Saturday, September 30, 2006

Today's required reading 

For those listening to NARN today, we will take time to discuss Scott Johnson's documentation of Keith Ellison's career with the Nation of Islam: Keith Ellison for dummies . We will also have Alan Fine (5th CD GOP candidate facing Ellison) on, along with the communications directors of the two parties, Jess McIntosh (DFL) and Mark Drake (GOP).

Tune in at 3pm to AM 1280 the Patriot, with streaming audio available from that site, or go to to grab the podcast after the show.

POST-SHOW: I guess the podcast will be up later. Thanks to Jess McIntosh and Mark Drake for fun political banter. Here's the letter to the STrib from Alan Fine that the paper would not take as an editorial. Question: Does Fine represent traditional Republican values? We had a good talk about Iraq in the last ten minutes of the show, so read the editorial then listen from the podcast.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Standing up for the one guy 

After reading my colleague Tony Akubue's column in today's local paper, I can only say one thing. I know Rudi Volti personally -- our offices were next to each other for two years at Pitzer -- and he should be in no way held responsible for Akubue's column.

Journalists are learning 

I have to hand it to the SC Times' Larry Schumacher for putting more than working notes for stories on his blog. His latest post has two interesting tidbits. First, the meat of the post is that EMILY's List is peddling a poll which shows Bachmann leading Wetterling only by three points. (BvW has a story on the poll.) Schumacher is interested in getting into the guts of the poll but can't because the pollster won't release the information.
Someone from EMILY's List contacted me on Wednesday and asked me what I needed. She said she was reluctant to share all the guts because there were other questions in the poll that would give away strategy.

I said fine, can you just give me the guts of the questions about the 6th Congressional horse race. She said she'd get back to me on Thursday. It's Friday afternoon and I still haven't heard from her.
I'm not a Zogby fan, Larry, but you might want to ask the Times to buy you access for this race. And let's not forget our local pollster, who I hope has something coming up in the next few weeks. Steve?

Then, did anyone notice the link Schumacher included on this story?
Same goes for the KSTP/SurveyUSA poll released earlier this month. It's done by robocalling, which some people around here don't like, but you can look at the guts and draw your own conclusions.
The link for "some people" goes to Meyer and Associates, owned by former Mayor Larry Meyer, a Democrat. Hmmm.

"The great dictator's lecture series" 

That's what Captain Ed has called the series of lectures at Columbia University by Moammar Qaddafi and potentially Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The latter was disinvited by the school's president, which has prompted the dean who invited Ahmadinejad to quit her position. Ed hopes the lecture series "will come to an end". I guess I'd have to ask why. How much more effective could my lectures on the values of economic and political freedom be if I could have them listen to those who deny them to their people? I don't think that idea is at all as "ludicrous" as Ed says. Perhaps this is why President Lee Bollinger said the ex-dean could pay for Ahmadinejad to come to campus, but that he would not: to have Ahmadinejad speak to a classroom prepared to hear the man in context of understanding genocide, or autocracy, or radical Islam, is befitting an institution that values the free inquiry of ideas. Honoring him with some payment as a university guest as a leader, on the other hand, gives a stamp of approval.

To those who would try to check the slipperiness of my slope by saying "would you invite David Duke?" or "...Louis Farrakhan?" or ... fill-in your favorite villain here? The answer is, it depends on the venue and the academic purpose to which they are invited. Rights to free speech on campus aren't needed for the speech you like; they are vital to gaining understanding of the speech you hate.

I thought students weren't customers 

Our registrar's office just sent me a note reassigning a student to another advisor. The sender's title? "Customer Service Specialist." You specialize in that? I'd think that's something we're all supposed to do, particularly in a registrar's office, which deals with students, who are ... wait.

How's the economy, stupid? 

The third quarter comes to a close today, and it you heard or read the testimony of Council of Economic Advisors chair Ed Lazear yesterday, you'd've heard a pretty upbeat assessment, as you might have guessed.
What distinguishes this period from the past is that recent large and unanticipated increases in energy prices have consumed much of the strong nominal wage growth. Workers� paychecks have gone up, but they have had to use a portion of that increase for higher costs of energy such as gasoline and heating fuel. The increase in the price of gasoline and oil products has been one of the most notable changes in our economy during the past year. The period from August of 2005 until August of 2006 witnessed a 22 percent increase in the price of crude oil, and a 32 percent rise in the price of gasoline. High energy prices strain family and business budgets, but throughout this period the economy exhibited resiliency and continued to grow at a rapid pace. Indeed, real growth for the first half of this year averaged about 4 percent on an annualized basis. Since the beginning of August, we have experienced substantial declines in the price of gasoline and crude oil. Gasoline prices have dropped 21 percent since early August, and the price of crude oil has gone from a high of $77 per barrel down to $61 now. This is positive news for two reasons. First, it suggests that inflation rates will moderate as we move forward, and so high nominal wage growth such as we have seen in the recent past will translate into real additional buying power for the typical American worker. Second, lower energy prices are a positive force in growing the economy.
As I noted yesterday, GDP might be 3% higher today if we didn't have a tripling of the price of oil, which would increase the amount of money people earn.

How much of this growth can be ascribed to the Bush Administration? A new report from the Heritage Foundation report suggests that the Administration has made "two steps forward, one step back" in both cutting taxes and increasing the size of government. Two excerpts quantify that.

[T]ax cuts can promote growth if policymakers reduce mar�ginal tax rates on productive behav�ior. The 2003 tax cut was very successful in this regard, reducing tax rates on working, saving, and investing. Key provisions included:
  1. Immediately implementing the lower income tax rates that were approved in 2001 but were not scheduled to take effect until 2004 and 2006. This dropped the top tax rate from 38.6 percent to 35 percent and reduced other tax rates by similar amounts.
  2. Reducing the double taxation of dividends from a maximum of 38.6 percent to 15 percent. This provision significantly reduced the tax penalty on new investment and lowered the tax code�s bias in favor of debt-financed investment over equity-financed investment.
  3. Reducing the double taxation of capital gains from a maximum of 20 percent to 15 percent. Like the dividend provision, this reduced the tax penalty on new investment and lowered the tax code�s bias in favor of debt-financed investment.


Since 2001, the burden of government spending has increased by 2 percentage points of GDP. ...[T]his spending increase is hinder�ing economic performance. Small reductions in the rate of growth may make only a slight difference in the short run. For instance, the IMF study implies that recent spending increases since 2001 have reduced annual growth by 0.1 percent. However, the cumulative effect of even minor differences in growth can have a significant long-run impact on living standards. Indeed, if annual growth is 0.1 percent slower�e.g., 2.0 percent instead of 2.1 percent�total economic output after 30 years would be significantly lower, akin to a reduction in economic output today of $2,740 per household.
On balance the negative effects become more troubling if the tax cuts are not extended. The talk of balancing the budget you hear from Democratic challengers is little more than a call for tax increases, which would undo the one good thing the Bush administration has done with fiscal policy, while leaving the extra spending in place. New programs only would make matters worse.

How to recruit conservative faculty 

Loyal reader jw (I just call him this to his face now) sends an article and asks, "Why is it that this argument is accepted for minorities, but not for minority (conservative) viewpoints?" The article begins:

Across the country, campuses are engaged in efforts to diversify the racial and ethnic makeup of their faculties to help prepare their students for a diverse society. But the search committees charged with this task often approach their task in a passive, routine way.

Many committees create a job description that would attract faculty members much like themselves. They advertise the position in publications that people mostly like themselves read. They evaluate r�sum�s of people who often resemble themselves, invite three to five candidates for campus interviews who � again � are similar to themselves, and then make an offer to the person with whom they are most comfortable. Over time that process has inevitably resulted in campuses that are more homogeneous than not.

That happens to be exactly the argument for why universities are littered with leftist faculty -- the Sixties radicals keep hiring carbon copies of their younger selves. Professor Turner says search committees should be diverse (I believe the term, madam, is "set-asides") and its members should "get outside their comfort zones." It would be interesting to see that be applied to increasing viewpoint diversity.

But the one that caught my eye was her list for what we should include in ad copy to signal we are serious about diversity. Her suggested sentences:
Readers are invited to adjust this list to create a job ad that signals a school is looking to increase viewpoint diversity. SCSU requires such language; in the job ad for a position I am trying to fill for next year in economics, here's the diversity flag:
The successful candidate will have demonstrated ability to teach and work with persons from culturally diverse backgrounds.
Damn near every job ad I see has this sort of language.

What's the derivative, buckaroo? 

As Asian countries continue to move towards service exports, we can expect to see more stories like this about using call centers for more complex services.
Private tutors are a luxury many American families cannot afford, costing anywhere between $25 to $100 an hour. But California mother Denise Robison found one online for $2.50 an hour -- in India.

"It's made the biggest difference. My daughter is literally at the top of every single one of her classes and she has never done that before," said Robison, a single mother from Modesto.

Her 13-year-old daughter, Taylor, is one of 1,100 Americans enrolled in Bangalore-based TutorVista, which launched U.S. services last November with a staff of 150 "e-tutors," mostly in India, with a fee of $100 a month for unlimited hours.

Taylor took two-hour sessions each day for five days a week in math and English -- a cost that tallies to $2.50 an hour, a fraction of the $40 an hour charged by U.S.-based online tutors such as market leader that draw on North American teachers, or the usual $100 an hour for face-to-face sessions.

"I like to tell people I did private tutoring every day for the cost of a fast-food meal or a Starbucks coffee," Robison said. "We did our own form of summer school all summer."

I should note that this girl is 13, and says that she had a hard time at first picking up her tutor's accented English but eventually tuned her ear to it. This runs counter to the complaints we normally hear about inarticulate foreign faculty in universities. And these tutors are getting the kind of help I wish our own universities would spend more time giving to international instructors:

Many of the tutors have masters degrees in their subjects, said Ganesh. On average, they have taught for 10 years. Each undergoes 60 hours of training, including lessons on how to speak in a U.S. accent and how to decipher American slang.

Why wouldn't we do that?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Not the business babe 

I wonder if St. Cloud's Larry Schumacher reads much of Eric Black? Schumacher notes of Wetterling's absence from the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce debate yesterday:

Bachmann mentioned Wetterling's absence from several debates this campaign -- most of which have been sponsored by chamber of commerce organizations. She appears to be conceding this territory in the campaign.

Binkowski mentioned that he and Bachmann were the only two at another chamber-sponsored debate in Elk River this morning as well. The reason given for her absence was that she was campaigning on the other side of the district and could not make it back in time.

Black, however, makes quite a big deal about whether Wetterling made a specific commitment to the St. Cloud event, relating a conversation with St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce president Teresa Bohnen. Asked whether "she ever promised or committed to be there," he says she replied,
No, not really promised or committed. We�ve worked on it for four weeks. Wetterling didn�t say yes or no for three weeks. Then a week ago, scheduler called to say she probably couldn�t make it. So I asked them to reconsider. There�s been some back and forth since then. Not until this morning did I get a final answer that she wasn�t coming.
It was reported in the papers well in advance that this debate was on, and the local DFL had to have known that Wetterling was being listed as at least scheduled to appear. Assuming Bohnen's chronology is correct, should they have cancelled this event? And why is it that it's chambers of commerce that Wetterling seems to single out for missing? Is that true? I do not know, but even the rabid anti-Bachmann crowd seems to think Schumacher's take is corrrect.

Maybe Wetterling doesn't want to discuss her tax ad. And after Black did and sought out Wetterling,
Wetterling declined to be interviewed for this report.
Eric, how does it feel to be a Chamber of Commerce?

Where's the oil? 

Mostly in places you don't want to go.

Although oil producers are responding to higher prices, the gains in supply are likely to prove modest because reserves are concentrated in countries where incentives to increase output aren't strong. These are places where the government controls the oil industry or where a lack of economic freedom stifles the private sector.

Two-thirds of the oil is in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and other countries with heavy government direction of the oil industry. Only 15 percent of reserves are in nations with high scores in economic freedom and market-driven oil production�chief among them, the United States and Canada.

And because of that, the cost is rather high, at least according to this guy:
Growth is slower. Inflation and interest rates are higher. I estimate that the tripling of oil prices since 2002 has reduced GDP by 2.4 to 3.2 percent, spread out over a number of years. Most of the losses are behind us now, so the losses through the end of 2007 will likely be about half a percentage point a year.

More on election demographics 

A USA Today story says that marital status help determine the fall elections. Let's have a look at the data for Minnesota. By Congressional district, here's the share of adult females married and not separated, and the number of children age 5-20. (Districts have roughly 450,000 voting-age adults,) year 2000, from the Census Bureau.

CD--Married--Schoolage Kids (5-19)
1, 60.2, 149544
2, 63.5, 157267
3, 62.4, 140413
4, 47.4, 144041
5, 43.2, 122614
6, 60.9, 159864
7, 60.0, 151546
8, 59.2, 143080

The most Democratic district, the 5th in Minneapolis, has both low marital rates and a small number of children compare to the others. The 4th and 8th, two other seats normally considered DFL-leaning, are next. (The low birthrate in the 8th surprised me.) The 2nd and the 6th would be predicted to be most likely Republican by both marital status and size of families -- while the 3rd, Jim Ramstad's district, has a high marriage rate but fairly low number of kids. Those are likely to be two-earner families, where the higher opportunity cost of having children keeps family size lower.

Baxter does not heart Bachmann, part 2 

This is the second of a series of articles by Professor Janet Beihoffer on an op-ed in the New York Times Sunday about Michele Bachmann. The first is here.

This post will address the Orwellian tactic used by the left to confuse the reader by either redefining previously understood definitions of words or simply blurring their meanings. Professor Charles Baxter is a novelist, a writer of fiction. He uses his technique of word play to create a fictional impression in this entire op-ed.

Most people use the term �conservative� to indicate someone with conservative political views which include smaller government, lower taxes, protection of family, America, etc. Yet Dr. Baxter uses the term to describe Ms. Wetterling�s personality, one that is �rather tame and pleasant and sensible � conservative, that is�. This is clever � one could conclude that Ms. Wetterling�s political views are also conservative. However, if one looks at her out-of-state support, one will find very liberal groups making contributions.

Dr. Baxter also labels Michele Bachmann a �suburban radical�. Usually a radical wants to destroy the status quo � Bachmann simply wants to lower taxes and lessen government�s interference in our lives. If one wants to call this �radical�, I�d say most American taxpayers (the 50% who pay close to 100% of the income taxes in our nation) would welcome these changes. However, it is the conservative politicians, in the historical definition of conservative, who want to make these changes to get the government off our backs.

Lately, the liberal left has begun to use the term �progressive� to describe themselves. These Democrats want to be �progressive� by giving government more control over our lives. Actually, this is an excellent choice of a word � it implies they are forward thinking. In reality, though, it is used by politicians who want to ignore problems and maintain the status quo in many areas: leave Social Security alone even though it is going broke; leave Medicare alone even though it is going broke; etc. Excuse me � since when do the terms �progressives/liberals� mean maintain the status quo? Ms. Wetterling wants government solutions for all our problems (except national security). How will she pay for her �conservative� but in reality �liberal� solutions? We can only guess that her approach is the classic Democratic solution of raising taxes. But, to be fair, we must acknowledge she may have another solution � it�s just that we don�t know what her solutions might be because she has missed 5 of 8 scheduled candidate forums. Why would Ms. Wetterling refuse to debate her opponents? Could it be that she knows the CD 6 constituents are real conservatives and would not agree with her opinions?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Update on Franken-Clark connection 

Senator Tarryl Clark left a voicemail at my university office this afternoon while I was in class saying again that she did not receive any funds from Midwest Values PAC MN, the political action committee organized and operated by Al Franken. To see if I could get to the bottom of this, I contacted Andy Barr, political director for Midwest Values. Here is his reply, in full.
Dear King,

Thank you for writing. I just spoke to our compliance officer here at MVP.

We did mail a check, unsolicited, to the Clark for Senate committee on August 16 and our records indicate that it was not cashed. The campaign contacted me this morning, concerned that we had erroneously listed them as a recipient of funds, as they had no record of receiving the check.

I'm not sure whether it got lost in their incoming mail or whether it got lost by the USPS, although, for what it's worth, we apparently had their ZIP code wrong -- we sent it to 56301, and it was supposed to be 56302. (I can't believe mail still gets lost because of a single incorrect ZIP code digit, but I guess it's possible!)

In any case, the campaign confirmed that they were not interested in a replacement check. Accordingly, our next campaign finance filing will reflect this information.

I hope this clears up the matter for you, but feel free to let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.

Andy Barr
Political Director
Midwest Values PAC
It does raise a couple of questions: First, the address for Clark for Senate has a ZIP code of 56301; 56302 is the ZIP code for post office boxes at the central St. Cloud post office only. All the campaign materials indicate a regular street address for Clark for Senate. They also listed 56301 and the correct address on their filing with the MCFB. I don't know how he would believe the correct ZIP code is 56302, nor how he would know what was on the envelope of a letter that is lost.

Second, are there other instances of "unsolicited" checks being returned to Midwest Values? If so, who? And how was this list created? Obviously Midwest Values thought Senator Clark supported their values and that she would accept their check. What led them to believe that?

Let's be clear about one thing: The Clark campaign is adamant they never got the check, and we have to take Senator Clark at her word. I apologize for the error of believing a check sent is a check received and a check cashed.

My new hero 

It has to be this guy, who ends up the story in this piece on how professors are using for something other than its intended purposes.

If you look up Matthew L. Julius on, you'll find this comment about the associate professor of biological sciences at St. Cloud State University:

"Dr. Julius is the single greatest instructor that has ever graced a classroom. His patience and kindess can only be truely appreciated once you've seen the raggedy and motely group of students that he lets work in his lab."

He would feel flattered, except he wrote the comment himself (and yes, the misspellings were intentional). In fact, his RateMyProfessors page is peppered with gags like that one, which he composed purely to amuse his graduate students. Mr. Julius says he and his colleagues take great sport in posting remarks about themselves and each other on the site -- so much so that it has become a medium for their inside jokes.

I bet that's a fun department. Someone just posted this on the campus discussion email list -- wasn't me! -- and it will be interesting to see how the administration responds.

Do I look at my own? Sure! And a neither smiley nor frowny face is perfect.

That's pretty different 

Remember last week when I observed the Humphrey Institute poll saying 45% of its respondents answering a poll on the MN Senate race thought Iraq was the most important issue? At Kennedy v. Machine, Andy notes another poll saying 20% thought Iraq was the most important issue in the Senate race. 45-20. That's a significant difference.

You mean you get paid for that? 

That seems to be the reaction to the fact that my broadcast partner is a political consultant.
[S]ince I have chosen to work in politics I can't hide how I make a living. My life is one big disclosure.

You are able to attack my work for Mark Kennedy, because FEC rules require expenditures to be publicly reported. You are able to see that I was paid a one-time fee from Bachmann's campaign, because it was publicly reported. You are able to attack me for my work with the Campaign for St. Paul's Future, because it was publicly disclosed. You can attack my previous employment with the Republican Party of Minnesota because it was properly disclosed.

Is this fair? Yes, it is and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Part of what makes Michael effective -- and thus annoying to DFLers -- is that he's a pro and a veteran, even though he is young. To be honest, part of my pleasure of doing The Final Word is that I interview Michael. I did not know him before asking him to do the show. My thought was to talk on the air about what he does because it's an interesting side to the political campaign that other shows cannot see. And he's done this long enough that he has a sense of history about how campaigns work.

The left hires people who are not professionals to run blogs. Some like Kos or Joshua Micah Marshall become eminently popular because the left needs nothing so much as a voice telling them to ignore the cognitive dissonance between their push for cosmic justice and the real world they live in. Others become part of the party machine as amateurs, and fail to grasp what it is they are criticizing. Dislike his work if you wish but Michael's a real guy making a real living at a real job, and that means politicians pay him for political research. If I could just make economic research pay so well...

Try reading, Mr. Clark 

A note about my letter in the Times today. Doug Clark, Tarryl's husband and cheerleader, says she never got money from Franken. Yet Franken's PAC, as I reported before, has an entry in its disbursements of $500 to Clark for Senate, sent out 16 August 2006. You could look it up, sir, if you had a mind to. If you didn't receive the check, then there's an error in Franken's filing.

As other commenters on that story note, Quam and Entenza threw $125 each to Clark on 12/2/2005. Yes, not in 2006, Doug, but it's part of her bankroll that she carried over from the special. Again, you could look it up. In fact, Randy Krebs of the Times had me send them all these links to show him what I wrote was accurate. He said he would provide links but did not. Instead he ran the letter. If what I wrote was false, would they have printed the letter after asking me for the documents?

UPDATE (1:30pm): I just spoke with Randy Krebs. The Clarks have called and asked to place a letter in response. That is of course only fair. They claim, he said, that they never saw a check from Midwest Values, and that they would have discussed whether or not to cash it if they did. Yet Franken reports the disbursement. If they wish to use their pre-primary filing of 8/28 to say they never received money, the problem is the disbursement is dated 8/16/06, so it could have missed the reporting period (perhaps the mail is slow, perhaps Midwest Values was slow to mail it out, perhaps the Clarks didn't check their mailbox ... don't know, could be.) The latest PAC check recorded on that report is 8/2; indeed only one recorded contribution appears after that date from any source.

If they don't remember the check, is it that they don't keep close eye on these things? If they are in such a rush to distance themselves from the check, are they saying Tarryl is different from Al Franken, Rob Reiner, and Barbra Streisand? If so, how? And why the dodge of the date of the Quam/Entenza contribution? Is Clark embarassed by Matt Entenza? If so, when did she decide she were embarassed? Enquiring minds want to know...

Baxter does not heart Bachmann, part 1 

The following is the first of several articles about an op-ed run in the New York Times about Sixth Congressional District candidate Michele Bachmann, written by Professor Janet Beihoffer of Metro State.

The New York Times (NYT) published agenda-driven journalism disguised as opinion about Michele Bachmann this weekend. It is worth noting that the author, Charles Baxter, a professor of creative writing at the U of M, was asked to write on the MN US Senate race. Yet, Baxter decided instead to cover the House race in MN�s Sixth Congressional District.

Why would Baxter choose to ignore the MN US Senate race? Could it be that the week his assignment was due, the campaign of the Democratic candidate for US Senate (Amy Klobuchar) had to fire its communications director for viewing an unreleased Mark Kennedy ad which was unethically, and possibly illegally, obtained by a blogger and sent to the Klobuchar campaign? And, as it turns out, information from that ad was used by Democrats to survey voters before the ad was released by the Kennedy campaign.

Baxter�s piece showcases many of the various methods used by the mainstream media in cooperation with academia to attempt to influence voters. Subsequent posts will deal with the redefining of terms, omission of relevant facts and the overtly exaggeraged fear the left has of anyone professing any kind of Christianity.

J. Beihoffer

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Priorities, Mrs. Wetterling? 

Mrs. S told me as I left the house this AM that there was a 6th CD debate downtown today. And sure enough there was supposed to be. But one candidate chose not to be there.

This is getting to be a habit. And it looks like Wetterling was not planning her daughter's wedding this time. She was getting endorsed by Wesley Clark.

Priorities: Endorsement by loser more important than debate. Noted.

How much is health care choice worth to you? 

A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey released today shows that health care premiums in employer-sponsored plans rose 7.7% over last year.

This year�s survey recorded the slowest rate of premium growth since 2000, though premiums still increased more than twice as fast as workers� wages (3.8 percent) and overall inflation (3.5 percent). Premiums have increased 87 percent over the past six years. Family health coverage now costs an average $11,480 annually, with workers paying an average of $2,973 toward those premiums, about $1,354 more than in 2000.

�While premiums didn�t rise as fast as they have in recent years, working people don�t feel like they are getting any relief at all because their premiums have been rising so much faster than their paychecks,� said Foundation President and CEO Drew E. Altman, Ph.D.� To working people and business owners a reduction in an already very high rate of increase just means you�re still paying more.�

�The burden of a fragmented system of coverage falls heaviest on the small employer and their workers,� said HRET President Mary A. Pittman, Dr. P.H. �About two in five small businesses do not even offer health insurance, and those that do require workers on average to contribute significantly more to their premiums for family coverage.�

While there is substantial debate about consumer-driven health care, the survey finds modest enrollment in consumer-driven plans, with 2.7 million workers in high-deductible plans with a savings option, including those that qualify for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). About 4 percent of covered workers are enrolled in such plans, a rate statistically no different from last year. Relatively few firms that offer other types of health insurance say that they are �very likely� to adopt high-deductible plans that qualify for an HSA (4 percent) or that are associated with a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (6 percent) in the next year.

This answers two things: First, that a substantial portion of productivity increases of workers over the last five years have been received in health benefits rather than wages. Whether this is a good or bad thing would be determined by whether you think the quality and quantity of health care you purchase now is better or worse, greater or lesser than what you bought five years ago. My car payments have gone up 60% over the last five years, but that's because I own two newer cars now rather than a newer but smaller one plus our beater.

Second, if you have the option of a no-cost health care plans and a high deductible plan, it appears you go do the one with no out of pocket cost. I'm just speaking off the top of my mind, but it seems to me that people are highly risk averse to paying for their own health care. This may help explain the continued fascination with single-payer plans, but as Kevin Fleming reports, the tradeoff for the comforts of having taxpayers pay your health care would include a reduced quality of care, periodic funding crises, politically driven inequalities, and of course labor strikes (as salaries of health care professionals are squeezed by a monopsonistic system.) Dr. Fleming also cites patient choice as a benefit; I am wondering how many individuals see choice as a benefit? If they did, single-payer would die a just death.

Professors in the online mall 

It's bad enough that I have to worry about whether or not I get a chili pepper on online rating services for professors (here's where you find mine). Now, at least at Pick-A-Prof, you can also acquire their grading histories. (Last link is temporary; permanent link for Chronicle of Higher Ed subscribers.)

Since the company was founded, in 2001, Pick-A-Prof has worked to collect information from the 170 colleges and universities that it covers about how many A's, B's, C's, D's, and F's each of their professors has ever given.

Karen Bragg, the company's director of university relations, says it has succeeded in obtaining the data from most of the institutions. "At some campuses it goes back as far as 20 years," she said.

Some colleges refused to provide the data at first, Ms. Bragg said. "They're not familiar with what they're asking for, or it's not held in a readable, usable file," she said. "It's quite burdensome getting this information."

The company contends that, at public institutions, such information is a public record. It sued the University of California system this past summer after officials on its Davis campus refused to supply some of the grading histories of professors, Ms. Bragg said. The university has since relented and handed over the information, she added.

A spokeswoman for the university system, Julia Ann Easley, confirmed that account but declined to provide details.

...Any student on the Davis campus can now use Pick-A-Prof to find out the average grades given by any professor there, complete with bar graphs showing percentages for each letter grade.

I have noticed on my own campus an increase in the number of students who think paying for a course means they're entitled to a passing grade. Maybe bar graphs are reinforcing that belief.

(h/t: reader jw)

Nobody needs that much love 

Downloading email today, I find it's taking awhile. I'm still old-fashioned with email -- I use Eudora as I have for more than 10 years from home, and still rue the day the university compelled us to Outlook -- and I check to see how many messages still to come.


Whoa! I stop the download and filter what's there. 600+ go to junk. All bounced messages from someone who's spoofed my domain. (Maybe someone at Xcel?)

Just so you know -- any mail sent on this domain is going to be killed unless it comes to the comments or problems boxes. Those who know me know my other addys. Use them.

Monday, September 25, 2006

I'm glad they solved aaaaaaaaaaaaaa 

The Kool Aid Report uncovers the mystery of my last name.

(You think that's a gratuitous post? Someone just posted on the campus announcement list -- the one where they are to tell us if, for instance, a tornado warning has been called: "Did anyone happen to record the Tyra Banks show which was televised today 9:00-10:00 am? It was quite an interesting exploration of racial stereotypes made by minorities in the U.S." Academics. Tyra Banks. Fill in the rest.)

Economics blogs can be a little weird 

As I pointed out yesterday, one problem with doing economics for popular audiences is the possibility of being misinterpreted. Another problem is the possibility of having commenters who believe they hold the Rosetta Stone of economics in their hands and spout off all kinds of errant nonsense.

And sometimes they infest other people's blogs. Take for example my good friend Captain Ed, who wanted to post something rather mild on how an AP writer ignores data and relies on anecdote. I didn't comment on it last week because to do that would require me to quit my day job, so many are the examples. And so I didn't look down to see his comments, which contained a dizzying array of comments from people each of whom thought they were right and the others were stunningly ignorant.

Some guy posts "shadow government statistics". Another just KNOWS there are two economies out there. Numerous posters trying to extrapolate from one state or one part of one state to the economy as a whole. An ill-informed discussion of supply-side economics (go read this and learn). Ed looks at me on Saturday with a "can you believe this?" look.

Yes I can, sir. Yes I can. It's why I write on more than economics here.

Before NARN this week 

You should get to this event and thank those who serve to protect us.
Saturday, September 30, 2006 is Minnesotans� Military Appreciation Day! 9:00 am Start Time.

Join MMAF for an entertaining day in honor of Minnesota�s military personnel, at home and overseas. In addition to remembering our deployed friends and neighbors, this event will be a special �welcome back� for all returned troops, especially those injured overseas, capped with a day at the ballpark with the Minnesota Twins.

Events to include a 5K run, 2 Mile Walk, Celebration Events at the MetroDome �Pad� and a Minnesota Twins vs. Chicago White Sox baseball game with additional MMAF events inside the dome

All registrants to receive tickets to the Twins vs. White Sox, a t-shirt and commemorative pin. Prize drawings also available to those that bring with them the most pledges on day of the event.

MMAF 2 Mile Walk is $15 per person / $50 per family
MMAF 5K Run is $20 per person

Military personnel, their families and Scouts are Free!

Administrative overload 

Remember the story of Karen Murdock, the professor at Century College who created a campus stir for posting the Mohammed cartoons behind a curtain? When we last checked in, her campus had created a policy for departmental bulletin boards. Quite content to leave those be, Professor Murdock proceeded to put up her own bulletin board, next to her office. Many of the faculty in my university have these, and it's not unusual to see some rather outrageous things there as well as on their doors. I'd rather not take them down -- I prefer to expose them. (Sorry to say, the pictures were recently lost when BlogSpot took down my stuff. That's OK.)

But Prof. Murdock's superiors have asked her to take down her own bulletin board, which she put up without so much as drilling a hole, i.e., one had already been there. Are we now in the business of stopping all individual postings? What's next? Her website (were she to develop one)? Her classroom?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Loss in translation 

I talk to a fair number of reporters as a local go-to guy for economic things. I also co-author the Quarterly Business Report for the St. Cloud Area. The report is in essence two halves -- one is a survey of business leaders, the other a statistical model. I am largely responsible for the statistical model, as that's my training and a fair part of my teaching assignment.

The St. Cloud Times is a partner in publishing the report, and every quarter it comes out I am interviewed for its contents without any real knowledge of how they'll play the story. And when I did this interview this Friday, I admit I was nervous about how this would play, as it's a different forecast than any we've given in four years. The writer of the story, Dawn Peake, is someone we've worked with for two years and I think she's a good reporter, and the story is fine; as far as I'm concerned, if reporters misstate what I say it's more likely I didn't say it right. But to find yourself attached to a headline story is unnerving, particularly when it exaggerates what you said:

Local businesses should brace for slowdown

That's not what we said.

"We've really made no progress compared to our long-term trends," said King Banaian, co-author of the report and chairman of the economics department at St. Cloud State University. "We've just been bumping along."

Local economists are cautious about what the next six months will bring but are not ready to say recession yet. Banaian said economic conditions suggest that the area is clear of a recession until at least March.

"We don't feel like the economy has turned south; it just has turned east � or west," said Rich MacDonald, co-author of the report and director of the Center for Economic Education.

I don't know who wrote the headline -- I'm quite sure it wasn't Peake -- but it's really too strong when compared to those three paragraphs.

To really grasp what we're talking about means you understand uncertainty and risk. Here's the whole report, and you can judge for yourself. We tried to give the impression that what's happened is an increase in risk of recession. To understand that, imagine you had five possible outcomes from an investment, expressed in terms of your rate of return: -3%, 1%, 5%, 9% and 13%. And let's suppose the chances of each outcome are currently 5%, 15%, 60%, 15%, and 5%, so that the expected value of the investment's rate of return is 5%. Now we enter a period of uncertainty, and while none of the possible outcomes change, the chances go to 10%, 20%, 40%, 20% and 10%. The expected value of the investment's rate of return is still 5%, but the probability of making a loss has doubled. Doesn't that affect investment? How do you represent that, and how do you report that?

That was what we tried to get out there. Some fellow* in the comments on the Times article takes a shot at me:

This is why an economist is not a businessman. If a businessman waited for perfect conditions to stick his/her neck out a little, they would never get out of bed. And while they hunker down, some other businessman will seize the opportunity.

King Banian is generalizing...and so am I.

Of course I am -- that's what I get paid to do. And of course those who take risks and guess the economy correctly will get the gains. But I don't think it's right for a forecaster to encourage people to ignore additional risk. My job is to point out the increased risk. What that does is increase the option value of waiting on an investment -- which I know are the words I used in the interview -- which should make one rationally less likely to investment.

You can read the rest of the story to see what MacDonald and I think about the local economy, and you will no doubt here more about it locally in the next couple of days. That kind of headline leaves a mark, and I am sure I'm going to catch hell from a few people.

* -- I found it humorous later on the same fellow says "is hoping with lower energy prices this fall, and leveling off of interest rates...maybe even a slight decline, things will pick up by xmas and for 2007." I guess businessmen tell other businessmen to take a punt; economists don't.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Personal to Xcel Energy 

Not that you're ever personal, and that's the problem.

I arrived home 30 minutes ago to find no electricity at my home. Mrs. and Littlest are out, pets are inside, and all I have to get into the house is the garage door opener, which is currently about as useful as a speedbump on a Republican website. Mrs. has recently changed the lock, and I have not gotten the new key. And since she was just running to the store when the power went out, she left behind her cellphone so I can't call her. (I have since found them.)

So I call your emergency line. You might wonder how I know this number, given I am standing outside my house in the rain: I know because I had to do this two weeks ago, so your emergency number is in my recent # list on my cellphone. If you think this is a good thing, that's a problem too, but we'll get back to that.

And just like last time, I get an automated voice system that directs me how to report an electrical outage. Same voice, not quite mechanical, not quite human -- though it is really trying to be, saying "OK" in the same cheery way over and over every time I hit another number for another option. I half expect cheese to come out of my cellphone.

So this pretend-real voice dropped into my phone out of some cheesy horror movie says "we have recorded your power outage report and can tell you your power will be restored at " and here there is this very slight pause as it switches to read a damn timestamp and says "9:52pm. Would you like to report another power outage?"


That's there because that's all this number knows how to do. It does not ever give the option of talking to a live person, on this or any other continent. It is a reporting system designed for your benefit, not your customers'. And of course, because I live in a city, I can't choose to hire a different electricity provider, a fact you know.

And 9:52?? Precisely? How can that be anything other than a timestamp? "Oh don't jump to conclusions," you say, except that I do jump to conclusions after experiencing the EXACT same thing a mere 12 days ago -- you do recall that I said your electrical outage reporting number was in my recent dialed numbers on the cell, yes? -- and being a scientific sort I tested the theory again with my neighbor's phone, in which case it said the problem would be solved by 9:55. 52 or 55? Which is it?

There's a place people like you go. I can tell you that you will be there in exactly four...

(P.S. Those of you hoping I would liveblog Almanac tonight ... well, you try asking the people in the bar to change the channel to PBS.)

UPDATE: 11:20pm -- electricity reappears in the shire. Littlest wakes up from a deep sleep, smiles and walks to the laptop. Order is restored, and this is all a hobbit wants. Meanwhile, the father shakes his fist to the night sky: "9:52 my eye."

Here piggy piggy piggy 

Strom didn't tell me about this at MOBapalooza, but I found on his site a Minnesota Piglet Book full of stupid stuff the government spends money on. My favorite entry is the last one, a Viking ship I've driven by in Moorhead.
For heaven�s sake�a state-funded Viking ship?!?! The last time the Vikings were paid off, by English kings in the ninth and tenth centuries, the Vikings took their money and fought them anyway. It looks like history is repeating itself, as the government (taxpayers) is paying tribute to the Vikings once again with a poor return on that investment.
I doubt the Vikings pay off this Sunday, either.

Buy the premise, buy the bit 

That's Johnny Carson's theory of joketelling. It's also my explanation for the U of M poll University of Minnesota poll which the STrib will use to validate their crappy poll. I'd like to see the survey instrument. Notice the amount of time the report spends on Iraq versus terror. 45% of interviewees said the war in Iraq was the single most important issue, versus 16% saying terrorism. Klobuchar wins 67% of the Iraq vote, Kennedy 72% of the terrorism vote. What do you want to bet the single-most-important question was asked first, to prime the pump? The order in which the questions are asked matters.

Nonetheless, even if you don't think the lead is that large, the survey the Kennedy campaign something important. It is incumbent on them,in my view, to make the connection between Iraq and the war on terror. His current strategy seems instead to focus on domestic issues; the voters are not there. He will need to go out and find them. And if that means 9/11 imagery, well then do it. Your dad's pension, Mark, is falling on deaf ears.

These ads, on the other hand, would help.

A target of opportunity 

Campus newspapers are renown for some strange writing, even though most writers get their starts there. A new blog called Campus Newspaper Confab has decided to mine that vein of rich badness. I thought about calling foul on ripping a community college newspaper letter to the editor -- that's sort of like having your football team play Temple -- but I confess to laughing a few times. Worth checking out.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Things I learned in Sunday School 

A quiz for political candidates and their apologists.

1. A woman bakes a cherry pie, and places it on her window sill to cool.
2. The pie is not on the window sill but on her table. The window is open.
3. Same situation, except that the window is closed but unlocked.
4. The woman has a dog guarding the pie. You have a piece of raw meat. You open the window, throw the meat away from the pie, and -- since anyone knows a dog will chase the meat -- he leaves the pie unguarded.
5. If at any point you take the pie, how long before you feel remorse?
6. Your child takes the pie (should have gotten him into Sunday School!) and comes home with a slice for you and cherry stains on his shirt. How long before you tell the woman your son took her pie?
Correct answers: C'mon, let's not be judgmental, shall we? The pie was asking for it!

Victor Davis Hanson at the University of Minnesota 

I was unable to get out of town to go see Hanson's talk at the University of Minnesota. Prof. Janet Beihoffer of Metropolitan State the U (my mistake, sorry) did so, and sends this report:
Tuesday, September 19, renowned history professor, Victor Davis Hanson presented his reasons for America staying the course in Iraq. The entire session was �off the cuff� with historical perspectives, facts and figures given with ready ease. More was learned in 45 minutes of listening to this professor than one could find reading any article. He emphasized two key points:
  1. All wars and battles, no matter how well-planned and designed, incur unanticipated problems. One key example Dr. Hanson gave was a review of some problems encountered by the Allies after the D-Day Invasion of WWII. Mistakes included accidental deaths, an inability to move forward after the initial onslaught, among others.
  2. When people are ignorant of history, going back to the Greeks, Persians, etc., people cannot place current conflicts and events in perspective. Emotional reactions, media hype and agendas replace facts and context. This lack of historical knowledge of the human concerns and military issues influence events and often result in only negative coverage when, in actuality, much good is occurring.
Not grasping these two concepts has resulted in a negative slant on our current struggles. Minutia is emphasized, the big picture is lost. If the Americans and the Coalition pull from Iraq, all fledgling democratic activity in that region (Jordon, Qatar, Kuwait, even Hamas, etc.) will come under severe attack. For the past 50+ years we have tried dealing with the dictatorships, thugs, bullies, tribes, religious extremists and others in the Middle East. All these efforts have failed. The Democracy approach is a last chance.

Of course someone had to ask the inevitable question about the 40,000 civilian deaths and the fact that Iraqis want Americans to leave?

The response was, 40,000 compared to what? There were a minimum of 250,000 Iraqis murdered by Saddam over the past 10 years. How many children died because of Saddam�s corrupt diversion of money from the UN sponsored �oil for food� program to build palaces? The enemy in Iraq doesn�t wear uniforms and thus are counted as civilian deaths. This enemy has murdered tens of thousands of Iraqs. As for Americans staying in Iraq, it is the Iraqi leaders begging the Americans to stay. Unfortunately for so many Americans, recent pleas by Iraqi leaders, made to the US Congress, are not covered in the mainstream media.

It is unfortunate that for 35 plus years American students have been taught only the negatives of our nation rather than its incredible role in the development of a Republic and subsequent democratic systems. When educators emphasize only problems, faith in a system becomes questionable. Churchill said, �It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.�

�Believe in the US (United States) system,� said Dr. Hanson. It is the best chance for that part of the world to become a true player in our current world system.

Scratched my head for three days 

In the 6th Congressional District debate Monday, I remember typing this and saying out loud "wrong!" It was in answer to a question about making permanent the Bush tax cuts:
Wetterling: Proposed incentives for middle class tax cuts. Production is up, people making more are not doing better � people no better off than in 1949.
I tend to be forgiving of candidates who use economic statistics to make arguments -- there are lots of them, it's easy to get confused, it's usually someone looking for a crutch to prop up a bad argument (and I'd rather deal with the argument head-on than snipe the misquoted data.)

But this one was odd because I hadn't heard it said that way before. People are making more stuff but getting less of it. And the 1949 date was really, really new to me.

Google didn't help much, so I went to the first place I always go when I'm looking for Democrat economic talking points, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. (The place originally housed all the disaffected Carter budget people who got tossed in the street when Reagan came to office in 1981.) And off the front page I find this report from three weeks ago that I think was her reference.
Commerce Department data released on August 30 show that in the first half of 2006, the share of national income that went to wages and salaries was at the lowest level on record, with data going back to 1929. The share of national income captured by corporate profits, in contrast, was at its highest level since 1950.
The impression this is to give, and the impression that Wetterling was trying to leave in the debate, is that the middle class is getting squeezed. But if she were to read the American Prospect -- which, being a liberal, she might -- she might have found this article describing the middle class as shrinking only because the middle class is getting above the middle.

What's the matter with the middle class? Democrats like to pin their defeats on national security and culture issues alone, but the progressive economic message is also to blame. What progressives generally say about the economy is unrelentingly pessimistic -- stagnant wages, rising costs, overwhelming burdens of debt. It's a message that doesn't resonate with the middle class -- not only because it's overly negative (by itself political poison), but because it's simply flat out wrong.

Don't believe me? Believe the numbers:

  • $63,300. That's the 2004 median household income of people in their prime working years, ages 25-59 (it's $70,000 for married households and nearly $80,000 for two-earner households).
  • $248,700. That's the median net worth of pre-retirement Americans, ages 55-64.
  • Zero. That's the median credit card debt for all American households.

Drowning in debt? Squeezed to the gills? Living paycheck to paycheck? I don't think so.

These numbers all add up to this one: $23,700, the household income at which a white voter was more likely to vote Republican than Democratic in the 2004 congressional races.

My problem with the data analysis of most people is that it simply doesn't square with the human eye and one's own common sense. It just doesn't sound right; the presence of three car garages in every neighborhood of St. Cloud tells me so. Rose shows data from the Census that the share of American families making $30k-$75k in real dollars -- what you would think of as the middle class -- shrunk 13% while the share of families making more than $100k a year rose by the same amount. Stay married, and your median family income is $70k. Two wage earners? $78k. Those data square with my own eyes.

Democrats who get this have been pushing for lower college tuition and for tax breaks for child care, etc. But these are not exciting, and have been drowned out by candidates calling for troops to come home now from Iraq and for investigating the Bush Administration. And that's the problem with Minnesota's DFL slate this fall, leading with Patty Wetterling.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A political junkie's mother lode 

It's a Sunday night, football was boring because the Vikes had a bye, and you are sitting in the couch wondering why the Raiders are on TV again tonight. You know what you should do? You should go to the TownHall Patriot Radio Rally. 6pm at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. And best of all, if you call 651-289-4444 now and plan a bit ahead, you can go for free. Even liberals know free is good. (They just think everything should be free except for rich Republicans; those would be the ones who forget to call and pay $12.80 at the door.)

Randomly putting things together 

Denial of promotion in academia can be traumatic. For some people for whom the judgment of others is all that matters, it might be a real gut-punch. I suspect for a man like Mike Adams, though -- who has the wisdom to write this while teaching economics -- it's not something that shakes his faith.

If Wilmington doesn't want you, Professor, give me a call.

What part of "I am in support of the Hamas movement" don't you understand? 

Gary wants to know.

"But! But! But we have pictures of him with Bush at the White House after 9/11!" Right, because if Bush doesn't take these pictures he would have been accused of wanting to create internment camps for anybody with the wrong amount of melanin, by the same people who defend Awad now. We have pictures of Clinton with Arafat (none too flattering for Bill, either), does that make him a supporter of the PLO's aims?

We knew at the time that Awad was a problem; he's done nothing to renounce his support for Hamas, and Keith Ellison continues to take money and campaign assistance from him. Why is asking Ellison if he is in support of the Hamas movement too when he takes money from its supporters an illegitimate question?

What's a kid gotta do to get into college? 

I was always told extracurriculars. So I sang in a chorus that toured Romania, was president of the state Methodist youth organization, and played on a chess team. It turns out that wouldn't help much any more. Nor will good SAT scores.
Admissions offices broke the record this year for the greatest number of valedictorian rejections.

Today, approximately 41 percent of America�s student population has a grade point average over 3.5. Yale has approximately 21,000 applicants annually and only 1,300 available slots. Ninety-seven percent of Stanford's new freshman class were ranked in the top 20 percent of their high schools, and 45 percent ranked in the top 1 percent or 2 percent. Harvard has an abundance of candidates with strong credentials, but it now accepts an estimated all-time-low 9 percent of them.
Two points emerge to me in this piece (sent by loyal reader jw.) First, it appears grade inflation in high school is catching up with students, as even an A- average is not going to guarantee admission to elite schools. Second, since many schools are putting service learning requirements in their curricula, students "going to Costa Rica on a project" can't stand out any more.

And the killer essay? Fuhgeddabouddit. "We never base our decisions on essays. We read them carefully, but we understand how easily they can be purchased or written by anyone. They can certainly illuminate a case, but we'd be foolish to base our decisions on them." Their advice instead? Tell the truth. Most admissions people want students of all types, so the more you can tell of yourself, the more possible it is that you have the part their lacking in that freshman class.

Oil price conspiracy 

Betsy's Newmark discusses oil price shortages, and concludes that the conspiracy theories we hear now are a product of the drive-by media.
[I]f the media and irresponsible politicians hadn't spread the word in the first place that there was some evil cabal behind the price increase in the first place, perhaps people wouldn't be so ready to believe the Republicans were behind every fluctuation.
Doug can't believe 40% of Americans could be foolish enough to believe that there is all this price manipulation. But look at the state of American economic education. Everyone says it's important to know economics, but 28% flunk a basic quiz administered by the National Council on Economic Education. Students do much worse.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Rob Reiner hearts Tarryl 

I was a little hard on Independence Party candidate John Binkowski in my 6th CD debate recap last night, but I appreciate the attention the IP gives to where money in the political process comes from and where it goes. (I just think their cures tend to misunderstand the role of the First Amendment in politics.) Another IP regular and former candidate, Dan Becker, identifies the role of PACs in the local races here in St. Cloud.

Of the six candidates, none are running as independents or with a third party.

Jeff Johnson and Tara Westby score the highest for taking in the lowest amount of special interest money. Johnson has done a fantastic job taking in only $300 of PAC money from just two groups. ...

I think it would be wonderful if Larry Haws and Tarryl Clark, as incumbents with great service records in the community, would give all that special interest money back and run on those merits.

Again, for full disclosure, as someone living in the district, I have contributed to both the Westby and Johnson campaigns. As I detailed a week ago, the Haws and Clark campaigns have gotten contributions from a number of big money, out-of-district donors. Now I think, contra Binkowski and, I think, Becker, that one has the right to free speech and give money to whomever one wishes, but there has to be disclosure, and the media (hearing me here, Larry?) should do a better job of reporting those contributions.

So what would it mean to you to learn that Rob Reiner was giving money to Tarryl Clark? You would not really know it. What you'd have to do is follow $2000 from Reiner to his buddy Al Franken, who runs a PAC called Midwest Values. (OK, you can stop laughing now.) Go to the MN Campaign Finance Board and look up that PAC's report. That money is transferred from the national PAC to the MN version. (Notice that Franken's name doesn't appear as the owner, but the list of contributors includes several Frankens.) Now go to where the money is distributed, and sure enough there's $500 to the Clark campaign.

The list of contributors to Midwest Values is a who's who of Hollywood of sorts, including Reiner, Barbra Streisand, Sydney Pollack, producer-writer Lawrence Kasdan, and one "J Smits" of Santa Monica. Numerous New York City-based movie people as well, including Geoffrey Rodkey (a screenwriter who should be shot just for The Shaggy Dog. Littlest would throw in RV for good measure.) You could have fun with that list! The PiPress story says Franken claims he has only received $60,000 from Hollywood, but this must include other PACs than that in Minnesota. Of the one here, $20,500 came from California, $25,850 from New York and only $12,500 from Minnesota. (The national campaign has been covered by Brian Maloney already.)

Hollywood has free speech too, and that should include political free speech (though undoubtedly Hollywood loves McCain-Feingold.) That speech should be subject to the widest disclosure however; as this blog's motto used to quote, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Nobel handicapping 

Thomson Scientific is running a poll on who will win the Nobel Prizes in medicine, chemistry, physics and economics. In econ, the nominees they offer are Bhagwati, Dixit and Krugman for international trade theory, Dale Jorgenson for his work in investment theory and econometrics, and to Oliver Hart, Bengt Holmstrom and Oliver Williamson for trasnaction costs economics, contracts, incentives and corporate governance issues. Thomsom is running a poll and no clear favorite has emerged; all three are good candidates, but I would vote for Jorgenson. I don't see any polls elsewhere, yet.

Further notes on labor hours 

A week or so ago I blogged about Russ Roberts' article on how we were calculating workers' real wages. Russ writes, to repeat:
How do businesses report their total hours worked to get an accurate number? How much leisure takes place on the job today compared to 1964? How much work gets done at home that the company has no knowledge of? I have no idea. Neither does the BLS.

How does the BLS adjust the weights in the survey? When a manufacturing plant closes and a graphic arts company opens, how do they re-weight the sample? I'm sure they do re-weight, and I'll try and find out how they do it, but does their method result in any systematic bias?

I thought, since I know some folks at BLS -- and I need to, as a heavy consumer of their data -- I would ask. While I have nothing definitive to quote, I got a long, off-the-record answer to some questions which I can summarize for you. Of course, this will be only as good as my summary!

The National Compensation Survey (NCS) directly surveys worker hours. If you have a worker who is paid at some wage, it's not much of an issue -- each firm surveyed has someone who can tell you how many hours they worked. Full time is easy, part-time is estimated, but the examples I was given were reasonable. But, for example, it's difficult to deal with construction workers' seasonality in employment, or workers who work odd four-on, three-off type shifts, or public safety workers, etc. In all cases there's an attempt to build what the weekly schedule is of these workers. These estimates do not usually include overtime (those data come from the CES, more on which below.)

Roberts' point is to the "exempt worker" who doesn't punch hours. In this case one asks what is the expectation between employer and employee for hours to be delivered. Now sometimes they will code a special number of hours for some workers -- tax accountants for example work more early in the year -- but normally you code contracted hours. And you can't code exactly every hour a salesperson works, as successful sales people work more hours than unsuccessful ones.

My correspondent makes a good point, though, in the difference between NCS and CES (from which we get the monthly payroll employment figures as well as average hourly earnings). The former is a survey where someone spends maybe an hour talking to someone to get a feel for the data, whereas the latter is data collected by a field economist and evaluated off-site; the average wage is a number written down by a payroll clerk. There are changes coming to the series that would allow better measurement.

A new report, the old conclusion 

A new paper from the Education Schools Project says there's a lot not to like about teacher training. I have read only the executive summary of the report, and it's damning enough. Selected quotes:

Monday, September 18, 2006

6th District Debate -- St. Cloud 

Following the format I had for the 15A debate, this is an unedited transcript of my notes of the 6th CD debate in St. Cloud, held around the corner from me at the Whitney Senior Center about ninety minutes ago. There were several Cities reporters in attendance -- including Eric Black -- as well as Larry Schumacher from the local paper. This was sponsored by Courage House, Goodwill, Easter Seals, and other groups assisting seniors and the disabled, so their four questions are the first four asked here. Topics are people with disabilities, chronic conditions, public policy roles.

(late add) Post-debate, I saw an email of the Survey USA poll, also shared to me verbally by someone else: Bachmann 50%, Wetterling 41%, Binkowski 5%, undecided 4%. I have a hard time believing 96% of voters have made up their minds. If so though, the next step of the campaign should be a very negative attack on Bachmann. How long before it happens.

UPDATE (11;45pm): Worth comparing my notes below to Gary's. I should also note this point made by Schumacher about the new Wetterling ad/bio:
The thing I don't get is, Wetterling is a household name throughout most of Minnesota already. Plus, she ran for this seat in this same district two years ago. Why do we need to be introduced to her?

Impressions and comments follow.

starting late due to traffic (Bachmann, Hauser moderator)

515 Bachmann arrives, still waiting for Hauser.

533 Hauser arrives -- caught in traffic looking at Rogers damage.

534 Bachmann (Rep) �joy to talk about the least among us�, federal tax attorney and 23 foster children, 5 of their own. These issues are important to me, no easy answers.

536 Binkowski, (IP) �appropriate sitting between other two candidates as the pendulum swings back and forth.� Know how to save a dime. Mountains of debt and an energy legacy.

538 Wetterling (DFL) rehearsed speech. Crawling out of bed one day deciding not to let the bad guys win. Gave law enforcement the tool to go after the bad guys; Amber plan. I hear their challenges, middle class being squeezed, more going out than coming in (gas, education, health care). We can do better.

Four questions from Courage Center.

Q. Health care. People at risk often rely on public health care. What changes would you provide.

W: Programs in Medicaid are usually successful, people go off. Can�t cut, must continue to fund, hand up not a handout. People want to get off Medicaid.
Bi: Medicare/Medicaid very important, largest unfunded liability. Created a program that requires a rising birth rate to sustain. Too many retirees/too few payers-workers. The way to save is to raise age of eligibility, raise cap on where we keep paying into the system. Fiscally they are a great danger to our country.
Ba: Barriers to obtaining these jobs. People with disabilities try to get education and training to be self-sustaining. MN is a leader in this. People can earn skills and break through barriers. We want programs like Medicare/Medicaid as a stopgap, mainstream people into our communities. Demographics are large problem.

Q. Transportation. Access for people with disabilities, what to do about public trans for them, particularly in the rural areas.

Bi: Important to have rail/bus/light rail/roads. More mass transit needed to wean off oil. Important balance.
Ba: Threat of commonality in the district. Everyone talks about it. More roads, intersections, bridges, as well as transit. People overwhelmingly use roads. Look at airport as well. Access for people with disabilities; MN a leader. Often most cost-effective thing they can do is to provide enhancement. Need more lanes on I-94!
W: Transportation key issue. We need mass transit; Northstar needs to be extended to STC. Wasted time now costs more. Connects people to jobs, more time with families. Ethanol and alternative energy is needed. More subways as well. People spending more than $50 more per week on gas (???)

Followup on Northstar:
Ba: Cost-effective transportation system. Northstar not cost-effective from Big Lake to STC. Have to see if it works to Big Lake first.
Bi: Can�t widen roads, too expensive compared to Northstar.
W: Hiawatha was overmatched. People want it, it�s going to happen so pay now rather than more later.

Q: Welfare to work passed in 1996. Funding to states, states will run it.

Ba: States need to have flexibility and control. What we�ll fight for is local control. Block grants to individuals would be good too � the poor need flexibility to make their own choices.
W: TANF is block grants to states. Health care challenges. Each of us is one serious illness away from bankruptcy. TANF sets standards. It worked for a friend of W and worked for taxpayers.
Bi: Tenet of IP is to return control to the local level, agrees with Bachmann. We can give block grants and welfare-to-work programs, but the best way to make people successful is to build our economy and let it create good jobs. Supports fair tax.

Q. Housing. Affordable accessible housing is an issue with declining budgets. How to provide to people with disabilities?
W: Part of middle class squeeze. Daughter works in this area to keep disabled in their homes. Much cheaper than institutionalization. Huge squeeze, people not making it.
Bi: Seek to preserve housing grants for elderly and disabled. We have community support from all around here in St. Cloud. We can take care of each other.
Ba: the great news is how well the economy is doing. Unemployment 3.7%. Well below the national average. 10% of all jobs created in nation created in MN. Tax cuts under Bush were temporary � will make the cuts permanent. *wetterling people boo, Bachmann people drown out with applause*

Followup, what�s your position on the Bush tax cuts? Make permanent or repeal?

Bi: Tax cut as foolish as a tax hike. The Bush tax cut helps created capital gains, doesn�t help as much as fair tax. Need fundamental reform of the tax code.
W; Proposed incentives for middle class tax cuts. Production is up, people making more are not doing better � people no better off than in 1949.
Ba: Repeal capital gains and estate tax. Fair tax means every purchase you make you pay additional 23� per dollar.

Q. Most important issue.

W: Safe communities. No homeland security without that. Help with first responders. Need to improve communications between the people.
Bi: Reform elections and how money affects politics. I�m beholden to no one, the others� campaigns are run from Washington, they�re too tied to DC interests.
Ba: Many terrorists still trying to attack us. Nothing more important than foreign policy and homeland security. We are at war, we all love this nation, the first duty of government is to safeguard the people. Secure the borders, illegal immigration a big issue.

Q. Renewable energy.

Bi: We can lead the world in renewables. Why can�t we just we are going to get off oil? Build up wind turbines.
Ba: Gas up, gas down. We want it to stay down. But we�re dependent for the foreseeable future. MN is a leader in renewables. We are working with ethanol, biodiesels. We should not be dependent on foreign oil. We need to increase supply here. Encourage innovation as a national security issue.
W: It�s a dependence on oil, not just foreign oil. We haven�t put any effort to making differences. Cars no different than 30 years ago. CAF� standards need to be increased.

Q. Federal government doesn�t fund 40% of special ed. How will you handle this issue?

Ba: IDEA act deals with special ed. It�s a mandate bill that requires 40%, federal government never put up more than 14%. Never will come up with the money. We need to lift these mandates, beginning with NCLB.
W: We cannot not fund special ed, it�s criminal. We have to give kids the opportunity to achieve their goals. (No real ideas here.)
Bi: If it is going to hand out mandates it must pay for them. Delete Dept. of Education at federal level, just make it a funding mechanism. Blames Spellings for NCLB when she wasn�t even there then.

Q. Universal health care.

W: Health care should be a right, everyone should be covered. Can happen in stages, seniors first. Price of prescription drugs, donut hole (doesn�t explain), emergency rooms used too much. Doesn�t think we can get there overnight.
Bi: Nobody�s shown us how to pay for it. European countries are bankrupting themselves this way. We need competition in the market. $400 bn of health care dollars go to administration � something wrong with that. Deal with obesity issues for kids.
Ba: Does not support socialized medicine. It hasn�t worked anywhere else won�t work here. This is the best system you can get. We have the best R&D; biosciences so strong here in MN. We have this because of innovation that we get because of the private system. We insure the most people of any state in the union.

Q. Will you vote for a bil that treats mental health(50%) at the same level as physical health (80%)?

Bi: Yes. We have people who are not functioning at the level they could if they got the help the needed.
Ba: Clinic deals with mental health issues. But government doing mandates here has unintended consequences of driving costs up. Not sure it will lead to cost savings. It�s a real issue, I�m opened, but not enough information yet.
W: It is unconscionable to not have parity. Wellstones led this program, I would like to pick up this issue (including troops returning home she says.)

Q. Term limits for Congressmen and Senators.

Ba: Would entertain it but term limiting happens at the ballot box. You can beat incumbents.
Bi: Yes, I would sponsor, beginning with myself.
W: Yes.

Q. Congress on Social Security rather than their own plan?

W: Yes, there needs to be accountability. (Uses disconnect.) Should pay in and take out.
Bi: Yes.
Ba: Yes, legislation just passed, so the offices have to comply. It�s about time.

Q. What can we do to get out of Iraq soon?

Bi: We need to get out soon. Misguided mission, would divide the country. Blight on our national tradition.
Ba: War has been declared on us, and on Israel. The reality is at war. Elements unlike others, but they are real, and the intention hasn�t changed. An attempt four weeks ago to blow up planes. We can�t wish this problem away. If we don�t have the guts to take on this enemy the enemy will take on us.
W: No plan, was the first to call for return of troops. We are not focused on the right war. Iraq is a distraction and allows terrorism to grow.

Q. Would you support overturning Roe v Wade.

Ba: Yes, and it�s a defining issue. Every life is worthy of protection. People with disabilities targeted by Roe.
Bi: No, it shouldn�t propose legislation, it�s a moral issue and government shouldn�t impose morality. We have to move on.
W: No, too many victims that need to look at their lives and be able to make tough decisions.
Closing statements:

W: I know how to get things done in Washington. Be as loud a voice for you as lobbyists are. Congress is not asking questions of this administration. We can do better.
Bi: Other campaigns run from DC. DFL attacks corporations we need to live on, Republicans preach fear. I�m not for any that, not for cowering on our couches instead of barbequing on decks.
Ba: I believe in freedom, I believe in this country. Economic Freedom � people can do what they do best and keep their money. Want to cut taxes. Build roads so our transportation. Brother in the Navy, he is not cowering, we are standing for our country. We have freedom, we are unapologetic for it. We will secure our borders.

Post-debate comments: Mrs. Scholar likes Binkowski, but it was hard for me to see anything positive in his performance. Everyone loves the outside guy, the one willing to mix it up with the other two (as the papers like Hutchinson's stabs at Pawlenty and Hatch last week) but in the end he comes off rather ill-informed. Gary Gross and I compared notes on the Medicare answer for example -- he did not propose cutting anything, but then cited many statistics that show it as unsustainable, and the only cure is to do something about administrative costs. I thought that answer was weak. When he used the line about cowering you could see the DFLers take the line, and then Bachmann nailed him good with the comment about her brother in the navy. This after a nice jab at both parties as running the other campaigns from DC. He seems like a nice guy, but he's not up to speed.

Wetterling has learned in two years, but not a whole lot. She is light with statistics, and relies too much on the word "disconnect" and on selling her experience in children's safety as meaning she can get things done in DC. It didn't sell in 2004. She looks much more comfortable up there now, and has her standard speech reasonably mastered (particularly compared to her disastrous showing in the 2004 televised debate when she looked petrified next to Mark Kennedy -- which frankly takes a little doing, Kennedy not being the most polished debater.) Her opening statement was the best of the three. But she did not go directly to the audience questions most of the time and stayed with rehearsed lines. I just didn't see much mastery of issues there.

Bachmann sometimes shoots a little too much from the hip, and I thought she was going to do that after a lacklustre opening statement. But she attacks questions and doesn't waver from her positions at all. You know what she believes and that she will stand by it. The cutesy girly act we thought she played too much in the primary is gone; she's a mom and a wife, but she's also tough, and her swing back at Binkowski in closing scored points from most people. Despite a lot of crowd noise that should have been better controlled, she knocked out what she had to say over the noise. I think she helped herself, Wetterling didn't hurt herself, and Binkowski showed he wasn't ready to play with the big girls.

Miscellaneous and overheard 

Busy day, so here are some links to some other good articles today:

Overheard at the Minnesota Poll:

"Hello, I'm from the Minnesota Poll, and we're conducting a survey of voter attitudes for the November election. Are you planning to vote?"
"And your party identification is?"
"Strong Republican"

"Hello, I'm from the Minnesota Poll, and we're conducting a survey of voter attitudes for the November election. Are you planning to vote?"
"And your party identification is?"
"And as the moderate, will you be voting for the moderate Amy Klobuchar?"
"Well, I'll take that as a yes."

"Hello, I'm from the Minnesota Poll, and we're conducting a survey of voter attitudes for the November election. Are you planning to vote?"
"And your party identification is?"
"And you think Kennedy looks like a dope and will vote for Amy Klobuchar. Thank you very much and have a great day!"

Friday, September 15, 2006

Rainy night dogblog 

Just one of those busy days, so when short on a Friday, there's always resort to the cheap trick of a Buttercup picture.
BC says: Go easy on King today. So much work this week he forgot his fourth bloggiversary this week.

Now, isn't this better than AAA's bear? A face that could melt Joe Tucci's heart.

Smacks forehead 

How could I have not realized that the school I discuss in this story this week was the same school I blogged about before. Thanks to David Beito for reminding me.

Maybe she'll send a sign 

Those of you who have posted negatively to my post on Dick Andzenge's article on Wednesday are invited to read Michelle Malkin's obit of Oriana Fallaci. Then off to Wretchard:
At the time of her death Oriana Fallaci was facing a suit in Italy for daring to suggest that her country and culture were under threat from radical Islam. In her youth she did not bow to Hitler; and in her old age she hurled defiance at yet another tyranny. The darkness came and yet the darkness claimed her not.
But it would consume all of us, if the apologists for western culture get their way. In death, let's hope she provides Pope Benedict with some backbone.

I read The Rage and the Pride a couple of years ago and thought then it might be a little over the top. The more I watch, the more I think she wasn't. Might be time to read more...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

HD 15A debate 

These are my notes from the Debate Minnesota debate between District 15A candidates Steve Gottwalt (SG) and Diana Murphy-Podawiltz (DMP) from which I've just returned. I've retained the raw notes for others to use (a few comments interspersed in italics after arriving home.) I arrived a little late and missed some of Gottwalt's opening remarks. Those being mostly uninformative, I've cut to the questions themselves. These first two questions were asked by a moderator, whose questions struck me as quite slanted towards a more liberal view, but since he had the floor for only 30 minutes of the debate, I didn't find him that problematic, and neither did the candidates.

7:15 -- first question is a loaded question about transportation. DMP -- too many cars, 4-car garages, high cost of gas. So supports Northstar. Fully funding of transportation sales tax. Make sure the money goes to roads. SG -- "transportation candidate", lists experiences. Supports a yes vote for MVST. Need to pass -- but no to the gas tax. Wants toll roads explored. 1/5 of the need, so how would you fill "the need"? ($1.5 bn) SG -- no support for gas tax. Need to bond, it's a capital infrastructure investment. DMP -- governor's veto was a mistake. Bonding has its limits, will not use. Need to raise license tab fees, raise taxes on gas "there's a formula", there's an equitabitlity of taxes "rich are not paying their fair share." Moderator switches to tax pledge. SG -- fees, but taxes on the wealthy would be detrimental to job creation and economic development. OK with gas taxes and license tabs. Has there ever been an economy that grew after taxes were raised? DMP -- I'm not suggesting taxes are a bad thing.

7:25 education. What to do with the gap in education? SG -- need a stable funding source, state was unreliable in the last recession, so local funding is more responsible and responsive. Not wrong to ask for accountability with additional funding. DMP -- Legislatures have asked school districts to do more with less, raised expectations and doesn't allow them to fund. Immediate step raise spending $.17 per dollar on education -- this is the 1990 level, now down to $.155. Roll back tax cuts. Moderator asks about difference in which side pays how much. DMP -- can't ask local taxpayers to pay the whole increase. SG -- not all on local taxpayers, but the state's proposal to fund wholly was unwise. 70% rule SG not a slap on the administration. DMP -- most schools are there (not true -- it's about 1/4 of districts); schools are doing the best they can with what they've got. College education tuition DMP too high, students in debt, we need more students in school. SG -- we're not doing too bad, people get through, but the costs are rising and we need to know why, what are we getting for our dollars?

7:40 (Larry Schumacher asking question unknown to candidates) -- what can address low wages in St. Cloud? SG -- increase job skills, state is not aggresive enough in providing job leads (DTED used to generate more leads) but JOBZ is helping. Willing to look at a minimum wage increase, but we have to be sure we're providing solid job opportunities for them. DMP -- we have both low and highpaying jobs that are very different.20% jobs in Cities are highpaying, 10% in STC; 25% lower cost of living in STC. ???? We don't know for sure. Job transportability and skill development. State funded-programs should pay prevailing wages. DMP -- requirements from JOBZ and TIF, she supports. We also need to be doing education of workers. SG -- promise from SCSU to taking our higher ed students, using the business colleges to transfer information to the community. SCSU is not doing enough. DMP -- man she drifts a lot! DMP -- we're losing students from SCSU out of St. Cloud. (So's everyone else.)

7:52 -- Now LS asks questions from audience. Health care separating from businesses. DMP -- we need to cover kids. Favors single-payer, thinks it would be cheaper. SG -- employer based health insurance has done well, government fills gaps. Market-based solutions. We have the highest share of our population covered by health insurance (true). DMP -- the free market has not done a good job with health care. While we have a good system, more and more of us are not covered. Is it acceptable that 68,000 children aren't covered? SG -- cites several statistics, says we should build on success.

Paying for prescriptions drugs -- SG -- health care coverage. The real cost includes co-pays. Affordability provided by global marketplace. DMP -- not affordable, must control pharmaceutical firms, need state insurance.

Statewide smoking ban -- DMP yes. Proven that second-hand smoke has negative effects. SG -- agrees. It's a public health issue, should be a state law. Restaurants fine, but would "be more careful" on pour bars.

How should K-12 formula be fixed? DMP -- Needs to be fixed for special ed needs. SG -- it's too complex, nobody can explain it. Unfunded mandates from feds and states are a huge issue.

Gay rights -- DMP -- supporter. They are civil, human rights. Upholding their rights along with everybody elses's. SG -- I support rights for everyone too. But if we're talking about special rights, we might have a disagreement. Followup on marriage amendment. SG -- yes, I will vote to move the amendment to the ballot. Dean Johnson wants to protect us from ourselves. MN voters are being blocked from expressing their views. What's wrong with letting people vote? DMP -- not a good amendment. Constitution should be reserved for very important things (like MVST??) "I believe in civil unions." (I got confused, but three young ladies cheered her, making me think they thought she was supporting gay marriage.)

Can you cite an economy that grew after raising taxes? SG "No." We need to create an environment for businesses to grow jobs, business taxes are too high. DMP -- when we raise taxes we invest in our future, we our elevating the level of our lives. Schumacher -- low taxes in the south, those countries don't grow. SG -- investment has to be in right places. (Southern states are rather corrupt.) Reinvestment is a euphemism for spend. LS for DMP -- how far do we go? DMP -- we're not as high as we once were. We're going backwards. We're cutting, cutting cutting in everything. Proud of our high-tax heritage.

SG -- Simply increasing spending doesn't increase productivity or excellence. She thinks you raise taxes to get results, I believe in making people accountable. DMP -- can't cut anywhere.

Concluding comments: Gottwalt thought after the debate that he had shown a strong contrast between himself and Murphy-Podawiltz. I have only known Gottwalt in passing until a few months ago and not followed his time on the St. Cloud city council. He is much more a moderate than I thought before, particularly on fiscal issues. While even a moderate stands out against the backdrop of DMP, Steve is nonetheless one to argue for smart, careful fee or tax increases. I was the one who wrote the "name a place that grew after raising taxes" question, and he correctly said "none." But in other places as you see in my notes, he was in favor of higher auto license fees, for MVST -- he and I have sparred on Northstar in the past, as he has a preference for spending programs for transportation. He's much more positively disposed to JOBZ and other business tax incentive programs than I would be.

In some sense, the fact that the Debate Minnesota focused 40% of the debate on that and education played well for him; he's much better versed on transportation, and he handles education questions well by focusing on worker training.

Murphy-Podawiltz is not as polished as Gottwalt, and seemed sometimes to lose train of thought and asked for questions to be repeated. There is little doubt that she believes we need to raise taxes, and she was unapologetic about it. When I gave that question she said she could not cite any state or country that improved after raising taxes but kept retreating to the "reinvestment" and "we've just been cutting, cutting cutting" lines. I cannot believe this will play very well even in the more DFL quarters of the district.

If I was her, I'd probably stay away from the economic debates; maybe she might find a majority in highlighting herself as a Catholic who believes in gay marriage if there are many socially liberal voters in the district (though I even had trouble following her on that question). But her views on economic issues mostly came across as vague and muddy, and where she was clear she was clearly for higher taxes. It didn't work for Mondale in 1984, and it probably won't work here.

As goes gas, so goes the election? 

Weirdness -- my colleague and reader Steve Frank sent me this post on the connection of Bush's approval ratings to gas prices just as I was about to look for them myself. I was thinking this last night watching a news report that Bush's numbers were rising. Seems like only yesterday (well, OK, four months ago) we were talking about how much the increase in oil prices are creating problems in his poll numbers.

I think this blogger is correct when he says that oil prices might proxy for Katrina and Iraq. But that means, if true, the gas prices we observer are being moved mostly by risk premia for world events. If those were to subside, how low could gas go? $1.15? Could be, if it turns out the oil price was a bubble caused by destablizing speculation. Tell you what, though: If the price of gas was halved to $1.15, Bush's popularity would not double.

Cradle to grave standards 

What should kindergartners learn? Reading. Writing. A little math. And 169 other things. I love the social ones listed:
They should try teaching these at our faculty union senate meetings.

So what would be the right punishment? 

A professor writes an exam question that appears to at least one student to have a racist connotation. The professor, chagrined, apologizes; the university, wishing to perhaps reinforce the lesson learned, wishes to dock the professor one week's pay. A campus free speech organization says that's too much: the professor should get the "benefit of the doubt", but that's a plea for mercy, not an argument for individual rights.
BCC�s decision to suspend Ratener for one week without pay is extreme and unfair, especially since BCC has both already publicly shamed Ratener and acknowledged that any offense caused by the question was unintentional.
I don't know. The professor admits he picked the name because he found it "fascinating" and that race and politics had nothing to do with the choice. Given that "Condoleezza" throws a "watermelon" from the "Federal Building", I am a little taxed to believe he didn't think the implication that the thrower is Condoleezza Rice would be obvious to students. Sorry, but the professor is a bit foolish here. So, can a university dock someone a week's pay for being foolish? I'm not as willing as FIRE to say foolishness shouldn't have a price, even when it's done by someone who's worked 26 years in a university.

The value of early admission 

Harvard has scrapped its early admission program, and a lot of discussion is occurring.
The decision fits into a larger pattern of Harvard's commitment to making admission fairer for the less-advantaged, says William Fitzsimmons, the school's dean of admissions. Students who lack good counseling in high school or whose parents lack knowledge about college admissions miss out on the early-admissions cycle, he says. "Now those students will be able to consider Harvard in their senior year and see a level playing field."
Early admission applications have a 20% higher acceptance rate, according to a study -- about the same effect as having a parent as an alum of the school.

It certainly was attractive to colleges to have some part of their incoming class locked in early in the year, and parents and students themselves may want to have the pressure of the choice removed early in the year. I wondered if perhaps the reason for scrapping the programs is the possibility that someone receiving early admission then slacks off in his or her senior year. But Arthur Brooks (subscribers link) in today's WSJ shows me I'm wrong:
To get rid of the program for the reasons typically given by critics -- suboptimal personal behaviors and imperfect information about the program -- seeks to correct private problems by eliminating consumer choices. This is silly. We don't ban items because people don't know about them, nor do we put an end to most goods and services (even truly dangerous ones like guns and booze) simply because some people might fail to use them in beneficial ways. The public interest is best served in a market economy not by eliminating choices, but by increasing the information about products and how to use them properly.
I buy that. The reason to get rid of early admissions at Harvard, Brooks says, is that it doesn't need that policy to get a good pool. Fine, but as the first link notes, the University of Delaware has also removed its early admissions policy, and -- no offense to the school -- it's not an Ivy League institution. If other institutions want to market themselves to diverse student populations, they should do so directly rather than reduce choice. (As one might expect, there is no early admissions program at SCSU.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The culture that dares not speak its name 

Local writer and professor of criminal justice Dick Andzenge gives his view that the culture war in America is making us less safe in our war against militant Islam.
We are scared to define our conflict as one against Islam, while the enemy is not shy about referring to its soldiers as jihadis....

While we have refused to join the cultural war, we do not only undermine it, we may actually be surrendering to it.

We continue to tell the world that we are only fighting extremists and continue to look for other euphemistic terms to describe the enemy. If terrorists are extremists defiling the "peace-loving" Muslims of the world, then why don't the millions of peace-loving Muslims rise against them? ...

The concept of jihad that has a central stage in Islam has no counterpart in Christian orthodoxy. While the life of a Christian is seen as one of perpetual spiritual warfare against evil, Islam sees its warfare as both spiritual and physical.

Islamic faith is spread by verbal, cultural and physical persuasion or coercion. There is no similar notion of turning the other cheek or of loving your enemies in Islam. The history and identity of Islam is synonymous with political, cultural and military struggle.

Recently, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No. 2 al-Qaida leader, offered a truce that was contingent on America converting to Islam. Many of us laughed it off as a joke. We may not take al-Zawahiri seriously, but Muslims worldwide have used the ongoing war to preach the virtues of Islam and to make many converts. Many of these converts are not Arab. They are Western converts.

Why do we label self-martyring and wholly committed Muslims as "extremists" or as "fanatics"? Perhaps, it is to help us feel better about our lack of commitment and indifference to our own faith. It has become fashionable in many Western countries to claim to be atheists or to ridicule people of faith. As we surrender our Christian heritage and close our eyes to the real war, we risk losing not only the war on terrorism but our own identity.

While watching Special Report last night I heard Kondracke and Barnes debate whether using the phrase "Islamic fascists" was correct. Kondracke's argument was pragmatic -- if using the phrase is driving more people into terrorism against the US, we should stop it. But he could not deny that it was indeed fascism, practiced almost exclusively by Muslims. "I want to win this war," he said, to which Barnes answered facetiously, "I want to win this crusade." The point Dick raises though is that we are unwilling to defend our own culture by our very reluctance to name our enemy, because we are unwilling to hold up our own faith, and demonstrate our commitment to it.

Just so as we're clear 

I am not at all concerned that Keith Ellison liked or even still likes (should I say 'hearts'?) Louis Farrakhan. Jude Wanniski believed most of us get Farrakhan wrong, and I'm willing to abide politicians who find Farrakhan a source of inspiration. As to Kathy Soliah, well, the SLA is ancient history, and if the GOP is going to try to make that tie stick, it's fooling itself.

That's not the story Powerline has run from Joel Mowbray, however. And those who keep citing Farrakhan and Soliah as the dark blotch on Ellison's character are missing the bigger story. Can't blame them, though, when the major media choose to ignore the story. Consider yourself indicted.

BTW, the person who writes this...
No one can predict how the people of Detroit Lakes, or Tower, or Albert Lea, will respond in November to the smear merchants frantically pushing hot buttons on a candidate seeking to represent people who live hundreds of miles away from them. saying what? We bumpkins out here are too stupid to understand what this means about the DFL?

Addendum on academic freedom committees 

OK, this one is a little strange. A faculty member at UC Santa Cruz asks a committee on academic freedom, of which she is a member, to discuss a rally organized by "Faculty Against War." She wants to discuss that use of institutional funds at a public university is at least unethical if not illegal, and wants to discuss it. Not only does the committee on academic freedom's chair not place the item on the agenda, but the faculty member is booted off the committee. She notes:
The idea that I was essentially kicked off the Committee for Academic Freedom for exercising my academic freedom is almost Orwellian. It�s a sad indictment of how the university�s mechanism for self-governance has gone wildly out of control.

Never mind 

The Envision Minnesota gubernatorial debate discussed here has been postponed:
We are disappointed to let you know that the Envision Minnesota Debate and Convention has been postponed. I know that this is a great disappointment to many of the guests and citizens that had committed to come to this event. The reality is that, in the end, we can not get all three gubernatorial candidates to agree to come this Saturday. After careful review of all our options we have decided to develop a different strategy for building citizen awareness around the issues identified by Envision Minnesota. We are still hopeful that the Envision Minnesota Debate will occur, but not this Saturday. These issues are important and demand that we continue to come together and move forward.
I wonder if someone finally got a look at the questions the citizens were to discuss.

Dershowitz and the heckler's veto 

I wrote someone today about the second coming of our campus' committee on academic freedom. He wondered if he should join, what it would be like, and particularly (I think) what's it like to be a right-libertarian on the committee. I told him that there are places where left and right will agree on academic freedom, if only the left would remember the roots of academic freedom in modern America coming from loyalty pledges.

We would do well to remember on the right as well. Alan Dershowitz defends the rights of the people who invited former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami to Harvard as an instance of academic freedom. But that freedom does not free one from criticism. And to do so means you've adopted one of two views on academic freedom:
Derek Bok, acting president of Harvard, is right when he says that ``a wide exchange of views" is essential to a university. But there are only two tenable positions a university may take in this regard: the first is that they have no substantive standards for who should be invited -- in other words any speaker who wishes to engage in ``a wide exchange of views," and who is invited by any student or faculty group, must be entitled to stand on the Harvard podium. Under this ``taxi cab" approach -- a cab driver must accept any rider who can pay the fare -- Duke and Kahane would have to be invited to speak if there were students or teachers who wanted to hear them, regardless of who might be offended. The second alternative is to have substantive standards -- such as academic achievement or political prominence -- that are applied rigorously and equally, without regard to whether the speaker is left or right, offensive to Jews or to Arabs, etc.
Most universities try to have it both ways -- to have standards that are malleable to the moment of crisis (defined usually as some group that claims group grievances claiming that bringing speaker X to campus aggrevates those grievances.) As Dershowitz points out, David Duke isn't invited to campus not because he has less to say than Khatami -- though it might be true -- but that he offends more people, and people who manage to hold power in Harvard.

This is the heckler's veto, something we've seen here at SCSU in the past. In another case, the university wisely chose to ignore the heckler's veto when it heckled a choice of homecoming queen, but again the defense was that they were breaking stereotypes, shaming the heckler. That seems to be the only thing that works here. So it might be at Harvard, Dershowitz says:
At the end of the day, Khatami will speak at Harvard, because Americans believe in and enjoy the sorts of academic liberties and openness to ideas that Khatami himself did so much to squash when he was in power. That's as it should be. I only hope that those in the Kennedy School who invited Khatami did so out of a genuine commitment to unqualified open dialogue, rather than the belief that offensiveness to some groups is more deserving of solicitude than is offensiveness to others, or worse yet, substantive agreement with some of Khatami's oppressive worldview.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

From where comes your money? 

A recent article in the St. Cloud Times showed the contributions and expenditures of area candidates. As expected here in Senate District 15, the incumbent candidates have fairly substantial leads. But in both cases, a fair amount of their monies come from holdover funding from the special election last December. In the case of Larry Haws (DFL-15B), the holdover was $13,000. Thus he's only raised another $6550 this year, of which $1225 came from PACs and another $250 from Air America Minnesota station operator Janet Robert. As reported in the article, the challenger in this race, Tara Westby, did not have her report available. I wrote to the campaign and its treasurer said he mailed the report on the deadline date; that's not how it's to be done, guys. It's to be received by the deadline. (Some of those folks are former students, so excuse me while I go all teacher on them.) It's now up, and shows her receiving a $500 check from a banker in Wayzata and $500 from the Michele Bachmann campaign. Otherwise her $2500 she has received as of that date were small contributions. (Full disclosure #1, I have contributed to her campaign.)

But I thought the Haws numbers were interesting and decided to look at the data as well for Senator Tarryl Clark in our district and her challenger, (the other) Jeff Johnson. (I'll refrain from linking either candidate's own webpages -- these are all links to their reports.) Johnson has received $1500 of his campaign funds from out of town sources. Some has come from out of state, but much of that appears to be from family members -- there's a retired Johnson in Florida giving $500 -- compared to $3260 of local funds. Most of the names on the list locally are people those of us who travel in the political circles of St. Cloud would know.

The Clark data are much more interesting. There are several reports, some of which overlap, that I refer in this and the following paragraphs. Here's 2006 pre-primary, the 2005 special election, as two I mostly relied on from the Campaign Finance Board. She has collected over $10,000 in donations for which we have names and addresses between her special election last year and this year's election, and again about 40% of it comes from outside the district. That is all well and fine, I guess, but her contributor list is sort of the who's who of the Minneapolis DFL. The Kaplans are there; Amy Crawford of the Phillips Family Foundation; Kelly Doran; other folks from the Ready4K movement (which should be watched carefully by the early childhood ed crowd). Becky Lourey.

So too is Matt Entenza and Lois Quam, the money fountain of the Cities DFL machine. Whose candidate is she? And did they ask her to vote for the stadium? Maybe not them, but checks from the carpenters union, the electrical workers' union, the laborers union, (and of course Education Minne$ota) -- a goodly $11k in PAC money overall! -- might be influential.

The worst influence out of district money may have on Jeff Johnson is that he'll talk to his dad. The influence on Tarryl Clark, though, could be talking to Sam Kaplan and Matt Entenza.

The hell? 

I have a friend who says that when he is indicating confusion. Reading Larry Schumacher's description, I'm having one of those moments:
�We need to stop letting the drug companies write health care and drug laws in Washington and start letting Medicare negotiate with them for better deals like the Veterans Administration does,� she said. �We need to be following the North Star, not the Lone Star, to get ahead.�
I have no idea what that means. But if it means that we should emulate the Minnesota plan to buy drugs from Canada, Klobuchar misses the point entirely; Minnesota is not the USA, and its effect on prices and profits for the pharmaceutical industry is nothing. As Michael Fumento notes, Medicare isn't just the 800-pound gorilla, it belches 800-pound gorillas after a mid-afternoon snack. He quotes USC economics professor Joel Hay:
Consider that the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] now buys 50 percent of all vaccines and pays less than half the private market prices. Since that happened, the number of American vaccine manufacturers has dropped from 25 to four.
Is that the Klobuchar plan, to use Part D to bring socialized medicine through the back door? That would be my vision of the hell.

The Republicans passed a bad plan in Part D, but the Democrats plan then, and now, would be worse.

Katrina, Louisiana and Mississippi 

Another one of those things that I keep meaning to read is the rest of the new issue of the Monthly Labor Review, a publication of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This month is a special issue on the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Some impressions that arise from a scan of the information there:The report looks like a treasure trove for those who wish to understand the economic effects of last year's hurricanes. I find the contrasts of experiences between the two states interesting. Those who claim the Bush Administration's response to Katrina was tainted by race should note the sharp differences in experience between Mississippi and Louisiana, both in the types of damage sustained and economic responses to the shocks imposed by the hurricanes.

Fun stuff I do late at night 

I wish I had more time to explore thesebanknotes of hyperinflating periods, but I just ran across them working on something else. I collect currencies of this type, and I can assure you that you can find me many late nights comparing these to my own collection. Perhaps some need to be posted sometime soon.

A portent for MnSCU/IFO? 

This morning's The Chronicle of Higher Education (perm link; temporary link good for a few days) tells of the end of a long-running feud at Emerson College in Boston. The Boston Globe has a summary of the standoff as well. The battle was over who decides hiring and tenure. Until now, rules for both were within the union contract.
Under the agreement, ratified last Tuesday by both the faculty union and the private college's Board of Trustees, the union will give up its oversight of tenure and hiring decisions, and department chairs will no longer be members of the union.

The two sides also agreed on a new handbook that will outline the new governance procedures as well as options for faculty members to file grievances against the administration. The union retains the right to annul the contract should the administration violate the spirit of the agreement by attempting to make changes in the handbook without consulting the faculty.
At SCSU and throughout the seven MnSCU universities, department chairs are members of the union. I have contended for years, as a chair, that this places me in an uncomfortable position, unable to make many decisions that chairs most anywhere else would take as a matter of course. Likewise, the criteria for tenure and promotion are in the union contract, subject to arbitration and grievance, and without any ability of the administration or a department to provide closure to what is permitted as evidence and what is not.

As the article makes clear, the adversarial nature of some faculty unions is inhibiting discussion between faculty and administrators:
David Rosen, a spokesman for Emerson, predicted that the new arrangement would "usher in an era of greater cooperation" at the college. The new contract and handbook, he said, allows faculty members to talk "in an informal manner" with members of the college administration, while "before, the union was injected into the process."
The union's stance in Minnesota is that it alone can take matters through the grievance process. In one instance last year, the faculty member who filed a grievance through the union process came to an agreement with the administration on remedies, but the agreement was nullified by the union because it did not fit with their understanding of shared governance. (The fact that this faculty member was a chair and not a member of the union, I think, played a role in the union's decision.) Their intransigence has caused myriad problems over the last fifteen months, including instability in the administration -- something not to be desired as we approach reaccreditation. But the union blithely carries on.

It would take an administration of substantial courage to buck this, and if it were not to receive support from the MnSCU officials in St. Paul it would be doomed to failure. So far MnSCU seems not to care much about these issues, so I have somewhat a hard time blaming the local administrators for their failure to act. But if someone would take this job clip and shove it in Chancellor McCormick's face and say "you have the same problem," maybe something would happen. It couldn't hurt.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Silly boy 

When I started this blog I tried to read many of the academic blogs, and that included those of left and right. Some of them were well done (while I haven't linked a story of theirs in awhile, I still am a reader of Crooked Timber, for example) but most of them are simply not serious. Take this post from Timothy Burke on the story of Ahmadinejad's call to remove secular professors from Iran's classroom.
Now guess who wants to get all those liberals with their political bias out of the universities? ... You could change the names and this would sound like a press release from Horowitz or ACTA.
Only if you believe the following:
Erin O'Connor says Burke's post has mulitple logical fallacies. Burke replies that O'Connor is "humorless".

Might have been better to be Crooked Timber and never posted on the issue, Tim. Or just been snarky like Mr. Accent. Mr. Blumenthal was not so lucky. But I don't see any reason to take them, or you, seriously.

And do demographics explain it? 

Martin Andrade tries to summarize the debate about Amy Klobuchar's record on violent crime in Hennepin County. One of the things I wanted to check was the data on young males (15-24), which often correlates with violent crime. That age cohort fell around the US in the 1990s, and so did crime rates generally as Marty's graphs show. I wondered if perhaps the reason the crime rate went up was the increase in the number of male youth. But no, the 2000 population estimate (I didn't use the Census data so I could have comparable datasets) showed 77332, and 74280 in 2005. One may wish to play with the data to check on subgroups, but I'm disinclined to make that argument. Suffice to say, the economy's growth in 2002-05 and a declining population of youthful males should have given the Hennepin County DA's office a favorable environment for decreased crime rates.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Oh, this should be rich! 

You know that governor's debate on the 16th we're having in St. Cloud? The debate lasts an hour, and then they are going to have citizens vote on the following items:

1. In order to make wise decisions about our state, its priorities, and its policies, Minnesota must adopt a comprehensive �pay as we go� approach to decisions on the environment that accounts for the true, long-term costs and benefits of those decisions on the environment, human health and the economy.

2. To maximize our economic well-being, reward good stewardship and minimize unintended consequences, Minnesota must develop and adopt market-based incentives to encourage positive environmental conduct.

3. In order to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and other air pollution, combat Global Climate Change, enhance national security, and expand our economy dynamically into the next century, Minnesota must make immediate and aggressive investments in the development of sustainable technologies for the production of electricity from wind, solar energy, biomass and other potentially clean energy sources.

4. To conserve energy, ease congestion, reduce air pollution, and promote vibrant rural and metropolitan economies, Minnesota must expand its investment in mass transit, promote fuel-efficient and clean-fuel vehicles, and develop a world-class, integrated, multimodal transportation system for the efficient movement of people and goods throughout the state.

5. In order to clean up the existing water pollution that threatens to impair our health and economy, Minnesota must provide sufficient, dedicated funding to permanently assure that our lakes, waterways, and aquifers meet or exceed all state and national standards.

6. To assure that Minnesota�s waters remain fit for drinking, fishing and swimming, Minnesota must insist upon aggressive, enforceable strategies and standards for the prevention of water pollution by all members of our society, including homeowners, businesses, industry, and agriculture.

7. In order to preserve natural areas, enhance property values, and build vibrant, sustainable communities, as we grow, state and local governments must create and follow strategic and comprehensive plans.

8. To create healthy urban communities, revitalize our cities, and maximize the investment our citizens have already made in existing infrastructure, Minnesota must encourage a new generation of planning and redevelopment that emphasizes public-private partnerships that can reclaim, remediate, and rejuvenate our communities to the benefit of all who live and work in them.

9. In order to conserve and preserve the habitats that are crucial for birds, fish, and other wildlife to thrive, Minnesota must provide an adequate funding source dedicated to the acquisition, maintenance and restoration of critical natural areas to keep them free from development and incompatible uses.

10. To assure respect for the law, prevent unnecessary additional regulation, and increase the protection of our natural resources and habitat, Minnesota must rigorously enforce game and fish quotas, as well as all existing state and local laws that protect lakes, wetlands, and otherwise preserve our heritage in this state�s land and waters.

So it's worth noting as one hears this debate Saturday that it is conducted by a group with a very Green view of the world, and I'd be surprised if we hear anything about social or economic issues. That's too bad.

The MOB will keep you warm this weekend 

Criminy, it is cold outside! One place it won't be is at Keegans about 7pm tomorrow night as the Minnesota Organization of Blogs will have its (end of) Summerpalooza. More at Fraters...

And don't forget to warm up for the event by tuning in NARN, 11-5 tomorrow on AM1280 the Patriot. The Frats have Tom Barnett, who I have read and admired for quite some time. I am still waiting for delivery of the new book, but I read his Pentagon's New Map article while in Macedonia in March 2003 as the US ramped up for Iraqi Freedom. I finally read the first book this summer, and now read his blog regularly.

Michael and I are on in the last two hours and we are working on everything you want to know about the DFL Congressional District 5 primary, and we are working on another surprise guest. If we land that person, you'll read it here.

Slightly above average? They're all highly qualified! 

My edublogging colleague Matt Abe chides that "it's time for the federal government to get out of education" in response to my article yesterday on the Education Dept.'s not enforcing one provision of NCLB. Well I guess he should be tickled: They aren't enforcing this one either.
Changing course, the Education Department will allow states to count teachers as highly qualified even under standards that may do little to ensure quality.

Federal law allows veteran teachers to be considered highly qualified under factors that states choose, such as job evaluations, teaching awards or service on school committees.

The department in May ordered states to phase out that system for most teachers. Watchdog groups and the department itself say many states were using this system to set weak, improper standards.

Yet Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has pulled back, telling states this week in a letter that they now are "strongly encouraged," though not required, to stop using the method to rate teachers.

The change could affect tens of thousands of teachers who have not met the conditions of the No Child Left Behind Act. Otherwise, teachers would have to demonstrate competence by holding academic majors or passing tests in every subject they teach.

Bring back Rod Paige. Now.

Education when you need it 

I think there's a good comparison to make here. The debate over income and poverty statistics this week turns on a simple question to me: Do you believe or not believe that the average worker is better off now or in the 1970s? Some would say no because of envy, others yes because there's higher compensation, and we had argument yesterday about how we calculate numbers.

Likewise with the data on whether or not our students are worse off because their global test scores are lower. Robert Samuelson distinguishes between the school system and the learning system.
The school system is what most people think of as "education." It consists of 125,000 elementary and high schools and 2,500 four-year colleges and universities. It has strengths (major research universities) and weaknesses�notably, lax standards. One reason that U.S. students rank low globally is that many don't work hard. In 2002, 56 percent of high school sophomores did less than an hour of homework a night.

The American learning system is more complex. It's mostly post-high school and, aside from traditional colleges and universities, includes the following: community colleges; for-profit institutes and colleges; adult extension courses; online and computer-based courses; formal and informal job training; self-help books. To take a well-known example: The for-profit University of Phoenix started in 1976 to offer workers a chance to finish their college degrees. Now it has about 300,000 students (half taking online courses and half attending classes in 163 U.S. locations). The average starting age: 34.
One advantage of the learning system, Samuelson argues, is that it has multiple entry points. My son was in college, didn't succeed. Went to technical college to learn to cook, to be a chef some day. I fully expect he'll go to learn something else in the next several years. I don't know when or what, I just expect he's going to decide he wants something different.

I have seen more students in their late 20s in my office who have come in and out of our school, a two-year school, and the workforce. Some just want the credential, any credential, to show for their efforts and to put on their resumes. Others have decided they now know what they want to do. I have a new graduate student who has worked locally for years and decided to take up her education again.

The complaint many faculty at traditional campuses have is that students just want degrees and jobs, and that education is supposed to be so much more. But this misses the very good point made by a community college president in Samuelson's piece:
The American learning system accommodates people's ambitions and energies�when they emerge�and helps compensate for some of the defects of the school system.

In Charlotte, about 70 percent of the recent high school graduates at Central Piedmont Community College need remedial work in English or math. Zeiss thinks his college often succeeds where high schools fail. Why? High school graduates "go out in the world and see they have no skills," he says. "They're more motivated." The mixing of older and younger students also helps; the older students are more serious and focused.
Thanks to reader jw for the link to this article.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Honor among thieves 

A colleague on campus sent me a link to a site that alerts consumers to scams and ripoffs ... in the term paper 'industry'. is a watchdog organization that enables consumers and freelance writers to publish complaints about fraudulent term paper mills. We help protect consumers from deceptive companies that lie about their geographical location, experience, qualifications, and employment of amateur, ESL writers with poor English writing skills. We also aid legitimate, freelance writers in spreading the word about deadbeat employers. Our forum sheds light on the overseas ripoff scams that cause financial loss, frustration, and squandered time for thousands of researchers and freelance writers every year. However, we do not condemn offshore outsourcing in general. If a writer located in a non-American country speaks and writes in perfect English�with absolutely no idiomatic mistakes or grammatical errors�that writer should be allowed to work for American companies.
I'm hoping one of those legitimate, freelance writers could write a paper on protectionism. Oh, whoops! They already did. The first sign they offer for warning signs that you are buying a paper from an ESL writer? The price is less than $16/pg.

Bad headline 

I probably spent 40 minutes talking to Larry Schumacher about this article he worked on yesterday. I'll discuss the article itself in a minute, but I first need to chew out the editor who wrote the headline that was the top story on the paper (can't hang that on Larry):
Workers Fall Behind
This may or may not be true, but the data Larry is citing says nothing about wage rates. It is per capita personal income received from all sources. I know I told him this, and I'm reasonably certain he understood it, since we were reading the description of the data from the report. (See the definitions on page 4 therein.) The number is an estimate of area personal income divided by area population.

Where we got into a long discussion was over the differences between this data and the median household income release from the Census last week that created a couple of memes on the web. Those are two very different datasets, and I was trying to explain how median real household income could fall while real personal income could rise. This is what led to the discussion of the return to education. Let me add a couple more things.

Anyone thinking about this stuff needs to read Russ Roberts' excellent point about how we are adjusting income for inflation. Here are two relevant parts:

When I hear the phrase, average hourly earnings, I think of taking a bunch of different wage rates, some high, some low, and averaging them. But that's not how these data are collected. The data on average hourly earnings are taken from the Current Employment Statistics (CES), a survey not of individuals, but of establishments. The BLS gathers data from 160,000 different businesses and agencies covering 400,000 work sites. They ask each business for each work site, to provide total wages paid and total hours worked and they divide the two. That's the average hourly earnings at that establishment.

That's a little bit weird. Do most businesses really know total hours worked? My employer, George Mason University, certainly doesn't. There's no way the President of the University or the head of human resources or any department chair or any individual knows how much people actually work at the University. I don't even know how many hours I'm supposed to work. I work at home. I work at night. I come in later than 9:00 am. I come in earlier. Sometime when I'm "working", that is, when I'm sitting at my desk in my office, I'm checking the Red Sox box score or chatting with my wife. Sometimes, while I'm driving my kids to a baseball game, I'm thinking about real wages. I have no idea what my actual hours worked might be. Certainly no one else at the University knows either.

Sure, there are places where people punch a clock. But those places have become a lot less common than in 1964. How do businesses report their total hours worked to get an accurate number? How much leisure takes place on the job today compared to 1964? How much work gets done at home that the company has no knowledge of? I have no idea. Neither does the BLS.

How does the BLS adjust the weights in the survey? When a manufacturing plant closes and a graphic arts company opens, how do they re-weight the sample? I'm sure they do re-weight, and I'll try and find out how they do it, but does their method result in any systematic bias?

I will have to ask some former students at BLS about this as well. What I do know about this is that the hours data we get covers about 1/3 of workers on payrolls. Overtime hours are only known for manufacturing. So Roberts is right that this data doesn't cover, say, his own production. But the hours for my office manager would be possible to calculate, as a timesheet is turned in.

He then turns to the issue of the divisor used to create the inflation adjustment. The usual divisor is CPI-U, the consumer price index for all urban consumers. There have been several improvements over the years, thanks in no small part to the Boskin Report when indexing of Social Security payments was an issue during the Clinton Administration. But for the historical series CPI-U, some of those changes are not incorporated to make the older and newer data comparable. Using the newer series (called CPI-U-RS, the last two letters meaning recent series), Roberts finds that U.S. real wages are 1% higher now than in 1979 -- nothing to write home about, but better than a 6% decline. (Then he adds more this morning on CPI bias, which includes some criticism of the Boskin Report as being incomplete for correcting those biases.) And this of course does not include all the non-wage benefits that have risen sharply.

What does this all mean for us? It means that when you argue about real wages, you have to be sure you have the inflation measures right, something you should never be sure of!

Taking your money to where your mouth is 

Clint Bolick raises a good point: Does the Bush Administration have the courage to enforce the punitive provisions of No Child Left Behind when school districts flout its requirements?

In LAUSD, there are over 300,000 children in schools the state has declared failing under NCLB's requirements for adequate yearly progress. Under the law, such children must be provided opportunities to transfer to better-performing schools within the district. To date, fewer than two out of every 1,000 eligible children have transferred--much lower even than the paltry 1% transfer figure nationwide. In neighboring Compton, whose schools are a disaster, the number of families transferring their children to better schools is a whopping zero.

The question is whether Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings--whose administration has made NCLB the centerpiece of its education agenda--will do anything about it. She has the power to withhold federal funds from districts that fail to comply with NCLB, and has threatened to do just that. Rhetoric, so far, has exceeded action.

The schools say parents don't want to transfer, but Bolick says polling data shows the parents don't know that they can transfer. The school district says they don't have enough seats for the students to transfer to. How to solve this? Lamar Alexander, John Ensign, Buck McKeon and Sam Johnson suggest sending the kids to private schools. But of course those would be vouchers, and we can't have that can we?

The Bush Administration has been quite lenient so far with NCLB, allowing school districts that are failing "to offer supplemental services to children before offering transfers. This reverses the order Congress stipulated," says Bolick, but at some point the administration will have to show it means what it says about holding failing schools accountable.

NCLB is a flawed law in many respects. Still, it may represent the last true hope, at the national level, to ensure that our education system truly leaves no child behind. The establishment is chafing furiously under the tethers of accountability. If these slip away, it is unlikely that any politician will have the courage to buckle them back down again.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Unnamed vanilla vs. unnamed chocolate 

There's a new poll in the 6th CD which says Michele Bachmann has a strong lead over Patty Wetterling. Except, as Larry Schumacher points out, it doesn't really say that:
It shows an unnamed GOP candidate with a 53 percent to 42 percent lead over an unnamed DFLer, with a margin of error of plus/minus 3.1 percent. appears that the robo-caller does not mention the candidates by name, but asks them if they will support the Republican or Democrat in the race. Also, no mention of the Independence Party candidate. Makes it somewhat suspect, IMHO. But still, it's the first one. Maybe this will shake loose some others.
Right, they didn't use the names of the candidates in the poll. And since the 6th is a fairly conservative district, the question "In the House race in your district, do you favor the Republican or the Democrat?" is bound to go red. The margin is nice, but probably says more about voter ID than about the candidates. So guys, keep the shouting down. By my personal divining rod -- no more than talking to people in the district -- this one is still within the margin of error. But it does say that a strong GOTV effort by Republicans in the Sixth should keep this seat in the R column.

Good God, why that? 

Tim Pawlenty has plenty of issues to run on. While I'm not a huge fan of JOBZ, that would be something to show off, like the new Arctic Cat plant on the edge of St. Cloud. The economy "on fire" would be another. Of all things, why would you spend $200k advertising this?

In the new ad, which began running on the first day of school for many and on which he may spend up to $200,000, Pawlenty says: "Let's increase funding for our schools, but let's also hold them accountable for better results."

In the rest of the 60-second spot, Pawlenty touts a proposal, which has failed to advance in two legislative sessions, to require all school districts to spend at least 70 percent of their funding in the classroom.

In one scene, Pawlenty stands by an office door labeled "Assistant to the Assistant Deputy Vice Administrator" and says "Not here" to spending.

That's cute. But it is also ignorant of economies of scale. The 70% formula works for some places and not others. Check the spreadsheet and see that most of the schools that fit into the formula are going to be larger school districts (I believe the formula is for columns 3, 4, 5, and 7 if I've understood this correctly, but I get too few districts compared to the STrib article's count of 67) includes many Twin Cities districts including both Minneapolis and St. Paul (and St. Cloud and Sartell, by the way). These are of course the largest districts. If you want to get at administrative waste in public schools, the formula is the wrong way to deal with that.

If he wanted to run the education issue, why not run the efforts his administration has made on science and math instead? Because, says Brian McClung, the 70% rule has 'widespread support'. Once again, just as I dinged Klobuchar for playing the "wasteful spending" card as a way to raise revenue, Pawlenty is claiming he can increase spending in classrooms without raising taxes by redirecting money from administrative waste. He can do better than this. Neither candidate should be offering free lunches.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Los Scholars? 

Brian Gongol has a new ranking of business economics websites. We rank in the top 20 (OK, #18 if you want to be picky). Gongol has taken the step of providing newspaper equivalencies to our web readership. We correlate to La Opinion, which gets about 1/20th the readership online as USAToday.

H/T: Marginal Revolution (like those guys need more readers!)

Good luck, sir, and Godspeed to you 

Frequent readers of Scholars* will remember me discussing Abbas Mehdi, a sociology professor born in Iraq who frequently appears on Twin Cities media to discuss his home country. While not a supporter of U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, he has decided to return to Baghdad to help with reconstruction as an advisor with the US mission. He sent a letter to the university yesterday which I excerpt with his permission:
You'll be wondering why a person like me who lives a comfortable, stable, and secure life here in the United States is risking everything and putting himself in danger by going there now, when things are so bad.

The answer is very simple: Iraq needs help and my duty is to help. Also, I love Iraq more than anything else in my life. To me, it means love, dignity, happiness, my family, my oldest friends and everything that is most precious.

If I stay away from Iraq too long, I'm thirsty for its water, its sun, and its air.
He has lived in the West for 30 years. I salute his commitment to the Iraqi people.

UPDATE: St. Cloud Times article here.

*I apologize to those of you who were here this morning looking for the site and saw the expired domain screen; I paid the bill a month ago but Hosting Matters' automatic processing failed them on this one, first time they've ever given me a problem and they fixed it within an hour of my discovery. I still recommend them to everyone who asks.

All dressed up with nowhere to go 

St. Cloud has sunk a good deal of money and effort into improvements of its airport. The possibility of an Air National Guard unit moving onto the airfield has sparked interest, and the city's business and government leaders have tried to drum up interest in a second airline moving to the commercial airport.

So this bit of news about Mesaba, the current commercial provider, is going to have them all quite nervous.

The standoff in contract negotiations between Mesaba Airlines and its labor unions has prompted labor leaders to call on Minnesota politicians for help.

Officials for the pilots, flight attendants and mechanics unions met recently with U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., Attorney General Mike Hatch, Gov. Tim Pawlenty's chief of staff, David Gaither, and Finance Commissioner Peggy Ingison.

"We are obviously very concerned about the direction Mesaba management is taking this company," said Tom Wychor, chairman of the pilots union. If Mesaba imposes steep cuts in pay and benefits on its employees, some could end up on the MinnesotaCare health care program or need other government help to survive, Wychor said.

If Mesaba and its unions cannot resolve their differences, Wychor said, the airline might liquidate. Mesaba spokeswoman Elizabeth Costello declined to comment on the union meetings with government leaders.

As its fleet shrinks, Mesaba has been laying off employees. Many other employees are resigning for new jobs.

During August, seven maintenance employees in the Twin Cities worked their last day for Mesaba or turned in their two-week notices of resignation, said Nathan Winch, a mechanics union leader.

Across the country, Mesaba pilots have been quitting at the rate of four or five per week. Union officials said 59 Mesaba pilots resigned over the past three months.
Major airlines can combine and survive the downturn in the airline industry (with increased costs from terrorism and fuel), but it's not at all clear whether there would be continued service in smaller communities if the airline-industry shakeout reaches the smaller firms. In this new era, is it cost-effective to operate airlines making the short hop from Minneapolis to St. Cloud? There was a firm that wanted to provide service to Chicago, but the idea was stillborn.

Klobuchar's deficit reduction plan 

...for a deficit that's already falling.

This post is crossposted to Kennedy vs. the Machine, and was written at the invitation of Gary Miller from that blog. I found the research for this story to be quite informative and think Scholars readers will like it as well. So on the off chance you read here but not KvM (though you should), here is the article:

Amy Klobuchar has come out with her plan for balancing the U.S. federal budget, according to the StarTribune. The plan has four points, reports Eric Black:

� Allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for those in the top 1 percent of families by income.

� Finding savings in federal health care spending, mainly from allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies.

� Eliminating "wasteful spending," including the use of no-bid contracts.

� Reinstituting the pay-as-you-go rules that formerly required all new spending or new tax cuts to be offset by spending cuts or new tax revenue.

Well, of course! If you look in the budget there�s that line item called �waste, fraud, and inefficiency� right there. Who needs a CPA?

OK, so let�s chalk that one up to the usual hyperbole all challengers use in a campaign � �I�ll end waste in Washington� probably has enough ad pieces around it for its own catalogue. What about the other three?

At the time those tax cuts were put in place, unemployment was 6.3%. Today it�s 4.7%. The stock market was below 9000, now it�s over 11,000. According to a Treasury Department study (technical analysis here), the Bush tax cuts between 2001-03 led to 3 million more jobs and real GDP 3.5-4% higher than if none of these changes had been implemented. A second study just published this July shows the dynamic effects of the tax cuts under two alternatives � financing the extension of the Bush tax cuts by reducing government spending and financing by increasing taxes elsewhere. In the long run, making the cuts permanent and paying for them by decreasing spending increases GDP by 0.7%. Paying for them by increasing taxes reduces GDP by 0.9%. That implies a cost of raising taxes to pay for the tax cuts of $208 billion less output; alternatively, unemployment would rise by 0.6%.

Klobuchar�s pitch for these tax increases is that the deficit is costing individuals $1700 per year from higher interest rates. That assumes that tax cuts are always paid for by increased debt and that the debt generated by the Bush tax cuts raised interest rates 1% from what they would have been otherwise. Why they believe this isn�t apparent. It certainly is true, as many economists critical of Bush will point out, that private domestic savings has fallen in part because of the tax cuts. But the higher degree of international capital mobility prevents interest rates from rising very much � in short, the tax cuts are financed internationally by China. We may disagree about how desirable that is, but undoubtedly the source of the costs of the deficit to American households isn�t in interest rates, not when mortgage rates were 5.92% in January 2003 and 6.44% now (with that difference more likely due to changes in inflation expectations than crowding out; the real return on 10-year inflation-indexed bonds has risen only 0.22% in the same time.)

It�s hard to see why we should want to expand the use of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to get into the drug price negotiation business. If there are people not receiving coverage or their bills are too high, wouldn�t it make more sense just to put money to those seniors and let them get their own prescriptions? Klobuchar�s call for �finding savings� is really not much more than a call for price-fixing of prescription drugs, along with turning the government into a pill dispenser. Not exactly a small government solution.

I admit some nostalgia for the good old days of paying for your tax cuts or spending increases. Klobuchar�s last point is to ask for the return of the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 spending rules that operated in the Congress through fiscal year 2002. It�s something even Alan Greenspan likes. It might be instructive to ask Klobuchar if she would have voted to filibuster Judd Gregg�s Stop OverSpending (SOS) Bill. Alternatively, someone should ask her whether her plan would include accounting for changes to future entitlements, or to Social Security.

The timing of this plan is a little odd at any rate. The government has collected $99 billion more than it expected in its March projections for the year, so that the budget deficit is now $260 billion, or 2.0% of GDP. Spending has declined only a little from March ($12 billion) but that still has an impact. Revenues grew 12.8% this fiscal year � how much more money does Klobuchar think we should collect from taxpayers? We need to spend less � but the only spending she proposes to reduce is �wasteful spending�, which normally means spending important to somebody else�s constituency.

In all, there isn�t that much here except an old debate, a further incursion of the government into the health care system, and an attempt to undo the economics gains of the Bush tax cuts. It�s an old recipe offered in time for her debate at the State Fair, but it�s not worth a ribbon of any color.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Pollyanna Bob 

Captain Ed shows that Robert Casey Jr., the Democratic candidate to unseat Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, thinks there's nothing wrong with Social Security that a little growth won't fix. And how will we get more growth? Repeal the estate tax cuts.

Yes, the old reverse Reagan strategy for economic growth -- tax increases, no fix to pensions.

Laurence White reports that Santorum in contrast came out for personal retirement accounts, though it appears Santorum wants the PRA to be part of the underfunding solution. As White shows, it can't be unless you tax savings, which is a bad idea. But at least it'd be more honest a solution than doing nothing.

UPDATE: Gary Gross wasn't impressed with Casey's other answers.

And I'm sick of the bloggers who blog 

This guy isn't very eloquent.
DFL Whip Tony Sertich of Chisholm said Democrats "are sick of the divisive issues that divide us."
As opposed to the divisive issues that unite us, I guess.

The DFL says that if they win the Legislature they would increase state spending by $530 million. In both their and DFL gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch's promises for more government largesse is a promise to lower college tuition.
Mike Hatch is making rising Minnesota college and university tuition an issue in his race for governor.

He called the increase "a tax on our next generation" during southern Minnesota stops last week. He announced a goal of rolling back tuition increases of recent years with $300 million gained from forcing foreign-owned corporation to pay taxes he says are due.

Hatch said Gov. Tim Pawlenty broke a promise made by previous governors to keep public education inexpensive.
The "tax on our next generation" argument works only if you think higher education is a right given to young people. Where that right exists in the Constitution is a mystery to me.

If Mike Hatch thinks there's $300 million due to the state in unpaid taxes, why did he not work with the Pawlenty administration to collect it rather than have us go through the egregious cigarette tax debacle? Because he wanted it as a bowl of sugar to sprinkle as a middle-class welfare program in the form of tuition cuts? Or does it exist at all?

Also in that article, don't miss the call from Education Minne$ota to put your 3-4 year olds in government schools.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

"Gee Jim, why the 'for sale' sign?" 

From the St. Cloud Times' crime log yesterday:
Police are investigating a theft that was reported Wednesday in the 500 block of Park Meadows Drive. A resident said he purchased Twins tickets and never received them. He purchased additional tickets and when he went to the game, he noticed his neighbors were sitting in the seats he had purchased.

That's a little too close 

Please stop by and read Pscymeistr's note on the latest Minnesota casualty in Iraq. His son was 150 feet ahead of the man. Be safe, Doug.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Much to those new job numbers, King? 

No, I don't think so. An increase of 128k in payroll employment and a decline in the unemployment rate to 4.7% doesn't do much for me. I wouldn't call it fugly, though. It's simply more of the productivity conundrum. And as long as consumer keep spending, there may be enough sector rotation to keep me in the camp of �accumulating more information before judging.�

In other words, the information content of that report for the next move by the Fed should be zero. This "perfectly balanced" stuff is, I must agree, delerious.

Good call 

I said Tuesday that Pawlenty should turn down the matching funds and ignore the spending limits for the governor's race. He did. Craig chides him for not making a principled point that "[p]ublic subsidies and campaign finance laws are simply bad ideas." When you're running to maximize your vote total, 'principled points' are a luxury you can ill afford.

Depressing films 

I don't go to many films at all, and I don't sit around watching them at home. Don't get any premium channels either (I was scolded at the J-Wood confab for not watching Rome, and I admit to renting Curb Your Enthusiasm, but that's it.) Just not my thing. But I do watch TV, and I will be looking forward to watching the rerun of John Stossel's Stupid in America special tonight. Stossel was on with Dennis Prager yesterday, and reports he has a new piece to the story after the government education bureaucracy employed kids to shout at his house from across the street. It should be on ABC at 10pm ET tonight (that's 9pm on Channel 5 for those of you here in the area).

Richard Vedder notes that the Fox special on college costs will replay at 4pm tomorrow afternoon. I'll be at the Fair for NARN, so someone will have to tape that for me.

Neither of those will make you click your heels and smile. It will get worse, I suspect, when the ABC documentary The Path to 9/11 comes out. There is speculation that this movie is getting airbrushed at the last moment due to pressure from Clinton apologists -- the movie is reported to connect events from the 1993 WTC attack to 9/11 -- but Hugh Hewitt is not concerned.
I, and I am sure many others, have been sent the entire six hour program to preview and review, which I will be doing over the weekend. Edits post-distribution of the review DVDs would invite scrutiny of the very portions sent down the black hole, underscoring the episodes the censors hoped to hide.
I didn't make the distribution list, dang it. That's a video I would have watched. One I would not watch, evereverever, is this film being exhibited at the Toronto International Film Festival. I'm sure we'll hear more of this over the weekend. My belief is simple: You can make it, and I can ignore it and encourage others to do the same. If you end up making money on it, fine -- it's a world where even Tom Cruise can make millions, so the correlation between riches and goodness is tenuous at best. But I won't waste my time on it. I'd rather watch another SVU rerun.

Macedonia, A Balkan Tiger? 

I flew twice in 2003 to Macedonia, where I still have friends and advise a think tank run by locals. My job there was to get government officials together to talk about monetary issues like high interest rates and exchange rate policies. While there a fellow advisor who lived in country for a few years started taking to calling Macedonia a Balkan Tiger. Now Meelis Kitsing does the same.
The late 1990s saw some economic reforms under the center-right government, but the onslaught of violence between ethnic Albanians and Macedonians forced any type of economic reforms to the backseat, where they remained until just last month. The outcome of elections held on July 5 gives reason to believe in the rebirth. The Western media have emphasized the peaceful nature of these elections in comparison with the violence that accompanied the last elections, in 2002. Yet this primary emphasis understates the implications and significance of the elections results. Some leading papers have even predicted the potential rise of violence stemming from the victory of the center-right and supposedly nationalist Macedonian Internal Revolutionary Organization (VMRO- DPMNE).

The VMRO-DPMNE has learned the right lessons. The party, headed by the youthful Nikola Gruevski, a former trade minister and finance minister in the government headed by the VMRO-DPMNE in 1998-2002, emphasized economic reform in its campaign, not Macedonian nationalism. "We believe that Macedonians want to do more than just survive -- they want to succeed. And to succeed we need a stronger, healthier economy -- one that delivers jobs and growth, that frees individuals to pursue their God-given potential with a minimum of government interference and that opens up the creative spirit in people," wrote Gruevski in the Washington Times on July 4. VMRO-DPMNE's election platform was based on a comprehensive and detailed study of reforms by other countries in the Central and Eastern Europe. Radical reformers of Central and Eastern Europe are seen as examples to be followed.

The VMRO-DPMNE promises to cut public expenditure by 2 percent of the GDP by 2010. It plans to cut red-tape by 2007, thereby enabling registration of new companies to be completed within three days. The party plans to implement a flat personal tax rate of 10 percent by 2008 - a turnaround from the current progressive income tax rates of 15, 18 and 24 percent. The tax rate on corporate profits will be reduced from 15 percent to 10 percent and, following the example of Estonia, the tax on reinvested profits will be scrapped altogether.
The difficulties I had in 2003 were twofold and political in nature: You had no idea what events elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia would do to Macedonia, and you had the question of ethnic Albanians in conflict with the Macedonian Serbs. The latter had the effect of delaying my trip from the previous year; the tension in-country was still present. But it was the hangover of not knowing the situation with Serbia that I think was the more oppressive. Thus success in resolving that area of the country may in fact lead to another Balkan tiger in the country.

Yes, there are tradeoffs 

The Chronicle runs a story on the Education Trust's latest report on how practices in financial aid are limiting enrollment of low-income and minority student.

It scolds colleges and universities who use financial aid to "purchase" talented high schoolers. As a result, they say, students who need aid -- likely to be less talented and pari passu low income and minority students, get less. But there are incentives to getting more talented students, from ability to hire better faculty to alumni donations. There are therefore tradeoffs between targeting aid to poor students and boosting academic prestige. This should come as no surprise, and frankly the report causes me mostly to yawn.

Where it doesn't is in calling for greater attention to graduation rates for minority students.
Nationally, only 40 percent of full-time, first-time African American freshmen and 47 percent of Latino freshmen graduate from the college where they initially enrolled within six years. For White students, the six-year graduation rate is 59 percent. Longitudinal studies show that another 7-8 percent of African-American and Latino students graduate from different institutions, but the racial gaps remain large.
We would know more about those movements of students -- and I think it's likely that students change institutions more when they are less well prepared for college -- if we had good accountability programs like those being fought by ACE that I discussed last night. Richard Vedder writes powerfully about the performance-access tradeoff.
The plain fact is that many low income, disadvantaged students are poorly qualified for colleges. If we let these students have easy access to relatively expensive four year institutions, we squander a lot of resources and get the current 50 percent or so drop out rates. If we insist on high admission standards, however, we deny access to many low income students, and restrict access disproportionately to some minority groups, such as African-Americans and Hispanics.

Personal for Obsessive Packer Guy 

From a daily email from FootballGuys.Com:
'Obviously, we have a chance to be a Super Bowl team. Obviously, they have a chance to win four games.'

-- Denver WR Javon Walker speaking about his former team, the Green Bay Packers.
Which could be more than the Vikings if they end up playing new QB Brooks Bollinger.

Politics come to St. Cloud 

Larry Schumacher's back from vacation and writes today about the race for governor, spending most of this article talking about a visit by Becky Lourey to the area. Wetterling and Bachmann raised almost a million dollars between them (Wetterling raised $85k more, but Bachmann's money from the visit from President Bush isn't in her numbers). I noted on the show Sunday that two people told me someone bough $1 million in ads for October on Wetterling's behalf for that race -- AAA says it's from the DCCC (which wouldn't be a surprise). So if you think it's heating up now, it will be on fire in another month.

Larry also blogs that a governor's debate will be hld in St. Cloud on 16 Sept. at 9am at SCSU! I love my new radio schedule, because now I can go and easily bring that to the show that afternoon.