Saturday, April 02, 2005

Old Yobbo, But Good Yobbo

Yobbo on PETA: He seems upset. Quite right, of course, but upset. It must be hard to live in Australia. You get people like....well, like this. And you can't just kill them. Though, now that I think of it, PETA would not object to killing humans.

Conservatives Less Likely to Advance?

Some research, summarized in the Chronicle (premium ATSRTWT)
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Conservative Professors Are Less Likely to Advance in Academe, Study Finds
A report released this week offers evidence that American academe is dominated by political liberals, and that conservatives are less likely to attain jobs at top colleges. The report, based on a study that relied on data from a fairly large sample of institutions, is the first to attempt to answer the question of whether conservatives in academe face discrimination in hiring.

Published in The Forum, a journal of applied research in contemporary politics, the report is based on a 1999 survey of 1,643 faculty members at 183 colleges and universities in the United States. The study was conducted by Stanley Rothman, a professor emeritus of government at Smith College; S. Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a research group affiliated with George Mason University and supported by conservative foundations; and Neil Nevitte, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

Stephen H. Balch, president of the National Association of Scholars, an advocacy group that supports tradition-minded education, hailed the report as groundbreaking. "It's the first time that a rigorous social-science study has brought forth strong evidence" for discrimination against conservatives in academic hiring, he said.

The report also says that over the past several decades academe has become increasingly liberal, and that liberals outnumber conservatives even in disciplines like economics, which are often perceived as more-conservative fields.

The study examined the correlation between the quality of professors' academic
affiliations (measured using U.S. News & World Report rankings and Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching classifications) and three measures
of ideological orientation: self-identification on a "right-left" scale, political-party designation, and self-reported attitudes concerning abortion, the environment, and several other political and ideological topics.

Ideology Ranks Second
According to the study, academic achievement -- measured by such variables as how many articles, chapters, and books a scholar has published and the amount of time spent on research -- mattered most in determining the level of institution at which a professor teaches. But ideology was the second-most-important factor.

"The ideological orientations of professors are about one-fifth as important as their professional achievements in determining the quality of the school that hires and retains or promotes them," says the report. After taking professional achievement into account, the study showed that being a Republican or conservative significantly reduces the predicted quality of the college where a scholar teaches. Women and Christians, it also concluded, are similarly disadvantaged.

"We did validate the notion that conservatives are discriminated against," Mr.
Rothman said in an interview. "No one has ever done that before."

But Roger W. Bowen, president of the American Association of University Professors, said the study's methodology is "suspect" because the sample size of the survey was too small. "It's difficult to determine its value," he said.

Mr. Bowen also said the study does not take into account other theories about why there may be fewer conservatives in academe: that conservatives may self-select themselves out of academe, or that "the intellectual cream rises to the top." Even if there are many more liberals than conservatives in academe, he added, "So what? What difference does it make to students?"

In the report's conclusion, the authors acknowledge that the results are "preliminary," but say that conservatives' complaints of the practical effects
of what they see as liberal bias in academe deserve to be taken seriously.

I'm not so sure I believe this, at least not as baldly as it's stated. So often, I find that people who consider themselves conservatives do not consider this to have much to do with their work as scholars. But it is clearly true that those who consider conservative evangelizing to be the essence of their work DO get punished in academe. I would like to think that the same is true for people on the left; it may not be. But the point is that by comparing only those who consider their work and their politics to be inseparable, you are picking the bottomfeeders of academics in the first place.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Snaps, Slaps, and Cold Water

Well, we raised $411 for Special Olympics. (A picture of the action: That's Tallman Trask with the ball and the hat, and John Burness sitting tall on the vat, about to get wet...)

I did my time in the Dunk Tank. Worked on some snaps, to try to get people mad enough to (1) spend money, and (2) miss the target (water was COLD! 63 deg F).

Here they are, in no particular order. Important to yell them just as someone starts to throw.

Hey, don’t throw it so far! You’re liable to hit my car, and wake up your sister!

Your mama so fat, her blood type is Ragu!

I heard that your mama has so much armpit hair, it looks like she has Buckwheat in a headlock!

Your mama so fat, she wears two watches, one for each time zone she blots out.

I hear your mama can’t lie down at the beach anymore; housecats keep trying to cover her with sand!

I hear your mama so fat, her favorite song is: “We are family! Hardees, Dunkin Donuts, and me!”

I hear your mama so ugly, she came in first place in the ugly contest. She also came in second, and third, ‘cause she’s fat, too!

Sidd Finch Lives

I had forgotten about this.

Great story: Tibetan monk, one work boot. 168 mph fastball.

Happy April Fools Day...

(Nod to JJ, who is better with stories than with days of the week)

Who's Pro-Choice Now?

From the NYT, a while back:

March 27, 2005
Choice Is Good. Yes, No or Maybe? By Eduardo Porter By EDUARDO PORTER

CHOICE is the driving force of capitalism. Choosy consumers determine what products and companies thrive or die as they pick among tubes of toothpaste or plans for cellphone service. Choice fuels competition, innovation and efficiency.

These days, consumer choice has claimed a prominent new position as a policy tool: the prescription for everything from improving public schools to paring bloated health care costs to saving Social Security.

Yet even as choice is brought to bear on the nation's most pressing problems, critics point out that expanding consumers' options is not always a good idea. People, they argue, often do not know how to choose properly or they simply refuse to choose. Sometimes, critics argue, government should limit people's choices. That is, choose for them.

"More choice can be worse than less choice," said Sheena Iyengar, a psychologist at Columbia University.

Advocates of unfettered markets are riled by these arguments. "If you were to walk into a Wal-Mart and say to people, 'Don't you feel really depressed by having 258,000 options; shouldn't it be their obligation to reduce the choice you must endure?' They would think you were nuts," said Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives.

Free marketeers like Mr. Gingrich argue not only that consumers are better than the government at making choices that drive an efficient economy. Choice, they argue, is a right. The government can limit it only when one person's choice imposes costs on the rest of society.

"The notion of entrusting a bureaucrat with the power over people's choices is inauthentic in a particularly offensive way," said Richard A. Posner, the legal scholar and federal appeals court judge.

But empirical studies have found that people, regardless of intelligence, do not always choose well. Often they prefer to let inertia take over, unable or unwilling to choose for themselves.

For instance, participation rates in 401(k) plans are known to rise sharply when the default choice for the employee is switched to an opt-out from an opt-in.

In Sweden, where personal savings accounts were carved out of the social security system in 1998, 9 out of 10 new entrants to the work force let their investment portfolio go to a default fund set up by the government, instead of choosing one themselves.

Too many options may drive consumers away. In one experiment, Ms. Iyengar found that people who were shown a selection of six different jams in a store were about 10 times as likely to buy a jar than those exposed to a range of 24 flavors.

In another study, she found that people who chose one chocolate from a selection of 30 expressed more regret and uncertainty about their decision than those who chose among six kinds. That's because with 29 other options, there is a bigger chance of losing out on something better.

Of course, lack of choice will also inhibit people. When Ms. Iyengar gave undergraduate students $10 and the option to spend it right away or invest it, only 6 percent of them chose to invest when the professor decided the asset allocation.

The key is whether people understand their choices, said Richard H. Thaler, an economist at the University of Chicago. "People have to know what their preferences are and they have to know how the options they have map onto their preferences," he said.

This might be easy when choosing between chocolate and vanilla ice cream. But it gets progressively more difficult as the number of flavors increases. When the risks are high and the decisions complex - as when choosing between medical procedures or investment portfolios - consumers may become easily flummoxed.

In one experiment, Mr. Thaler and Shlomo Benartzi of the University of California, Los Angeles, asked employees in one company to select among three 401(k) portfolios.

Unbeknownst to the employees, one portfolio was their own. The other two reflected the average and median choices of all the workers in the company. Yet only one in five employees preferred his or her own portfolio over the median. "Apparently people do not gain much by choosing investment portfolios for themselves," Mr. Thaler wrote.

Mr. Thaler and Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago Law School suggested that it is proper for the government, or an employer, to set boundaries to choice to achieve desired social objectives, an approach they call "libertarian paternalism."

Sweden's default fund for social security accounts - a mixed low-fee portfolio - is an example of such paternalism. Another would be to place the dessert display at the far end of the company cafeteria. Employees could still have dessert, but the hurdle to make that choice would be a little higher. Obesity might decline.

Eric J. Johnson and Daniel Goldstein, co-director and associate director, respectively, of the Center for Decision Sciences at Columbia University, found that big majorities of Americans approve of organ donations, yet only about a quarter consent to donate their own. Meanwhile, nearly all Austrians, French and Portuguese consent to donate theirs. The difference?

In the United States people must opt to become an organ donor. In much of Europe, people must actively choose not to donate. So if organ donation is considered a social good, American defaults could just be flipped around.

Despite the problems, free marketeers argue that more choice is better, simply because it builds character. For instance, Judge Posner said, allowing people to invest part of their Social Security taxes in personal accounts is a step toward a system in which people pay for their own retirement. "It makes people more independent and responsible for their future," he noted. "It makes them better citizens."

Some questions: If you lead with a professional psychologist as the advocate for one side, would you balance that with well-known scholar Newt Gingrich? Does the author think that the fact that I want to allow vasectomies also means that I want to have a vasectomy? Do you have to be an idiot to write for the Times, or is it just one of those extra things that helps at bonus time?

This is a false dichotomy. Imagine that I have three choices, examine all of them, and choose A. Now, imagine that I have 100 choices, examine all of them, and choose A. In both cases, I choose A, so the outcome utility is the same. But my search costs were much higher, so of course I'm worse off with more choices, given that in both cases I choose A. It's trivial.

But if there are, in equilibrium, 100 viable choices, that must mean that some people are choosing EACH of those 100 choices. So, obviously a diverse capitalist economy with lots of choices makes the entire population better off.

Furthermore, brand name and lots of other market innovations reduce my search costs. I don't have to reexamine every alternative, every time.

Life arrangers just can't stand the thought of letting people make their own choices. "Libertarian Paternalism" misses the point. We are not trying to make everyone better off. We are allowing everyone to choose, and take responsibility for, their own path in life.

(nod to JP, who knows things)

Dunk Tank Blues

Aw, jeez. It's cold today. And windy.

And I have to go sit in a #$%&%@ dunk tank. At 2 pm.

Noon John Burness
Senior VP Public & Government Affairs
12:30 p.m. Durham Police Sgt. Dale Gunter, East Campus
1 p.m. Heather Dean and Jesse Longoria (in support)
GPSC President and DSG VP Athletics/Campus Services
1:30 p.m. Anthony Vitarelli
Campus Council President/Young Trustee
2 p.m. Mike Munger
Professor/PoliSci Dept. Chair
2:30 p.m. Karen Hauptman, Chronicle Editor
3 p.m. Duke Police Officer Juan Chirino
3:30 p.m. Duke Police Officer Kelly Mankowski
4 p.m. Jim Wulforst, Duke Dining Director

I'm thinking the highlight of the day will be at the outset. John Burness (who is Jewish) was accused of being anti-Semitic for allowing the PSM conference this fall. He is also very funny. He also weighs about 275, on a 5'4" frame. EVERY dive he does is a cannonball. I hope there is some water left for me.

UPDATE: I went by and looked at the dunk tank. It's real high, frighteningly so, and the water is this gross opaque green. Ick. 65 degrees at game time. That's cold water.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Early Bird Gets to Blog

JMPP transforms a silly mistake into performance art.

She went to class, thinking classes started on MONDAY after break. But, of course, lots of kids aren't done throwig up yet. Classes don't start until Tuesday.

Does she panic? She does not; she blogs about it on the spot. Blogs can turn embarrassing mistakes into performance art. And they can help with those dry patches on your elbows.

Thinking of the early thing: My first teaching job was at Dartmouth, in the Econ Department. The chairman and his wife were having a party at their house. I got all dressed up (meaning i wore socks, and freshly laundered wrestling spandex), and went to the chairman's house. He was mowing the lawn; not a good sign.

But I figured he was running late, and I was five minutes early. It turns out I was five minutes plus a WEEK early.

He was so embarrassed for me (he was very old school) that he shut off the mower and invited me inside. We sat at his kitchen table and had lemonade. He had these great old chairs, antiques. I leaned back in one, and it immediately broke into about 100 small pieces. I took one piece of shrapnel/splinter in the bottom, and he helped me remove it. He refused any payment for the chair.

A week later, I was too embarrassed to go to the real party.

If I could have blogged about it, I would have felt better.

I feel better now.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Now I'm Confused

The Schiavo case is NOT just a minor curiousity.

It is revealing splits in the right/libertarian coalition.

My canary in the coal mine is the very clever, and (I thought) solidly libertarian William Sjostrom.

The point is that I have great respect for his views. If he is this angry, or this angry, then I really am missing something.

Things I could be missing:

1. There is a conspiracy among doctors to misrepresent the mentally long-dead Terry's condition. Their motive is....I have no idea.

2. Freedom-loving people should want the government to waste lots of time on person-specific, ex post facto laws substituting emotionally hysterical mob rule for the established rights of next-of-kin to control the manner of living, and if necessary of dying, for their loved ones. The reason is....I can't imagine.

3. If I was brain dead, and had been for years, as a result of a failed suicide attempt, I would want people to prolong my misery, allowing me to be a huge burden both financially and emotionally, for as long as possible. The reason is...remind me, why did I want to go on living in a ghoulish, nonsentient suspended animation, exactly?

In short, I may just be projecting. The doctors who say she is brain dead, I believe. The people who say that government should intrude, using its coercive powers in the service of craven politics, I don't believe. And I beg anyone who will listen to fucking SHOOT ME if I ever end up like that.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Robbed, I bin ROBBED!

Wow. Turns out that people charge different prices to cut hair, with women paying more. Call Larry Summers: either women are not bright enough to open their own hair care salons, and compete the price differential down to zero, or else there is SOMETHING DIFFERENT about men and women in terms of the level of quality and service they expect in haircuts.

Here is an excerpt from the exciting expose:

When the haircutters who charged women more than men for a basic haircut were asked why a price disparity existed between men's and women's identical services, the following responses were given--25% stated that a combination of hair length, extra time, and hairstyles were the reasons...22% attributed the length of a woman's hair...11 % stated that the extra time spent on women's hair was the main reason...9% said that women's hairstyles and the complexity of some of them were the reasons...15% replied that that's the way the prices are set or that the owners sets the prices...12% said that they did not know why women were charged more than men. The remaining 6% either hung up, said it depended on which hairdresser cut the hair, didn't want to speak about it, said that the price was a special, or said that the prices were set ". . .because a man is a man and a woman is a woman. "

These responses suggest that many haircutting establishments rely on gender-based stereotyping in setting prices for basic and comparable services. Despite the fact that Council staff informed the haircutters that both the caller and her, his boy/girlfiiend had the same length hair, these haircutters did not appear to factor this into consideration when quoting a price.


Now, those of you who have had the great pleasure of beholding Kgrease in the flesh know that (1) there is a lot of flesh, and (2) my hair is shoulder length, very curly, and with lots of blonde highlights. Some of those highlights are from the sun, but most come from chemical products applied by a trained and highly competent hairdresser. (That's right: "My name is Blonde....Fake Blonde.")

A wash/haircut/highlights job from my hairdresser costs $90, plus $15 or so tip. Turns out that is the same price my lady charges women for the "same" work.

So....I have been ripped off! I should have been charged less, 'cause I am a guy. Next time I get a 'do I'm going to drop trou and show her Mr. Winky, and demand a refund. (She might give me the money, too, out of amusement, or pity for my wife).

You might want to look at this, by Russ Roberts. He says his kids are wary. Mine are, too. Hard to have an econophile for a dad.

(Nod to RF, who wrote this)