to kick around some more 

I'm back to the airwaves tomorrow. Included on the show will be Eric Holmes of Winning Iraq and Steven Vincent of In the Red Zone.

Gotta run to class, so see you tomorrow, but first one quick link: Michael Munger has a lulu from Duke.

The academics of peace 

I got a note from the Center for the American Experiment, where the e-Pluribus project has morphed into Foundations for Active Conservative Thinking. They report on one example of bias on American campuses:
According to the MSU, Mankato website, last week�s �How to Stop a War� conference was designed to explore the �consequences of the Iraqi war.� The conference was sponsored by the Kessel Institute, which is an official program of the university�s Department of Sociology and Corrections. Topics discussed at the conference included, "U.S. Impact in Iraq: Anything but Liberation," "The Ravages of War," and "Organizing Against War: Reflections of a Peace Activist." Speakers at the conference include MSU students and faculty members, and representatives from such groups as the Minneapolis Welfare Rights Committee and the Minneapolis Anti-War Committee.

The so-called �peace� conference was nothing more than a lopsided political attack on the war in Iraq. Apparently, university officials don�t believe that toppling a tyrant like Saddam Hussein or the successful free elections recently held in Iraq are worthy of discussion at a conference about the consequences of the war. The exclusion of speakers to provide perspective on those alternative points of view is proof positive that debate and open discussion are dying ideas on campuses dominated by one political ideology.

Here's a link to the Women's Studies page for upcoming events, from which the program is pulled. Catch the very last line (I'm putting this here in part because the press release of the event has been taken down by MSUM.)

How to Stop a War, Kessel Peace Institute's Annual Conference
April 14th, CSU 294
Kessel Peace Institute's Annual Pathways to Peace Conference: How to Stop a

1. Education about Iraqi War
8:30 - 9:30 The Iraqi War.

"What Has Happened in Iraq - A glimpse of US Policy from the other Side".* Samir Saikali, Associate of MSU Muslim Student Association
"U.S. Impact in Iraq: Anything but Liberation." Dr. Jacqueline Vieceli, MSU Dept. of Political Science

9:30 - 10:30 International Views the Iraqi War.

"A Muslim Perspective"*. Arafat El-Bakri, Associate of MSU Muslim Student Association

"Mars vs. Venus? The Transatlantic Rift over Iraq. Dr. Tomasz Inglot, MSU Dept. of Political Science

10:30 - 11:30 Impact on the U.S.

"Social Costs for Americans" Michael Wood, Welfare Rights Committee, Minneapolis

"The Ravages of War" Farheen Hakeem, Anti-War Committee, Minneapolis

11:30 - 12 Lunch

II. Is War Moral?

12-1:30 Local Spiritual Leaders Panel

Father Tim Biren - Catholic Newman Center
Rev. Dawn Carder - First Presbyterian Church
Rev. Pam Serdar - Centenary United Methodist Church
Rev. Dean Wolf - Centenary United Methodist Church
Sr. Gladys Schmitz - School Sisters of Notre Dame
Bhante Sathi, Buddhist Monk, Meditation leader
Dr. Hamid Sallan, Islamic Prayer Leader

III. How to Create Social Change to Stop War

1:30 - 2:30 "Organizing Against War: Reflections of a Peace Activist" .

Marie Braun, Women Against Military Madness, Minneapolis

2:30 - 3:30 Veterans for Peace Panel, Chapter 27

3:30 - 4:30 "Role of the U.N." Jay Shahidi, U.N. Refugee Committee

IV. Keynote Speaker

6:30 - 8:00 "The Future Lessons on Past Empires". Martin Lee Meenagh, D.Phil.MSt, MA (Oxon) Oxford Tutor and Lecturer.

*in conjunction with the Islamic Awareness Week.

Osama bin Laden could not be reached for comment.

If you knew the family...'d know that Jim Knoblach can finance his own campaign. The Knoblach family foresaw the retail center that the west end of St. Cloud has become before damned near anyone else; this depiction of Jim as a "small businessman" is humorous to those of us on the n-th ring. Both of the western candidates, Knoblach, and Jay Esmay, have access to some serious money if they want it.

As I've warned before, calling Jim a darkhorse could make one look pretty foolish. If Bachmann stubs her toe too many more times, she could find herself looking up in this race.

Which wand for you? 

Reader jw (who is being petitioned to join this blog) has found a copy of Richard Lamm's excellent essay, Two Magic Wands. This was published in the latest issue of Academic Questions, but I hadn't had time to scour the internet for a good copy. Here's the intro to the essay.
Let me offer you, metaphorically, two magic wands that have sweeping powers to change society. With one wand you could wipe out all racism and discrimination from the hearts and minds of white America. The other wand you could wave across the ghettoes and barrios of America and infuse the inhabitants with Japanese or Jewish values, respect for learning, and ambition. But, alas, you can t wave both wands. Only one.

Which would you choose? I understand that many would love to wave both wands; no one can easily refuse the chance to erase racism and discrimination. But I suggest that the best wand for the society and for those who live in the ghettoes and barrios would be the second wand.
Read the whole thing and ponder which wand you prefer.

I see purple 

John Palmer tells us another story in the continuing saga of purple pens.

I began using purple pens to grade exams and term papers many years ago. The reason was simple: students often used red, blue, black, and even green ink to write their answers and especially to draw graphs (with copious multi-colour line shifts). I wanted a colour that was different from theirs, ...

How long will my purple pens be distinctive if more teachers are using purple in grade school and high school?

A sure sign that purple is becoming more popular: Cross markets a purple refill (for their Ion pen), and other refills are also available in purple as well.

His students are more colorful than mine, who seem to think I can follow IS-LM-FE shifts without anything more than a prime here or there. (Can you tell I'm grading exams today?)

UPDATE: Race to the Right offers a longer essay from a student's view.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Posters of the academic left 

Phil, noting my Summers post yesterday, reports on a meeting room.
...last week, my colleagues and I held a economics faculty meeting in the Sociology Department's conference room, complete with a big poster of Che Guevera on the door. I would have preferred a poster of Milton Friedman, George Stigler, Gary Becker, or Adam Smith. But the local Wal Mart had replaced their posters with posters of Jessica Simpson (or was it Lisa).

My office has a rather leftist poster of its own, along with messages of despair. But I can't avoid this one.

Summer is coming, and my photo shoots of "doors of academics" is due for a new edition.

Consolidating student debt 

There are a series of articles this week out about Now is consolidating student loans before interest rates go up. Rates are currently very low on Stafford and PLUS loans, but will be readjusted to the rate on 91-day T-bills on the last auction in May. That could be 2% higher interest rates than currently.
Consolidate by June 30, and students who graduate in 2005 can lock in today's 2.875 consolidation rate for as long as 30 years.

That's slightly higher than the rock-bottom 2.77 percent Stafford loan rate for in-school students and those still in the six-month grace period after graduation. But that slightly higher rate is fixed for the life of the loan and saves more than $4,000 on the typical $20,000 Stafford loan repaid over 20 years, according to Sallie Mae, the largest source of U.S. education loans.
The Chronicle of Higher Ed (subscriber link) reports that loan companies are showing up at bookstores to allow students an opportunity to pick up a consolidation loan with their cap and gown.

And the deals may get worse, as Congress is tinkering with the laws that allow for consolidation loans, coupled with an industrial policy action to forgive loans for those who get degrees in math, science or engineering. In short, by making all loans variable rate, Congress would remove the benefit of being able to lock in low rates. And it's not a fairness issue, since one can lock in anytime -- you can simply wait for a favorable rate.

More information available from SmartMoney.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Viva Summers! 

Now this is cool.
No communist revolutionaries were harmed in the making of these T-Shirts.

Nice judge 

The person who has been asked to head the committee investigating the tenure process at the University of Colorado is a retired Air Force general. According to a bio in a WGBH interview in 1999, he was the head of military operations during the Bosnian operation, an F-4 fighter pilot with 169 combat missions, and a deputy chief of staff for operations for SAC during the Gulf War. Just the kind of guy Ward Churchill will want heading a committee that will look, inter alia, into how he got tenure.

Service learning? 

Faculty sometimes will use their classes to forward political positions. Here's a case from Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point professor John Munson sent an e-mail from his university account in November to students urging them to patronize non-smoking establishments and collect signatures to put an anti-smoking referendum on the ballot.

In exchange, he wrote, the students would get up to 1,500 extra credit points.

Although the referendum lost at the polls by 1,000 votes on April 5, a group of bar and restaurant owners called "Be Fair" is continuing their civil lawsuit against Munson and the university.

The group is asking for a ruling declaring that Munson, a professor of health promotion and human development, illegally used his classroom for political advocacy, which is barred for state employees. The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages.

...The subject line of the e-mail, which was included in court documents, is "Volunteer Opportunity to make a difference in the Stevens Point Area 1,500 Points Extra credit/Community Service."
Should this suit succeed, it would be an important victory for those who think politics needs to be out of the classroom. It might also stop the behavior of some administrators, as Stephen Karlson notes.
The service learning scam has not afflicted the economics curriculum, although from time to time the university sends around a memorandum inviting faculty members to get involved in its own service learning initiatives, many of which (not surprisingly) encourage students to engage in (approved forms of) unpaid activism for college credit.

Lighten up 

The lead article in today's Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers link) discusses a group of 30 university presidents who are concerned about diversity in programs of in mathematics, science, engineering and technology. They want to address the problem of minority students failing too many introductory classes in these fields.
Several of the presidents blamed what they called 'weed-out courses' in the early stages of undergraduate education for driving disproportionate numbers of minority students out of math- and science-related fields. Freeman A. Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, said that even those minority students who go on to earn bachelor's degrees in such fields often are too discouraged by the difficulty of the experience to consider pursuing a graduate education.

They 'don't go on, quite frankly, because they have not done well as undergraduates,' Mr. Hrabowski said. Colleges should do more to get such students 'excited about the work,' he said, and should not be afraid to take steps such as urging students to repeat introductory courses in which they received grades of C or lower to ensure that more-advanced classes do not leave them feeling overwhelmed.

Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, was among those who suggested that colleges should rethink their reliance on rigorous introductory courses to ensure that prospective science and mathematics students can handle work in those fields. "Just because we have always done it that way does not mean that is the way it has to be done," she said.

Several college presidents and administrators on hand suggested that earning Advanced Placement credits in high school may have unintended negative consequences for students, minority and otherwise. The speakers said that, as a result of earning such credits, many students place out of introductory courses that they could handle easily, and go straight into more-advanced classes without adequate preparation, earning poor grades that leave them discouraged.

The alliance covered several topics about diversity in the sciences, but the article's focus on AP was quite enlightening. Are we to believe that minority students might be getting easy AP credits? Or is the message that college faculty in the sciences might be expecting too much? Or what?

UPDATE: Reader jw notes additional discussion at FIRE's Torch.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A university run by infants of faith 

An interim assistant vice president for faculty relations here sent out an email last night to the campus discussion list, in which he defends the CARE initiative that was discussed by Dick Andzenge's column last week.

We would like the university to embrace our perspectives, and invite everyone to consider what we have learned together and what we are finding out. However, it is clear that the basic idea of institutional racism is not understood by everyone and, indeed, not embraced. ...

As I understand it, imperfectly, the idea that racism is institutional shifts the perspective of racism from individuals to the systems that inform and motivate individuals. We are not just shaped by nebulous motives and unforeseen forces but persuaded to be who we are by the machinery that reproduces our society. This shifts my thinking away from the idea that I am personally evil for being a racist, although I am responsible for changing racist acts and attitudes, the structures and systems that grind people up as those systems reproduce themselves.

Racism exists. It is not simply a subjective thing. It is embedded in the institutions that reproduce themselves to serve the ideas and beliefs of the people who created them, and as exploring history shows us the people who created them did not take into account the humanity and needs of people of color who were either brought to our country to serve others or who where were indigenous and lost to superior force of arms and economics. ...

Seeing racism from an institutional perspective sees it not as a personal or subjective problem but as something deeply embedded in our lives and, therefore, in our institutions. Seeing racism in this way shifts our emphasis from blaming individuals and attacking our friends and colleagues to focusing on the strategies that we can all share to transform a system that denies everyone their humanity.

Someone made the point to me in a private email that about 50 people on this campus have a vested interest in "fighting racism", and that an inability to find concrete examples of it threatens their jobs. They therefore rely on the canard of "institutional racism" without any offer of proof so that their paychecks continue to roll in. Scholar Dave pointed out in an email to the author that if you can't measure your success, if you can't determine when you've reached your goal of eliminating racism, you raise these suspicions.

But the language of the essay -- of which I've clipped probably a third -- indicates a worldview far different from my own. "The machinery that reproduces our society" chews up "people of color" or those "who were indigenous and lost to superior force of arms and economics..." which leads his anti-racist self to a desire to focus "on the strategies that we can all share to transform a system that denies everyone their humanity." That it is depersonalized absolves him of the burden of proof but leaves him the right to compel others to his vision of transformation. It transforms the world as something outside himself, yet still permits him to power to control it. What faith does such a person hold in his own powers!

How fitting then that this person sends this within the same day that Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, issued a homily to the assmebled College of Cardinals, as noted by Hugh Hewitt yesterday.
More precisely, according to the Greek text, we should speak of the "measure of the fullness of Christ," to which we are called to reach in order to be true adults in the faith. We should not remain infants in faith, in a state of minority. And what does it mean to be an infant in faith? Saint Paul answers: it means "tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery" (Eph 4, 14). This description is very relevant today!

How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking... The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching," looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.

However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an "Adult" means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth. We must become mature in this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - which creates unity and takes form in love. On this theme, Saint Paul offers us some beautiful words - in contrast to the continual ups and downs of those were are like infants, tossed about by the waves: (he says) make truth in love, as the basic formula of Christian existence. In Christ, truth and love coincide. To the extent that we draw near to Christ, in our own life, truth and love merge. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like "a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal" (1 Cor 13,1).

We seek at a university to search for truth, in small boats powered by faith and reason. Our university is run by people who are indeed "tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery." And the greatest trick is to hide their trickery behind the banner of anti-racism.

It's the economic policy, stupid! 

There was much hubbub yesterday over one of Paul Krugman's less vitriolic columns, concerning whether or not we are experiencing stagflation. Kash at Angry Bear for example is concerned about market volatility and the bad news bears of the financial press. Dale at Q&O does a nice job dissecting Krugman's use of statistics to try to make the picture look worse than it is, and William Anderson catches Krugman's unrepentant Keynesianism, but still, a 7% decline in the stock market over six weeks is something over which you should have some concern, along with William Polley's concern on the ten-year bond yield. The absence of commentary from Luskin should tell you plenty.

Today the better answer, one I've been thinking for awhile, comes from Brian Wesbury in this morning's WSJ (link for subscribers only): Market hate uncertainty. And goodness knows there's been a lot coming from Washington.

The 2003 tax cut, which reduced tax rates on capital to the lowest level in decades, continues to fuel economic activity as evidenced by the surge in business investment, profit growth and dividends. The real fed-funds rate remains near zero, even after seven "measured" Fed rate hikes. Corporate and household balance sheets are in good shape, and entrepreneurial activity is vibrant.

While retail sales were weaker than expected in March, they are a volatile data series that has disappointed on at least five different monthly occasions in the past two years. Removing the month-to-month volatility, non-auto retail sales are up 7.5% at an annual rate in the past six months -- a very strong showing.

Markets are rarely surprised by shifting economic tides on such short notice. Policy shifts, on the other hand, are a different story. For example, following the election in 2004, markets got a nice boost as the odds of pro-growth fiscal policy increased dramatically. But this boost is evaporating as it now appears that fiscal policy is adrift. While the House of Representatives voted to eliminate the estate tax last week, it offset this potential positive in the previous week by voting to slap a tariff of 27.5% on all Chinese imports. And in the Senate, a train wreck is looming.

Democrats have filibustered many of the president's judicial nominees and are now using other procedural methods to block his picks to head the FDA and EPA. Republicans are frustrated by this, and are contemplating a "nuclear option." The Democrats have threatened to retaliate. No matter what your view is of these developments, gridlock could easily worsen. And while gridlock is typically a good thing in Washington, there is potential that partisan wrangling could hold up progress on dealing with long-term issues. Momentum toward personal accounts in Social Security has seemingly stalled, as has any vote on the extension of the 2003 tax cuts. Energy policy, even with $50-oil and $2.50-gasoline, remains moribund.

It could be even worse than moribund, given developments in Congress that Ben Lieberman highlighted yesterday.

In short, the problem is Congress and economic policy. There has been significant concern that, while fiscal policy probably needs to be more restrictive, government is unlikely to do anything in that direction. The Bush Administration has been blessed little help: Please tell me what is Bush economic policy right now. I can no longer really say. The loss of momentum on tax cuts that Wesbury cites is the direct result of the singular focus on saving the Social Security plan, which as Ed Crane pointed out is wrongheaded to begin with.

Intensified fighting over the nuclear option and filibuster rules only compound the problem. As long as Senate Republicans continue to dally over forcing a vote, markets will continue to be uncertain whether the tax and regulatory plans Republicans proposed in the 2004 election will come to fruition. The response to that uncertainty is to slow investment and big-ticket purchases.

Wesbury notes:
The current environment is best compared to the early '80s, not the mid-'60s or '70s. In the early '80s, fears such as those recently expressed by Mr. Volcker were widespread. But the consistent move by the U.S. toward global freedom and pro-growth policies at home eventually won the day. Interestingly, by fighting inflation, Mr. Volcker was part of the solution to stagflation in the early '80s.

And if we are going to move forward now, the Fed has to get more serious about fighting inflation, and the Bush Administration has to learn that economic policy is about more than private accounts. It could get serious right now by naming an inflation hawk as the new Fed chair to replace Greenspan at the end of the year. Getting that nomination confirmed would reduce market uncertainty, buoy stock markets, and might even firm the dollar.

Hugh didn't get it, either 

The University of Colorado appears set to have former senator Hank Brown as the interim president. In the linked article from The Chronicle of Higher Ed (subscribers only),
Mr. Brown's name was originally proposed for the University of Colorado job after Ms. Hoffman announced her resignation, in March, but he withdrew from consideration after state Sen. Peter C. Groff, a Democrat from Denver, questioned his commitment to diversity and affirmative action. But Senator Groff later said he would not oppose Mr. Brown's appointment as interim president, the Associated Press reported.
So I guess former president Elizabeth Hoffmann did have that commitment, which expressed itself in a stellar football program.

Hugh Hewitt could not be reached for comment.

Monday, April 18, 2005


There were many contenders, but Scholar's Notebook provides the winner from George Gilder.
If government could create jobs and raise children, socialism would have worked.

Matt proceeds to enumerate many bills at the state legislature on education reform that he hopes stay in the dark recesses of the SOB.

Gotta run: after you finish Matt's piece, catch the Warrior Princess' report on the proceedings of the Ann Coulter event last weekend at St. Thomas, apparently another bastion of campus free speech.

Free speech forum doesn't illuminate 

The university had a First Amendment forum addressing campus free speech and hate speech on Friday. I was away obviously, but I got my own Kubby to look in, since we were forewarned that the campus nutballs still upset at the local newspaper for having the audacity to allow anonymous postings where someone was confused enough to think a male Homecoming Queen could have some gender identification issues. This did not happen, and our intrepid reporter thought it was because the nutballs were over the moon for Robyne Robinson instead, who was on another panel that afternoon. OK, that I get.

The Times pretty much ignores the story, but the campus newspaper reports that we had visits from the usual suspects, including our friends from Homecoming:

Fue Khang, student government cultural diversity chairman, spoke about his recent experiences with hate speech after being elected homecoming queen.

"People didn't know the facts," Khang said. "They just assumed-- nobody asked."

Bianca Rhodes, vice president of student government was asked to be on the panel by Khang. She said people should understand and be educated about other cultures.

"Fue never stated that he was gay. He was dressed in drag; it's a different culture," Rhodes said.

If you can tell me what that means, please use the comment box.

Judging from the coverage in the campus paper, there were more people against free speech on the panel than for it.

Bad advertising 

A student writing for the University Chroniclereflects on his choice to attend SCSU:
Maybe I had an unrealistic view coming into college, because my experiences here haven't been all that great. I've been involved in many activities, made a lot of buddies, went to parties, etc. I've done all the things that most college students do, except maybe fail a course.

I expected, though, to come to college and have my mind blown away, meet people who would challenge me and change my views drastically. But that never happened, and I'm kind of disappointed.
I don't know the author of this letter, but if he comes from a normal family background, the fact that his views weren't changed drastically will come as a disappointment. But then, why should that be the goal? Challenging students is fine, but drastically changing the student is a goal only for those seeig entering freshmen as reprobates in need of change, beginning with student orientation.
If anything, I became the 'odd ball.' I've lost count of the many times I've been insulted, called 'ignorant, stupid, jackass' and many more that I won't list. Unlike most people, I blame myself for this occurrence.
Which means, frankly, that this place got to him more than he thinks. We can't blame the victim, so rather than a serious inquiry of who is to blame we teach students to reflexively blame themselves.
I refused to change anything about myself to fit in, or make someone else feel 'comfortable' or 'happy.' I suppose I'm not a team player, and maybe college is about team work.
Boy I hope it's not about being a team player. It might be though, because we have an administration that views teamplay as more important than leadership; we have instructors who place feeling above thinking; we have student government that places its own power above concerns for all students. Fitting in is valued above all else, as this fellow learned.
Do I regret coming to SCSU? The answer is no. ...But if I knew today what I did three years ago, would I have still come to SCSU? No.
And this is in the student newspaper. Will anyone from the university respond? If so, on what basis?

Note to GVSU College Republicans 

I received the following notice on the campus' announcement email list:

Dear faculty and staff:

In commemoration of Equal Pay Day, the Women�s Equality Group will be holding a

Pay Equity Bake Sale
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Show your support for pay equity and enjoy a variety of treats by supporting the Women�s Equality Group.

For more information, you can review this website:

Can you do this at your school? Did your own campus feminist group? Is only one side of the debate allowed to hold bake sales?

On what principle do you stand?

Perhaps you should change your names to All-Student's Equality Group. Or maybe just learn from the results of those of stiffer backbones at Northeastern Illinois, or William and Mary.

You are welcome to post comments and make excuses. You are welcome to say you changed your mind and that your erstwhile president disagreed with you and resigned, and that you were meet and right to change your minds. You can even say, if it is true, that you never gave your erstwhile president permission to hold the sale, as you seem to have tiptoed around this point.

Your behavior is nonetheless craven; your defense of your faculty advisor is nonetheless sophomoric and sycophantic. And you are worthy of not a minute more of my attention.

Blogging opportunity costs 

OK, so here was my choice Friday. I could sit inside a Starbucks and blog at $6/hr., I could try to sit outside across the street by the Albuquerque convention center and blog for free but with so much sun I couldn't read the screen, or I could go golfing in the glory of northern New Mexico.

Not much of a choice. Especially when dinner in Santa Fe beckons as well. So off I went.

Trying to catch up here at the office after meetings all morning and extending for most of the afternoon. More in a few hours.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Too busy right now 

I'm at the Western Social Science Association meetings in Albuquerque and haven't had time to respond yet to the rash of comments from Grand Valley State CR's (campus rescinders? cockamamie Republicans?) ... but be assured I will. One sentence: The cause of campus free speech is greater than the cause of the viability of a campus political organization. Those who make the trade off do not deserve our praise for protecting their viability.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Use of inputs depends on their prices 

One of my students pointed out this story on how much energy China uses to produce things, and with it comes pollution.
University of Alberta political economist Wenran Jiang calculates China spends three times the world average on energy -- and seven times what Japan spends -- to produce $1 of gross domestic product. It also is far more inefficient than nations like Brazil and Indonesia. "China needs to shift from a high energy-consumption model of development to a green model," says Hu Angang, director of Tsinghua University's China studies center.

Chinese steelmakers on average use about twice as much energy as Japanese or Korean rivals per ton of output. Only 5% of the country's office and residential towers meet China's own minimal energy-conservation standards. China's waste has big implications for global oil prices: In 2004, China imported 2.4 million barrels per day. By 2030, the U.S. Energy Dept. estimates China will have to import 8.4 million bbl.
But why is this a surprise? I use an example in principles of manhole covers. There are two main locations for production -- India and Michigan. There are also two very different methods for their production, one much more labor-intensive than the other. Where do you think the more labor-intensive one is used? India, of course, because labor costs less there.

Now, what is the cost to the Chinese steel manufacturer of the oil they use? Do they face the world price? If they are a state enterprise, the cost of energy is a cost to the state budget, not to the steel plant manager. It will not matter much if they waste energy.

If it's the second Wednesday must be Dick Andzenge day at the St. Cloud Times. Dick is easily the best writer of the Times local writers group, and he takes on the latest bout of diversity training at SCSU in this month's essay.
History has shown the ability to control and mistreat other groups is never limited to numerical strength. Minority groups have been known to use economic, military, bureaucratic and educational power at the expense of the majority. In the United States today, certain minority groups control various resources and therefore control significant aspects of society. In fact, there are many key aspects not controlled by the traditional majority.

To perpetuate this misconception on our university, the curriculum creates a false premise, first by presenting teleological definitions and then applying them in a way that is supposed to justify the claims.

Without defining the races, the claim is that systemic power functions to favor whites over people of color. Social institutions are represented in a six-stage continuum: (1) exclusive segregated, (2) passive, (3) symbolic change, (4) identity change, (5) structural change and (6) fully inclusive. The goal is to progress from segregated to fully inclusive. Our university is said to be between Stage One and Two. Stage Two � the passive stage � is said to include:

  • Intentionally maintaining white power and privilege through policies, practices, teaching and decision-making.
  • Limiting tolerance for people of color with "proper perspectives and credentials."
  • Secretly limiting or excluding people of color, in contradiction to policy.
  • Often declaring, "we don't have a problem."
...With the efforts made at the university and the sacrifices made in policy changes, resource allocation, affirmative action, curriculum change and training, the suggestion St. Cloud State is near Stage One should be insulting to the university.

All of this raises an important question: What is the real agenda of diversity education at the university?

While the training deceives the university community about who has power, there is strong evidence that some minorities, or people supposedly speaking for minorities on campus, have assigned for themselves the power to control thought and speech, especially that of white people on campus.

Just last month, the chair of student government's campus affairs committee demanded and received from university administrators a promise to remove a plaque honoring white settlers whose bones were unearthed during the construction of the library. The plaque, in part, said:

"We honor the memories of the first European families to settle in St. Cloud whose remains were discovered on this ground in 1999. Let us remember the undocumented valor and pioneering accomplishments which set the standard in the mid-19th century for the community's proud history."

The student leader pushed for its removal, claiming its wording could offend Native Americans. Supporters of anti-white sentiments on campus have joined efforts to remove favorable references to white settlers.

On the same day the University Chronicle reported this racist bigotry by minority elements on campus, the St. Cloud Times reported two jury findings in Milwaukee and New Orleans that police departments and district attorney offices discriminated against whites.

The claim only whites can be racist is dangerous and sets St. Cloud State on a path of an eventual expensive collision with the criminal justice system.

Public choice theory for faculty unions 

The university has been searching for almost two years for an affirmative action officer, and it's trying again. The faculty union is soliciting members to the search committee. In its email today:
The election will be by Preferential ballot at large. The person with the most votes from each college will be appointed. The replacement scheme to ensure diversity will be used to replace the person from their own college. If any of the six positions remains open, they will be filled with the top vote getters.

I include the replacement scheme we use to ensure diversity.

All searches shall have at least one female and one minority member from the FA on the committee. If through the election process no female is elected, then the female with the highest vote total shall be declared an elected representative to serve on the committee. If no minority is elected, then the minority with the highest vote total shall be declared an elected representative to the committee. In no case shall the only female representative be replaced by the minority candidate nor shall the only minority representative be replaced by the female candidate.
Didja get that? In other words, if a minority member isn't the top votegetter in a college (there are six) they will invalidate the result and put a minority member on the committee. Ditto for women. And if a college doesn't nominate someone, some other college gets two seats. Moreover, the union uses preferential voting with an open list, which would be good except for this problem of bumping aside candidates who are to be replaced by females and minorities. By bullet voting, the hard core of the union's left wingers can force a center-right member of a committee down the list and then have them bumped by a female or minority member. This fairly well stacks the deck.

This rule isn't just for affirmative action searches, by the way. They use this for any university-wide search.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Read it anyway 

Deacon at Powerline (I'm not sucking up, guys, really) notes the anti-Israeli tone of the third Arab Human Development Report released last week. I agree with Johan Norberg, however, that the reports by and large have been very good in emphasizing that economic freedom and democratization are far more important for the development of the Middle East.
The real problem in the Middle East, of course, is not the only democracy in the region, it�s the fact that it has been the only democracy. Don�t take my word for it. The Palestinians agree. According to the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, 59 percent of the Palestinians think that their biggest problem is poverty/unemployment or the corruption and lack of reform of the Palestinian authority. Only 31 percent think that Israel�s occupation is the biggest problem.

Saddam was at least honest enough to call his country socialist. It's a sign of what's needed to turn things around. The AHDRs can serve as a blueprint to what needs to happen next.

"his wrist may not register the slap" 

The president of Columbia University has announced new grievance procedures after the committee investigating the Middle Eastern Studies department had filed its whitewash report. An article in this morning's Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers only) reports that the president of the student body and a representative of the David Project, which filmed some of the problems at Columbia, think this is an improvement over what was there. But the Project posted yesterday a sharply critical review of the whitewash.

The report is deeply flawed. It considered only three incidents of professors� harassing students, yet we know of many, many more. It invokes a sort of �professors� omerta� to intimidate dissenting professors, upbraiding whistleblowers who helped students report abuse. The committee turns the tables on the complaining students, giving weight�without any proof�to claims by MEALAC professors that pro-Israel �outsiders� invade classrooms to hector them. Professor Joseph Massad�s colleagues judged him guilty of inappropriate conduct, but chide him so gently��his rhetorical response to her query exceeded commonly accepted bounds�­�that his wrist may not register the slap. At the same time, the committee carefully avoided mentioning the racist screed of Professor Hamid Dabashi, who writes in Al-Ahram that Israelis suffer from �a vulgarity of character that is bone-deep and structural to the skeletal vertebrae of its culture.�

Yes, the report admits the administration was insensitive, even antagonistic to students who complained that anti-Israel professors harassed them. And yes, it found that students have no effective way to register complaints. But the committee reduced what is a major academic scandal�the use of podium as pulpit for an exclusive viewpoint�to only these narrow bureaucratic foul-ups.

Meanwhile, PowerLine has another report which details the whitewashing of Massad by the New York Times. All the better to soothe his wrist, though it doesn't appear he needs it.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Opportunity costs 

From the fine Badger State comes a story of a perpetual student.
"I could have, should have graduated many years ago, but I keep passing on the real world's invitation," said (Johnny) Lechner, 28, who is in his 11th year as a student in the University of Wisconsin System, the last 10 at UW-Whitewater. He's taken a full course load every semester except the current one, in which he's taking seven credits.

Lechner has completed 234 college credits, about 100 more than needed to graduate and so many that he's now paying the so-called "slacker tax."

In the University of Wisconsin system, students who exceed 165 total credit hours or 30 more than their degree programs require -- whichever is higher -- pay double tuition....

"I've fallen into some sort of a comfort zone here," he said. His middle-class parents pitched in financially for the first two years. Now he owes $30,000 in student loans but otherwise pays as he goes, using money earned as a waiter at the Janesville Olive Garden.

...Pressed as to why he's still in college, Lechner says, "It's the lifestyle. It's being laid back, going with the flow. If I had a better answer, I'd tell you."
In 11 years he's down only $30k? That's not too bad if you think about it. If you think about a demand curve, there's somebody up there on the upper left-hand part of the line. Mr. Lechner, we salute you for having so low an opportunity cost of staying in college.

And I like faculty who are succinct 

I am very, very, very tired of people who "use critical thinking." I prefer students who "think."

From The Cranky Professor.

What happens when academics lose trust? 

If you've followed the story (we discussed it here) of the Columbia University report, you know there is a backlash. Paul Mihrengoff, "Deacon" of Powerline, shows that the backlash will consume any ability for academics to govern themselves:
If a professor becomes grossly uncivil, a student can complain, but only to a committee that probably would be unable to adjudicate the matter while the student is still under the professor's dominion. And if the committee did resolve the complaint, it likely would accept the ludicrous half-defenses offered by the likes of Professor Saliba, excuse misconduct based on such technicalities as the location of the building where it occurred, or (if all else failed) fall back on the 'warmth' of the offending professor.
So what will be the likely outcome? Students will find it themselves increasingly tempted to take differences within the classroom to litigation.

We should be very concerned as academics; we have only ourselves to blame.

Post no bills 

Douglas Bass reports that a faculty member, who is on the steering committee of a "Center for Justice, Tolerance and Community," has been Belief removing flyers for a campus talk by a researcher for the Palestinian Media Watch, a group that reports on anti-Israeli articles in the Palestinian press. Douglas quotes another article thus:
They hung up posters and flyers on Monday night, March 7. By 10:00 AM on Tuesday, March 8, the posters had been removed or defaced - with Nazi swastikas and anti-Israel slogans.

A UCSC student who helped in organizing the Marcus event on campus saw a woman removing one of the flyers. The student told me that the woman was UCSC Professor Nancy Stoller, listed in the campus directory as a community studies professor and a steering committee member of the UCSC Center for Justice, Tolerance and Community. The student said Stoller admitted to that she removed at least two flyers (the student eyewitness also said she saw other flyers with torn edges in Stoller's hands). The student said Stoller told her she found the flyer offensive but that she had, "left enough around."
Douglas links to a history of censorship at UC Santa Cruz, and says this is one reason for an item in the Academic Bill of Rights which prohibits "obstruction of invited campus speakers, [and] destruction of campus literature." Indeed.

We need to require economics at SCSU 

Not that I have enough faculty to teach them all, but at least we could stop the student paper from making no sense on the minimum wage.
The last minimum wage increase was in 1997. Since then, inflation has caused increases in housing, food, transportation and the cost of living across the board.

To afford many of these necessities, some minimum wage workers have been forced to look for secondary sources of money, often times including government subsidies or multiple jobs.

While the proposed increase doesn't seem like much, the boosted minimum wages could help some people become more self-sufficient or allow college students to concentrate more on their studies.
OK, let's think for a minute. Costs have risen across the board for everyone, not just those on the minimum wage. Nobody is arguing for an increase in everybody's wages, so why just the minimum wage people? Second, saying you don't want to look for secondary sources of money like government subsides means that you'd rather make McDonalds give you more in return for nothing extra, rather than taxpayers. That is not self-sufficiency -- that's deciding to rob those private businesses that hire unskilled labor rather than the public.
Because of high costs of living, some college students are forced to work up to 40-hours a week to make ends meet in minimum wage positions, taking away valuable time that could be better spent studying or furthering an education.

By increasing the current minimum wage to $5.90, a student who normally would work 40-hours a week could cut back to 35-hours a week. The fewer hours could allow time to keep up on class assignments, take another class or catch a breath.
And given more time, how much more studying do you think students do, rather than using the extra time for recreational pursuits? That must be what "catching a breath" means.
Low wages also put students in a position where they need to rely on financial aid and student loans to not only pay their tuition bill, but pay for housing, insurance and other non-school related expenses.
Low wages also put you in a position to economize on your living choices. Perhaps if you didn't have access to these loans you and your parents might have saved more when you were still a child.
To lessen the burden the state government pays out in higher education and income-based subsidies, the Minnesota House would be wise to consider approving the minimum wage increase.
"To increase the burden retail outlets and restaurants pay out to teenagers, the Minnesota House would act like Leviathan if they consider approving the minimum wage increase." TANSTAAFL.

Grand Valley State followup 

Both of the principals in the Grand Valley State case have left comments. Here is Prof. Leidig's rather heated denial of the Grand Rapids newspaper story, and here is ex-GVSU College Republican president Kyle Rausch's reply. David Beito and John Rosenberg comment on the story on their blogs -- we appreciate the linkage.

Relatedly, see Beito, KC Johnson and Ralph Luker's essay on academic freedom on the History News Network today.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Some people just don't get it. 

There is a most hysterical set of emails coming on our campus announcement list today. Some woman has decided, because it's National Poetry Month, that she would "announce" a poem each day, the poems to be requested by other members of the campus. This is an improper use of the announcement list (you'll recall we have a discussion list too) and some faculty take it upon themselves to be the 'use police'. One of my regular readers did so today, and has gotten great umbrage from those who think he simply dislikes poetry. The line of the day goes to someone who posted this in response.
Just calm down, it�s Friday and the weather is beautiful. You need to relax, do something, take a deep breath, sit down, & fart if you have to.

And he posts it ... on the announce list.

I'm quite relaxed just now, but my colleagues are feeling olfactory stress...

We have met the enemy 

So a guy calls a talk radio show to defend Ward Churchill. He says that the investigation of Churchill is ""un-American". And he says that while he would prefer peaceful change, violence "one option that is completely available to us and I have honestly not taken off the table." Not a terribly pleasant fellow, I guess, but that's his right in America to express those views.

Just one problem: He used a city-owned cellphone, as he works for the city of Longmont, Colorado. The city is investigating him now, and the fellow has retained Churchill's lawyer.

They seem to be arguing about who called who -- the city worker is a longtime supporter of Churchill's and the article has a picture of the two together in February -- but it's not clear that this is the problem. I have a personal cellphone that I use for anything that is not university-connected. I think it's a bit silly to have an investigation of this guy, but he clearly violated the rules.

(H/T: jw)

Unionizing teens 

Target stores are not unionized. The United Food and Commercial Workers (an AFL-CIO member), who've long attacked Wal-Mart, are now setting their sites on Target.

Union organizers in the U.S. and Canada have accused Wal-Mart of using force and intimidation to prevent organized labor from forming a beachhead in its stores. Last month, Wal-Mart said it would close a store in Jonquiere, Quebec, where 200 workers were close to winning the first union contract at the retail giant.

Yet officials with Local 789 say Target, like its larger competitor, does not pay its workers enough to live. Workers at the company's stores in the Twin Cities typically make $7 to $10 an hour, according to informal wage surveys done by Local 789 of employees that have left the company. Less than half the company's workers are covered by Target's health insurance plan, the union estimates.

Thornton-Greear could neither confirm nor deny these numbers.

"The only difference between Target and Wal-Mart is that Wal-Mart is six times their size," Hesse said. "Target was once the darling of the state, but now they've adopted Wal-Mart's business model and are in a race to the bottom as far as wages and benefits."

The union is urging local residents to voice their opposition to the city of West St. Paul's decision to grant Target $731,000 in tax-increment financing -- in which the retailer does not have to pay taxes on the increased value of the site created by its conversion to a SuperTarget. As part of the deal, Target has agreed to create 19 new jobs at the SuperTarget.

"You can do the math," Hesse said. "That's $38,000 a job for a company that does not need monetary incentives to renovate its stores."

I'll agree that this is not a good candidate for TIF, but if the city of St. Paul is handing out the TIF candy, you can't blame Target for sticking out a hand to have some. As to the "race to the bottom" and the wages these jobs pay, the Night Writer -- from whom I found this story via email from Chad the Elder -- explains what these stories are about.

Her starting pay for her first ever job: $7.25 an hour. (Well above the minimum wage, by the way, but that's a post for another day).

No health benefits, but this wasn't an issue since (as much as she may hate to admit it) she's still a dependent and is covered under the benefits from my (non-union) job. She liked the flexibility of her part-time hours and says she thought the 401k plan was nice but not something she was interested in (her immediate goals were saving for her education expenses).

She was there to make some money, not to make a living, and I'd say she found her exploitation acceptable and a fair exchange that fit her current needs and interests - and probably those of many of her co-workers. Target understands this and offers whatever market-based wage and benefits package is required to attract employees. The key word there is "attract" employees, inferring that these workers are happy to accept the jobs rather than take them by force, which seems to be the attitude of the union.
It's silly really. Only 6.1% of retail workers are in unions or represented by them. Full-time workers in unionized retail outlets make $560 a week on average, while those not in unions average $507. That's a good difference but less than half of the $130 difference between union and non-union wages for all private sector workers. But, that's only full-timers, which most workers in a Target are not. And importantly, unionizing Target probably costs jobs Night Writer's daughter Faith her job, as the union would use rules that increase the number of full-time jobs and destroy the starter jobs that teach Faith and other teens the values of being on time, courtesy and serving customers.

Self-serving faculty advisors 

In a bizarre turn of the series of stories we've seen on "affirmative action bake sales", David Beito reports that this one takes the cake. A faculty advisor decides to go Quisling against his advisees, the Grand Valley State University College Republicans. The students who tried to organize the bake sale were dismissed from their posts in the CRs, and have been sent to Turkey to join Trotsky. The putschists say "There was outside advice, but the group made the decision on its own," and that the group wants to "apologize for offending and move on."

The group's faculty advisor, Professor Paul Leidig, happens to also be the chair of the county Republican Party. And the deposed student leader of the CRs, Kyle Raucsh, clearly fingers him as the guilty party.
Leidig said he advised the students to consider a leadership change to acknowledge they respect the fact people were offended by the bake sale.

"They do not feel they violated any section of the student code," Leidig said.

Rausch said he was planning to make a case at Friday's review for why the group had the right to hold the bake sale.

"The university recognized the fact that as long as I was in the driver's seat, I was not going to back down," Rausch said.

"They used the Republican Party to force me out and got the group to apologize for something they never should have apologized for.
David Beito has written a letter to Prof. Leidig and says you should too. You might also want to write to the local Republicans, because this guy was a delegate to the 2004 Republican Convention.

UPDATE: FIRE has sent a letter to GVSU president Mark Murray. You can too. See also Peter Gordon, Charles Nuckolls, and more from David.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

"Following the path of truth ... is never impossible." 

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko delivered a rousing speech to a special joint session of the U.S. Congress yesterday. He began by drawing a comparison between the American and Orange Revolutions.
Mr. Speaker and Mr. President, honorable Senators and House Members, ladies and gentlemen, on the wall of this great building, there is the Latin phrase E Pluribus Unum, which means "Out of many, one."' This motto reminds the world about the American Revolution, the starting point of the modern world's history of liberty.

My road here went through the orange-colored Independence Square that became known as Maidan. Millions of people standing there continuously repeated it: "Together we are many, we cannot be defeated." This motto of the Ukrainian Revolution is a reminder of the fact that freedom continues to win. Ukraine is opening a new page in the world's chronicle of liberty in the 21st century.

These two mottos have a lot in common. They speak to the strength of our peoples that comes from unity. They speak of the victories of our peoples in their struggles for freedom.

He ended with specific steps the U.S. can take to assist Ukraine's transition.

Step one, dear friends, we want to bury the Cold War relics of the Senators and House Members. I am calling upon you to waive the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. Please make this step towards Ukraine. Please tear down this wall.

Step two, the new Ukrainian Government has on an unprecedented scale opened the Ukrainian market, dramatically reducing customs restrictions. In return, we expect the United States to cancel their restrictions that apply to Ukrainian goods within the U.S. market. I am calling upon you, ladies and gentlemen, please make this step.

Step three, the nonrecognition of a market-based economy status for Ukraine is an anachronism. Ukrainian producers are deprived of the rights enjoyed by their competitors. The time has come to restore fairness. Three days ago, Ukraine has officially requested the U.S. Government to grant market-based economy to Ukraine, and we are requesting that you make it happen by the fall.

Step four, by November of this year, Ukraine must become a WTO member. I would encourage you, in the nearest months, please support our WTO accession.

Step five, we invite the United States to during this year involve all political, financial, and technological resources to erect a new shelter over the destroyed reactor of Chernobyl power plant. I would ask the Congress to support virulent programs.

Step six, we want to see more Ukrainian students learning in U.S. universities over the next 5 years. I would encourage the Congress to finance such educational programs for Ukrainian students.

Step seven, Ukraine has agreed to waive visa regime for United States citizens. I would request the U.S. Government to, in the speediest possible manner, make a reciprocal step in relation to Ukrainian students, politicians, and business people.

Step eight, on behalf of Ukraine, I would ask you to include it in the list of participants of the Millennium Challenge program.

And to close he returned to the opening theme, "Razom nas bahato -- nas ne podolaty!"
John Fitzgerald Kennedy took an oath before the whole world by saying, "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty." I am subscribing to these words on behalf of Ukraine. This authority was given to me by my fellow countrymen who endured days and nights in bitter cold and snow on the Maidan. Ukraine is free and will always remain free. Citizens of Ukraine gained their freedom due to their courage and support of friends and proponents of democracy across the world.

In these days I want to recall one of them, Pope John Paul II, who said, "Following the path of truth is sometimes difficult, but never impossible."

We have embarked upon this road and will never step away from it. Together we are many, and together we are not defeated.
There wasn't a dry eye in my house watching that.

Screw you, whoever you are 

Reader JW sends along the case of a faculty member having a mini-meltdown having a mini-meltdown at Colorado State-Pueblo.
The incident occurred toward the end of a class, when Forsyth announced a pending campus talk by U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo.

Victoria Watson, the student who made the complaint, accused Forsyth of talking about "lazy, bitter Mexicans who don't deserve to be here."

Watson, whose father is from Mexico, said when she got up to leave, Forsyth said, "Screw you."

Forsyth has denied her allegations. Interviews with other students found no one to verify Watson's allegation that Forsyth had referred to Mexicans as "lazy."

According to a copy of the investigative report, other students described Forsyth's behavior and tone of voice as "enraged, belligerent, screaming, upset, lively, angry and passionate."

"There was general agreement that Professor Forsyth was pounding on the desk, waving his arms or slapping the copy of the immigration booklet while he was speaking," the report stated.
So Professor Forsyth blew a gasket, but nobody could be found to say it was a racist gasket. Still, for some that wasn't enough. A faculty member was quoted as calling university president Ron Applbaum racist. An exchange of emails to the campus ensued, quoted in the Rocky Mountain News thusly:
� Excerpt from a letter to the community from Colorado State University-Pueblo President Ronald J. Applbaum: "Unfortunately, some individuals would use the terms, racism and racist, loosely in a pejorative framework to express their disapproval of anyone making decisions or expressing social or political perspectives which are inconsistent with their own. However, saying it's so doesn't make it true no matter how many times you repeat the same expressions."

� An excerpt from a response from David A. Sandoval, a professor of history and Chicano studies at CSU: "My prediction is that before it is over there is going to be physical violence on this campus, just as it happened at East High School every year for a number of years (where racial tensions bubbled over in the 1980s). And you will be responsible because of your failure to do what was right. . . . If it sounds as if I have no respect for you, that is true. I lost respect for you when you failed to remove a racist from the classroom and subjected a student to a continuation of a very bad situation."
$1 will get you $6 that Sandoval is tenured.

Prof. Forsyth has called in his lawyer. Prof. Sandoval, no doubt, will argue that this intimidates and is an abrogation of his academic freedom. And you wonder why some are pushing legislation to address free speech on campus?

A proud graduate 

SCSU alumnus Jim Reed has says that student government is a 'nuisance'.
I'm glad to see that Kimball and others in the SCSU student government are learning the tactics of politics. Not only do they push through and approve meaningless referendums (MSUSA Dropped, 12/3/03,) the president of our fine student government, who originally opposed the idea, gets elected to the same organization from which he supported withdrawing.

Another notable effort the student government has supported include removing a monument on our campus because it doesn't appeal to the letter of the social law we learn in the mandated HURL classes. Then there are the Christmas decorations that are offensive. Also, the student organization's budget fiasco (Finance Committee Resigns, 2/28/05) certainly seems to have student government's dirty fingerprints on it.

Kimball and the rest of the SCSU Student Government are both a nuisance and a joke to the university.
Thankfully the end of the year comes soon, along with a new student government. Perhaps it's the short time horizons, and the fact that most of the damage done is visited on the campus after they leave, that causes most student governments to act so adolescently.

Feeling a pull 

Scholar Jack drops a note to us this morning:
I just heard that Jane Fonda, radical and sexpot who made me think many embarrassing thoughts as I watched Barberella again and again, has become a born-again Christian. Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
Well, she's not exactly born again, but I guess Ted Turner does have his uses.
Surrounded by people she respected and cared for who also were practicing Christians, she began to explore her spirituality. She had had periods of feeling guided, of things in her life happening for a reason. And once she began exploring how Christianity helped to explain such things, she felt religion's pull. She was born again. (Though over time, as she understood fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, she felt it was not quite right for her, as a feminist. She now prefers to call herself simply a Christian.)
I doubt the topic comes up when she visits Eve Ensler.

UPDATE: Maybe there's hope for Katrina vanden Heuvel as well? Prof. Blogger hopes so. Rumor has it some NARNies fish in the MPR pond...

I'm happily married, thankee.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Support Lebanon 

I was on the phone this morning with a woman of Armenian-Indian heritage asking about the environment of her mother's life in Egypt. I told her that while my grandmother was there (1919-23) it was fine, but she actually like living in Beirut better. That reminded me of an email I got yesterday from Jim Hake at Spirit of America.
We are supporting the pro-democracy demonstrators at the "tent city" in Martyrs' Square. The tent city demonstrators are the center of gravity for Lebanon's pro-democracy movement. They put together the massive demonstrations with 1.2 million people a few weeks ago. They represent all religions. This is "people power" at its best - peaceful, purposeful and focused on the right goals and ideals.

As go the demonstrators, so goes Lebanon's independence. And so goes a great opportunity for democratic transformation of the Middle East. They need our help to sustain their struggle.

We are raising support for them (food, shelter, water, etc.) and providing them tools to increase popular support for free elections. We're also looking into other things to help, like Internet access at tent city so they can communicate easily to the outside
world. 100% of all donations go directly to the things that will help the people win independence for Lebanon.

Syria is publicly acting like it is playing nice and withdrawing. Behind the scenes they are destabilizing the country, delaying the elections and intimidating the opposition. They think they can wait things out until America forgets Lebanon. The good guys in Lebanon need our support. So do the good gals.

On behalf of Rose Banaian, my grandmother who called Beirut the greatest city she ever lived in, I am sending a donation to Spirit of America today. Please join me.

Campus Free Speech Slam 

Here's another case of male students being excluded from a feminist event. Wendy McElroy reports the story.
On March 10, an event titled "Patriarchy Slam" was held by the radical Feminist Action League in a room reserved by a second and recognized student group. (The significance of this is that the free room was used in violation of UNH policy.) Posters across the campus advertised the meeting as a public event, with no indication of "Women Only."

Patriarchy Slam expressed radical anti-male feminism. For example, some FAL members wore scissors around their necks as they sang in praise of castration. One member, who identified herself as Mary Man-Hating-Is-Fun, told the gathering, "Ever since I learned to embrace my feminist nature, I found great joy in threatening men's lives�because I see them for what they are: misogynistic, sexist, oppressive and absurdly pathetic beings who only serve to pollute and contaminate this world�"

(Student David) Huffman claims that the coordinator advised him "as a man I would be intimidating." Thus, when the open-microphone segment began, Huffman was instructed to leave even though he had caused no disruption. Other men remained but, according to Huffman, he was told they had "allegiance to the FAL."

Moreover, he explains FAL "confiscated my program�.Evidently, they do not want the public knowing what was said that night�.What I heard�was a hate rally."
Mr. Huffman wrote a letter to the local campus newspaper, and it turns out he writes as well for a conservative paper on campus. McElroy notes that it wasn't a private event since a female reporter for the (official) campus paper. Rather than asking for equal time or trying to shut up the other, McElroy suggests privatization.
Freedom of speech in the private sphere means that you have the right to express yourself at your own expense. But everyone is forced to pay for the UNH campus and, so, everyone should have an equal right to speak. That�s the theory.

But implementing this theory is an impossibility. A podium is a limited good that must be �assigned� by authorities. At UNH and on most campuses, a handful of authorities have adopted policies that censure expression that is discriminatory, "hate-speech," or otherwise offensive. This often means nothing more than speech of which they do not approve.

In short, even if unlimited access to scarce podiums were possible, the authorities would not permit it. This is the contradiction inherent in trying to reconcile the terms �free speech� and �tax funding�.

The solution is simple: privatize. Just as Huffman�s conservative paper is privately funded so, too, should scissor-wielding feminists be forced to finance their own pro-castration agenda.

That would be freedom of speech. That would constitute the exercise of First Amendment rights.
Words for us to live by, SCSU!

(H/T: Reader jw)

UPDATE: Oh, I should have known Mike Adams would write about this "mr-ogyny".

Economists unqualified to be university presidents 

Newmark's Door reports on a letter in today's Wall Street Journal discussing the Larry Summers folderol* (my attempt to shift the meme from kerfuffle.) The letter says that Summers problem is that he's an economist.
Musings that are considered "normal" among economists tend to be regarded as insensitive or even prejudiced in many other disciplines. At the root of his remarks is the fact that Mr. Summers's thinking is grounded in a discipline that has little sense of fairness and moral obligation, where discriminatory situations are often accepted as the result of Darwinian mechanisms that should be left untouched.
To which Craig replies,
Since when is concern for fairness and moral obligation part of science? Philosophy, sure. But the next time you want to understand the effect of taxes on work, deficits on GDP, or rent control on cities, talk to a philosopher. Check back and let us know what you learn.
No doubt the letter writer will not like Virginia Postrel's view on this.
People with an emotional stake and without the disciplinary habits of separating "is" from "ought" get pissed.
See also her thoughts on the use of marginalism and path dependence in economics. More of her thoughts here.

But to the letter writer's bigger point: How good are economists at being university presidents? John Siegfried considered this question about nine years ago in his presidential address to the Southern Economic Association, wherein he reported on interviewing about eighty presidents and provosts of colleges who were economists. (If you have access to JSTOR, you can read the talk here.) One of them was my undergraduate advisor, Brother Joachim Froelich, who was president of St. Anselm College and later Lorus College. Siegfried reports an older study that social scientists had twice the average rating of highly effective university presidents as other groups. Economists were found to be twice as likely to be administrators as one would infer from chance. (That may be because there are just too damned many of us.) He concludes:
Economists who are presidents and provosts of universities agree that a deep understanding of the basic principles of economics -- those taught in first-year courses -- is immensely helpful to them and distinguishes them from some (but certainly not all) of their colleagues whose careers were spawned in other academic disciplines. Ideas such as scarcity, marginal analysis, and sunk costs, as well as habits such as the incessant search for alternatives, and consideration of incentives and indirect effects, combine to give them an edge over their brethren trained elsewhere in academe, if only in reducing the time required for them to understand these indispensable principles.
No evidence was provided on the learning curve of social ecologists.

UPDATE: Those quoting Alchian & Allen find favor among the Scholars. I should also note that the Siegfried article is in Southern Economic Journal (1997), and should be on several journal archive services; JSTOR is just an old habit of mine.

*Though I'm contemplating 'codswallop', too.

Now that's market power! 

Mankato economist blogger Phil Miller has moved Market Power to its own domain. Check out his new digs. He reports that economists make good money; I note as well that in a new survey, new Ph.D.'s are doing a good bit better this year. "Respondents to the survey conducted in Fall
2003 reported a mean expected salary offer of $68,554 for academic year 2004-05. Respondents
to the current survey report a mean actual salary for the 2004-05 academic year of $71,366 or
4.1 percent above what was expected."

Tutoring as a tradable 

Via the Emirates Economist, we learn that student tutoring, including the free tutoring required under No Child Left Behind to the children of low-income families that are in underperforming schools, is being outsourced. To the surprise of no one, teacher unions are displeased. Interested Participant notes:
The teachers unions express a variety of complaints about tutoring being performed by foreign companies. They include concerns that the tutors are not familiar with applicable standards, that the student doesn't know the tutor is on the other side of the world, that tutors don't have to be licensed, and that there is no way to monitor the tutors. Their arguments are fairly weak if desired results are achieved on proficiency tests which remains to be determined. Strictly from an economic standpoint, hiring American teachers as tutors is not as attractive as employing Indian tutors. A college-educated, full-time Indian tutor can be hired for a mere $230 per month.
The money involved is around $2 billion, so you can understand why the unions are unhappy. Emirates Economist's John Chilton argues that the complaints one could make about outsourced tutoring would be stronger for the "more respected" distance learning.
Here we give students permission to go to summer school elsewhere and get transfer credit. But we sure don't let give them transfer credit for course taught by distance learning -- regardless of the quality of the school. It's way too easy and affordable for some of our students to commit identity fraud.
In no small part, that's because the Indian-tutored students are tested by the receiving institution, whereas the distance-taught are not.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Increasing returns in human capital 

That's what explains this:
Guyana loses a greater proportion of its high-skilled workforce to OECD countries than any other non-member nation, the OECD reports. It finds that 83% of the country's graduates now live in an OECD country. Size is the best predictor of emigration. Smaller countries, especially African and island nations, send a higher proportion of their graduates to the OECD. Big ones, such as Bangladesh, keep most of theirs.
Hypothesis: Smart people want to work with other smart people. They gather together and experience higher income from collaboration. This happens both in education and afterwards. The graph in the article could be entered as evidence supporting the hypothesis.

H/T: Mahalanobis

The most persecuted minority 

One of my favorite Ayn Rand quotes -- yes, I have more than one -- noted here:
If a small group of men were always regarded as guilty, in any clash with any other group, regardless of the issues or circumstances involved, would you call it persecution? If this group were always made to pay for the sins, errors, or failures of any other group, would you call that persecution? If this group had to live under a silent reign of terror, under special laws, from which all other people were immune, laws which the accused could not grasp or define in advance and which the accuser could interpret in any way he pleased � would you call that persecution? If this group were penalized, not for its faults, but for its virtues, not for its incompetence, but for its ability, not for its failures, but for its achievements, and the greater the achievement, the greater the penalty � would you call that persecution?

If your answer is "yes" � then ask yourself what sort of monstrous injustice you are condoning, supporting, or perpetuating. That group is the American businessman�

HedgeFundGuy notes that the persecution continues at the New York Times by comparing three different ledes from the Sunday paper. He concludes:
I was a teaching assistant for college freshman in Introductory Economics courses. Their view of economic development was highly colored by these journalistic prejudices, believing the rich parasites and cheats. If such businessmen were historically disadvantaged minorities we would be warned about generalizing, about dehumanizing them, about neglecting their many positive attributes, or putting their vices into perspective through comparisons. In fact, even though the black homicide rate is 7 times that of whites, or that little old ladies are less likely to hijack an airplane than young middle eastern men, those same journalists argue that it is imperative that all people are treated the same. For most people, generalizing is over or under used, on a selective basis, for the "greater good".

Here's a more detailed analysis of the disease.

They're at it again 

Another attempt at banning an affirmative action bake sale, this time at Northeastern Illinois University.
Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) has warned the members of the College Republicans that both the students and the group will be punished if they hold a campus protest against affirmative action. The NEIU College Republicans canceled its planned �affirmative action bake sale� protest after NEIU�s dean of students warned them in an e-mail that to hold such a sale would violate NEIU�s �nondiscrimination� policy and expose the students to punishment. NEIU, which allowed a feminist group to hold a similar �pay equity bake sale� protest on campus, is the latest in a string of schools nationwide that have attempted to shut down these protests against affirmative action.

FIRE has the rest of the story. This is interesting: In a letter on FIRE's site from the university's legal counsel is a proposal that sounds like NEIU is trying to force the CRs to have a balanced panel to discuss affirmative action. Isn't this force of balance exactly what opponents of the Academic Bill of Rights are complaining about? Was this balance idea brought to the feminist group?

Output requires input 

So how does one increase retention rates at a university? Jay Matthews suggests it has mostly to do with monitoring and mandatory study sessions.

...researchers say about half of U.S. students starting college acquire a degree within six years; for students who start in four-year schools, the graduation rate goes up to about 60 percent. And at many colleges, the graduation rate for blacks is 20 percentage points lower than it is for whites.

Many experts, such as Steinbach, say the best way to improve college graduation rates is to strengthen education from kindergarten through 12th grade. Many colleges and universities, however, also have raised graduation rates by changing their procedures.

Florida State, for instance, is one of the few big universities whose black students' six-year graduation rate, 61.3 percent, is almost as high as the rate for its white students, 63.9 percent. One important reason, an Education Trust report said, is the university's full-time student advisers, who do not sit in their offices waiting for problems to walk in but follow a policy of contacting every student at least three times a semester by e-mail, phone or in person.

When University of Notre Dame science professors noticed that a significant number of students, particularly minorities, were failing or dropping out of its freshman chemistry course, the report said, they set up alternative classes for low-performing students that covered the same material and included mandatory study group sessions. That raised the freshman success rate by 50 percent.
Now this would imply some things that SCSU has been loth to try. For one, tracking student attendance in classes. Had I had that kind of feedback on my advisees I could approach students before they ended up with 4 F's and a withdrawal I just was cleaning advisee folders today and found five such; there was no mechanism other than a transcript that comes months after the end of the semester, by which time the student is out of town discovering the joys of a Fryolator.

There is of course a concern, that in this process standards were changed. We won't know that, of course. But this should be no surprise: If you want greater student retention, you need to put resources to the purpose of preventing student failure. Just adding more classes doesn't help.

Practicing what you preach 

Like many kids of my time, I had a job as a paperboy growing up. I drove my bike several blocks to a nice neighborhood in north Manchester, NH, filled side baskets with newspapers dropped there and then went out on a 45-50 paper route. My route included the parents of Adam Sandler and, I recall, the mother of Justice Souter. (I do not recall meeting the more famous children in either case.) I got about $2/wk per route for seven days, paid the newspaper 18 cents a paper for Monday through Saturday and 75 cents for a Sunday. At fifty papers, that gave me a profit of $33.50 a week for a job that took me about two hours each afternoon. (The Manchester Union Leader, back then, had an afternoon city edition.) That was well above the minimum wage of $1.65 an hour back then.

Peter Swanson indicates that wages have gotten much worse, and yet the StarTribune is complaining about low wages.
An article in City Pages (not exactly a friend of the free market) from 2000 describes the compensation for Star Tribune delivery carriers. Calculating the pay on an hourly basis depends on several variables: the fee per newspaper, the length of time it takes to complete a route, the cost of gasoline, and customer complaints that result in fines. A new carrier will presumably take longer to complete a route and will make mistakes that generate more customer fines.

The carrier profiled in the City Pages article receives 18 cents per paper, delivering more than 200 papers on a 34-mile route. After gas and fines, he estimates that he makes "a little more than nine bucks an hour." He finishes his weekday route an hour before the 6:30 a.m. deadline, with papers first available at the depot for pick up starting at 2:00 a.m. This means that fines and gas cost him approximately $5.00 each weekday.

A carrier who has similar fines and a similar route, but who takes the entire 4.5 hours to deliver 200 papers could easily make less than $7.00 per hour for this "thankless and difficult" (quoting the editorial) job.
I later drove a route dropping papers at honor boxes and morning residential clients in Manchester. I made about $110/wk -- in 1977.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Academic Bill of Rights for MN finally filed 

The bill is called officially "The Free Speech for Faculty and Students Bill of Rights", S. 1988 for those of you who follow these things. It would be binding only on MnSCU institutions; the University of Minnesota would be requested to follow it, but its functional independence from the Legislature makes the latter unable to force the U of M to follow it.

There are some significant differences in this bill from those proposed in Colorado or Ohio; it more hews to the model legislation proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Local campus response has been of course negative. The lobbyist for our union continues to bring up the canard of it requiring biologists to take a "neutral view on evolution versus creation." It does no such thing:

Faculty and instructors have a right to academic freedom in the classroom in discussing their subjects, but they should make their students aware of serious scholarly viewpoints other than their own and should encourage intellectual honesty, civil debate and the critical analysis of ideas in the pursuit of knowledge and truth.

I don't think creationism is a serious scholarly viewpoint, and I don't think the bill's authors would argue that point. The lobbyist also asks if controversial speakers would have to be balanced with offsetting speakers. It doesn't say that, either. It does provide guidance, however:
The institution shall distribute student fee funds on a fair and equitable basis and shall maintain a posture of neutrality with respect to substantive political and religious disagreements, differences, and opinions. The selection of speakers, allocation of funds for speakers' programs, and other student activities shall observe the principles of academic freedom and promote the presentation of a diversity of opinions on intellectual matters. Except as provided by law, the institution shall not permit the obstruction of invited campus speakers or the destruction of student newspapers or campus literature promoting campus events.

The middle sentence, which I think is unique to the MN bill (I've checked about six of these, including the ALEC model) seems to invite criticism of the sort the lobbyist suggests. I don't think it is necessary; I do think the last sentence is quite necessary.

I still dislike this bill, and I hope that we get the same outcome that Colorado got -- getting the student portion (3.a-d) entered into student handbooks; given the collective bargaining agreement for faculty, I don't give us a snowball's chance of getting the faculty protections in S. 1988 even if they were codified -- but we will get nothing without some pressure brought to bear. Miss Median sent around a copy of Stanley Fish's latest pissiness about ABoR, which included this Monument to Disingenuity:
The only thing you would get were you to enforce a political balance of persons hired or promoted would be a politicized university.

Scholar Jack asks, "And what, do you suppose, he thinks we have now?"

UPDATE: Not exactly on the same subject, but see Stephen's notes on the difference between tenure and academic freedom, with effective quotes from John Silber.

That's close to 10% right 

Remember when I discussed how we were spending the budget surplus positive budget balance, and I thought we should give money back to students? Well, the university took up the suggestion and found a way to do it.
Members of administration recently proposed to give more than $1.2 million back to the students through a reduction of the technology fee.

They suggested that the technology fee be reduced from $4 to $1 per credit for each student next fall and spring.

[Vice President of Administrative Affairs Diana] Burlison said they had talked with Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) about sending a check back to students from the surplus, but MnSCU advised against it. Sending individual checks to each student would be a long and difficult process, Burlison said. So far, MnSCU has approved of their plan to reduce the technology fee.
It's unfortunate that the university couldn't refund the money to former students. It's worth noting that tuition has gone up 15% per credit, which would come out to about $35. So the students' refund is about 10% of what they paid in.

As my dad would say, better than a kick in the pants. But not by much.

Hail the conquering hero 

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is in the States this week, visiting today with President Bush and addressing Congress on Wednesday. They were supposed to go to Chicago to visit the area where his wife Kathy grew up -- she is also a graduate of the University of Chicago -- but that might be on hold due to the Pope's death. It's worth remembering that a few years ago Ukraine was so embarassing to the United States, what with selling weapons to Iraq and its own corruption, that an EU conference had seating rearranged so that previous president Leonid Kuchma wouldn't get to sit next to Bush.

Too many thoughts, too little time 

I had such a good time at my conference last week that I didn't post on Friday. I will write more about it soon, but here's a thought from it that I had:

The conference title was "Neoliberalism, Economic Development and Mental Models". Question: Who defines himself as a neoliberal? The organizers asked me when I first heard the term and I said it was in 2002 by a critic, and that I had always heard the name applied to others, largely as a perjorative. I remembered on the plane trip home that I was pretty sure it was Joe Stiglitz I heard it from. And I'm pretty sure I'm right, as it appears on page 74 in Globalization and its Discontents. Here's the passage (link annotations are mine):
The Washington Consensus policies, however, were based on a simplistic model of the market economy, the competitive equilibrium model, in which Adam Smith's invisible hand works, and works perfectly. Bause in this model there is no need for government -- that is, free, unfettered, "liberal" markets work perfectly -- the Washington Consensus policies are sometimes referred to as "neo-liberal," based on "market fundamentalism," a resuscitation of the laissez-faire policies that were popular in some circles in the nineteenth century. In the aftermath of the Great Depression and the recognition of other failings of the market system, from massive inequality to unlivable cities marred by pollution and decay, these free market policies have been widely rejected in the more advanced industrial countries, though within these countries there remains an active debate about the appropriate balance between government and markets.

As I say, perjorative. I ended up sounding pretty harsh Friday, I suspect. I would go on here, but we've got lots to discuss over the next few days. I'll get back to this later.