Saturday, November 19, 2011

Good Reads

This webazine is very good.

What Are They Afraid Of?

So we have all seen this:

And probably read this letter from a UC Davis professor demanding the chancellor's resignation. Ideally we've read the chancellor's inane letter on the police brutality seen in the video.

What I don't get is the end of the video. The cops look like they are surrounded by armed bandits when really it's just a bunch of kids chanting shame on you. What did they think was going to happen? Greeting with flowers and candy?

It's Got a Song and Everything

I'm sure there is a reason why we celebrate:


Friday, November 18, 2011

Policing the Police

Here's a video of the NYPD arresting a retired Philly police captain at Zucoti Park:

It seems he held a sign asking the NYPD not to mercenaries for wall street and engage in other such filthy hippy stuff. Serves him right and the 25 of so journalist who were arrested. How dare he dare to assemble and demand redress and they to cover it. It's not like this is supposed to be a democracy.

Bloat and Rot Start at the Top

There is a faculty strike out in California. The faculty are on strike because 1) they have been denied raises previously negotiated 2) higher fees and fewer classes for students. Who is responsible for this mess? Also:
There is also residual anger over the hiring of San Diego State president Elliot Hirshman last summer at a salary of $400,000 -- $350,000 in state funds and $50,000 from the school's fundraising foundation -- as well as a $1,000 monthly car allowance and free housing. Hirshman's predecessor was paid about $300,000 a year.
Jane Wellman, of the nonprofit Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, said, "These are tough times for higher education. The reality is that there is just not enough money to meet all the demands. It is a function of what happened with public revenues.
"Nothing is sacred in this environment," she said. "But cutting the chancellor's office will not solve money problems of this magnitude. No way."
Sure, but of course, it's a first step. let's say they cut all administrative leadership staff, president, chancellor, provost, deans, assistant deans, vice presidents, assistant vice presidents, junior assistant vice provost, etc, by 50% and take away half of their program assistants and reassign them to faculty, plus no car allowances, no free housing, and no guaranteed travel grants, they'd have to compete just like faculty do.

These steps would be an important first step in reigning in an out of control administration and its unnatural "compensation" packets, which would, or -- in any event -- could, foster a sense of shared responsibility and sacrifice between and among students, faculty, staff, and admin. The next step, obviously, is to raise taxes and fund higher education at an appropriate level.  

Church of Latter Day Saints

Over to the NYRB there is a nice and detailed discussion of the recent authoritarian crackdown of the rights of Americans to assemble and demand redress of their grievances; this bit struck me as especially interesting:
According to Ellick, 1,400 “faith-based leaders in and around New York” were throwing their support behind Occupy Wall Street. When I asked him what defined a “leader,” he answered, “anyone with a constituency.” But what did support mean? For Ellick and John Merz, an Episcopal priest at Ascension Church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, it meant opening church kitchens and giving protesters a place to shower and sleep “even though we’re not a shelter.” It would involve public support as well, talking to the press and urging parishioners to join the protesters in their various anti-corporate actions.
What if the last of MLK's ideas for America's moral and material improvement is in the process of being realized?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Oh Dear

It like today's robot engineers never ever watch movies:

Bright Young Things Are so Often Wrong

Matthew Yglesias and Dana Goldstein are two of the bright young things of our new media. Each in their own way fail to understand what the 99% versus the 1% means. It isn't about income as such. 

Yglesias' claim that NBA players are rich and therefore members of the 1% misses the point that your average NBA player isn't trying to create an oligarchical system. The Kochs, Bloomburg, and the Republican party's war on voting are. These folks are less interested in money then  they are in power. For them money is a means to an end and that end is creating a world in which the few dominate the many.  The 99% movement isn't some attempt to simply redistribute wealth but rather to end the creation of a market state in which the wealthy oppress the poor through a combination of the laws of supply and demand, which insists that markets follow the money, and the manipulation of the political system through the creation of a system in which the state functions solely as enforcers.

Goldstein makes a similar mistake in pooh poohing the linkage between the 1% and neoliberal educational reform when she concludes that
[t]The trouble with this narrative comes in comparing education reformers with greedy bankers. The dominant ethos of the school choice/Bloomberg/Obama reform movement is one borrowed not from Wall Street, with its desperate lust for profit, but from Silicon Valley, with its commitment to meritocratic innovation that—yes, of course—earns money, but also serves the public.
One suspects that she knows this as in a later post, she links to an article on the danger of the 1%ers drive to privatize and virtualize k-12. Privatizing education, much like the privatization of prisons, takes one of societies most important functions out its hands and gives it to corporations, whose ability to do anything right is of limited. The creation of public, as opposed to religious, education is one of the hallmarks of modernity; granting corporations and rich folks the right to "reform" and run our educational systems spell the end of critical thought and beginning of education as vocational training or, even worse, no education and no vocational training for the mass of humanity.

When people talk about a market state what they really mean is democracy's demise at the hands of technocrats.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

History Trumps Economic Theory

Megan Mcardle assumes that economic decisions are based on reason. This historical explanation of qwerty (via) shows that she is talking out of her fundament. In other words, she is wrong about everything.

Redress and Assemble

According to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights:
Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances
How is a forcible destruction of a peaceable assembly of citizens demanding the redress of their grievance not a violation of their right to assemble and demand redress?

You Can Go With This, Or You Can Go With That

Who's tricksier? or I pick the first.

Bikes Free Us

Zwickau Prophets

The gradual unraveling of the neo-Nazi criminals in Germany and the likely complicity of those in high office, particularly the police, serves to remind us that way back in the bad old days of Bader Meinhof, the right was more active in terrorizing Europe than was the left. Even today it is difficult to look at the face of terror


in Europe and not fear the right. All of which is along way round of saying that kicking peaceful protesters out of semi-public and public parks through violence and militarized police force is a sign of missing the point. The problems we confront right now are the result of too little democracy not too much. The dangers confronting the continuation of democratic societies isn't the 99% trying to raise the issues of inequality, economic mismanagement in the public and private sectors while insisting on human dignity. It's the right and the reactionaries who never liked modernity to begin with.


I can't decide if this, despite being right, is annoying or if it is a clever way of making a complicated point.

What's Wrong With Football: St. Joe Pa

Famously Bobby Jones brushed off a compliment on his following the rules of golf with the comment that you might as well thank someone for not robbing a bank. As near as I can figure those pushing Joe Pa for saint of nice guy and patron of his university are, in fact, thanking him for not robbing a bank. The logic of having football programs with universities attached is that it's a situation that benefits the university in its core mission: educating students. Consequently, it ought to be the case that PSU's football prowess led to increases in its endowment, better libraries, and improved its rank, to the extent that means anything.  This claim of do-gooderism isn't, or shouldn't be, a canonization of Joe Pa but rather an indictment of his colleagues, who don't engage in the same sustained commitment to improving the universities core mission, which is educating students. Other than doing what he is supposed to do, it is unclear to me what all the noise is about.

Given that doing his job is sufficient to catapult Joe Pa in the stratosphere of great moral leaders among college football coaches (I cannot think of single profession in which doing what is expected of you leads to canonization) the rest of them must be pretty bad at fulfilling the minimum standards of either creating profit or ensuring that the basics of the contract, ensuring that that profit goes to the university's core mission. A fact that is underscored by the steady drumbeat of scandals emitted by the various big and small athletic programs.

Consider this collegiate athlete's experience in the women's basketball program at a Div II school. Her coach was so verbally abusive that she and
numerous scholarship players, including former Monroe standout Marissa Young and former Milton standout Kassi Blumer, either transferring or quitting the team after the season, [the coach] resigned in August 2008.
Indeed, so scarred was she that
[h]elping Gerber put her experience at St. Joseph's behind her proved to be an ongoing process for Whitewater coach Greg Henschel.

"When I initially met with her, it was clear she was just not going to, in my opinion, trust a college coach because of her experience," Henschel said.

"I just felt like I was walking the finest line I had ever walked with a recruit. … I felt on some levels we were still even recruiting her a little bit once she was here."
 So a no name college which -- almost assuredly makes no money -- hires a coach who is so driven to succeed that she ruins several students lives for a, at least, a short period of time.

What, I wonder, does the pressure to succeed do to the rest of this stalwart shapers of young men and women.

Ode To Joy


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Administrative Bloat and Incompetence

This post on the role of administrative bloat as a destructive force in higher education is right on target; I would add that, in my experience howsoever good at gaming the system administrators are they are not smart. Small minded and vindictive, more like.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How to Lose an Argument

Megan McArdle has a longish post up on the Paterno affair in which, as usual, she insists that it's complicated and besides Nazis. One obvious response is if I did what Joe Pa and co did then I would be a moral failure. A second response is that when anybody argues something along the lines of
We are evolved to live in small groups, with very deep loyalty to the other members.
They lose the argument. Why? Because just so stories about evo psych that support your position are the Freidman cab drivers of ignorance. Fear of men with sticks is a much better explanation of failure to act as we know is right; love of men with carrots works as well. Relying on the hand waving of pseudo-science is a sign of intellectual dishonesty.

What's Wrong With College Football: Liars

Some guy named Robert Lapchick runs a program dedicated to keeping collegiate athletics honest and unbiased. Using NCAA info his program releases a study of graduation rates for whites and blacks at major football programs with universities attached. As he points out, the definition of timely  graduation is flawed; however, both Miami and Auburn report a 100% graduation rate for white football players. That is, to be blunt, impossible. Or the graduation requirements for white football players rely heavily on whiteness and football playerness.

This Man is so Smart He Earned Millions on Merit

As further to the idiotic idea that personal success results from personal merit, Herman Cain on Libya or something or another

Oh For Dumb

 When Herman Cain says something like this:

we all laugh.

When Eric Loomis writes this
I am a graduate of the University of New Mexico. This is not an elite institution. It is marginally a top-50 Ph.D. program. It has strengths in certain areas (Latin America, U.S. West, U.S.-Mexico borderlands) but you wouldn’t want to go there for anything else. Theoretically, it should be really hard to get a job with a UNM Ph.D.
However, every single person I know who was a serious student at UNM and who wanted to go into academia has a job. Every single one. Without exception (at least on the U.S. side of things). Almost all of these are tenure-track jobs with a few newer scholars presently in very fine visiting positions. And I know people from several other less-than-elite institutions who are doing very well for themselves too (Arizona, UNLV, and Nebraska come to mind). Those who chose to do something else other than academia have also succeeded in their chosen fields. So what’s the deal with this? 
 I gnash my teeth and wish him harm. He and Cain aren't that far apart on this issue. Loomis is or was a  "serious student" not like all the slackers who haven't found work. Then there is the  the on the "US side of things" caveat, which ignores Latin America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and etc. Then there is the radical subjectivity of those he knows. It's almost like he never heard of adjuncts, causulization of labor, the over supply of PhD, the persistent and consistent underfunding of higher education, and etc.

Finally, and to repeat, Loomis got his job, he argues, because he deserved it those unnamed others at UNM who weren't serious, or at least not as serious as he, didn't deserve a job. He did and does. Up, to be blunt, yours. Two stories, one I know 5 serious and smart students who didn't get jobs of any nature because the market sucks, two of them have already published their disses with big names university presses. Second story, an ex-friend was on a hiring committee and they had all work diligently to come up with a ranking of the top 12. As they got up to leave the meeting somebody said: 'wait, why'd we pick this one?" They sat down in two hours had inverted the list. The idea that Loomis and his known serious students objectively merited their tt, one year and other (chosen? why because they couldn't get tt or one year gigs?) fields are other than the lucky ones who got this or that job is Cainism with a vengeance.

For goodness sake. Tell you what Loomis go down to the adjunct  bull pen at wherever it is you work and tell them that they weren't serious enough.

The Economy Doesn't Work Like That

Matthew Yglesias finds it
pretty frustrating to hear DC officials explicitly talking about the idea of making public service provision less efficient as a job-creation scheme.
The idea is that DC might
rely[] on manpower, not mechanization—countering a civilizational trend that's left us with more people than jobs to occupy them. "We are starting to reconsider some of those choices," Tregoning said, and "might choose a path that has a lot more labor."
It's wrong, he argues, for the state to increase job creation by downplaying mechanization because it will offend the neoliberal market state's ideal of efficiency over people. His preferred solution? Supply side economic because, from the first link,
even in models that lead to very strong negative conclusions about supply-side actions in severe recessions, these considerations don’t apply on the municipal level.
He provides no link to an article but does link to Boston considering ending its ban  on happy hours. And concludes that
[t]his is exactly the kind of thing state and local governments should be looking at. If Massachusetts makes it easier to tempt people into the bar with drink specials, that means more work for bartenders and bar-backs, more work for delivery guys, etc. It’s more glamorous for politicians to talk about high-end jobs, but as Tregoning says, you need employment for people with low levels of formal education too. Many commentators seem to me to be irrationally biased against working class service sector occupations relative to working class manufacturing works, but even leaving that aside, there’s just no way a big expensive city like DC or Boston is ever going to play home to giant factories.
So a couple of things, if Boston has happy hours there will be no extra jobs created. How do I know? I''ve worked happy hours and bartenders just work harder for a couple of hours. And, as by the way, it's not the case that those who deliver ardent spirits, wine, and beer would suddenly find that their 40 hr weeks are now 50 or that some much increased demand means that their boss has to hire more workers, it just means that they will drop off an extra keg, case, or whathaveyou on their regular rounds. In short, they will work harder for the same money. Relying on manpower and not mechanization isn't some yearning for decently paid union jobs at the factory but rather that instead of one garbage man driving a mechanized truck for 8 hrs a day three guys, one driving and two hoisting, will work for a semi-decent wage for 8hrs a day five days a week. That means that two guys and/or gals who previously had no or a crappily-paid job will have decently paid job. They can buy things, things they need: food, shelter and clothing, and -- who knows -- maybe go to a bar or restaurant.

The reason supply side economics don't work is because they don't create jobs that pay enough money for the workers to live a decent life. Supply side economics creates a situation within which a decreasing number of people have more money then they need which they then spend on luxury and other nonsenses. Yglesias might find the increased number of bars in which he can imbibe for less an attractive proposition but it is not an economic policy.

Like Douthat, he can't think.

Oh For God's Sake, He's Dumb

David Brooks on why nobody thinks child rape is wrong:
MR. BROOKS: I don't think it was just a Penn State problem. You know, you spend 30 or 40 years muddying the moral waters here. We have lost our clear sense of what evil is, what sin is; and so, when people see things like that, they don't have categories to put it into. They vaguely know it's wrong, but they've been raised in a morality that says, "If it feels all right for you, it's probably OK." And so that waters everything down. The second thing is a lot of the judgment is based on the supposition that if we were there, we would have intervened.
 Yes and if you let the gays marry next stop man on dog town. It's not just that this is wrong but that Brooks' position has to arise from a nearly complete subjective state, which is to say he is a moral monster. Unlike, let's say, 99.9% of the population, he thinks that being permissive about sexual mores and abiding by the notion that the less interference into private lives the better includes the notion of rape and, explicitly, child rape. Who thinks that way? And a better question might be: why on earth would anyone employ someone who "thinks" that way?


Sunday, November 13, 2011

What's Wrong With College Football

In 2009 the median income in Wisconsin was 49,994 and it is, presumably, a bit lower now. On Thursday we learned that among the coaches at the UW-Madison football team
[t]wo of the biggest raises from last season, according to new salary information obtained by the State Journal, went to strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert, who got a bump of $75,800 to $200,000, and tight ends coach Joe Rudolph, who got a $65,000 raise to $210,000.
 And that
It was previously reported [offensive coordinator Paul Chryst 's] compensation package increased by $100,000 to $405,000. He also has a five-year annuity, which went into effect in 2007 and will pay him $250,000 once he finishes this season.

Offensive line coach Bob Bostad received a $53,050 increase to $250,000, while wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander received a $13,800 raise to $135,000.
So these are state workers, who are essentially creators of entertainment. They make too much money.  Wisconsin is among the 22 programs that make a profit; however the vast majority don't. It seems obvious that the recent debacle at Penn State resulted at least in part from the 50 million per year profit the football program brought in. What dark secrets, one wonders, are the UW hiding?

Meanwhile at Marquette a coverup, or an alleged coverup, of a series of sexual assaults, or alleged sexual assaults, led to a federal government investigation.

Sure according to the neoliberal consensus on state workers teachers, as one example, who only help in the creation of educated citizens, make too damn much money and  their salaries have decreased by something like 500 per month. After all  a starting teacher in Wisconsin makes around 25K with an average of 45k per year, that clearly is too much money for such luxuries as kids who can read, write, and possibly think.