Monday, April 23, 2007

On Historically Black Colleges

Steve Levitt writes that, “it appears that the traditionally White institutions have evolved to better serve the needs of Black students.”

Levitt makes out that conclusion from a paper by his good friend Roland Fyrer and Michael Greenstone. And with my previous posting on having been a participant in Residence Life while I was in college, I once again question as to what I learned there. That is to say, I have learned more in my economics classes and economics blogs than I have from the diversity training that was mandatory to become a Resident Assistant in college.

FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security

I had replied to a comment on this post by saying:

I think that the diversity we see from ResLife is part of the bureaucracy. They need to look like they're doing something. Think of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. All of that funding, but when Hurricane Katrina came...

Well, no sooner then I post that reply that I see this article from Stephen Barr, in which he writes:

For a second time, the Department of Homeland Security is near the bottom of the "Best Places" rankings, and the poor showing was discussed yesterday at a hearing held by the House Homeland Security management subcommittee. The "Best Places" data showed that the department's headquarters scored lower than even FEMA -- 215th of 222 subcomponents in the rankings.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

George Will on the Drinking Age

Here is yet another example about how George Will and I can sometimes think alike. Or at least uncannily touch on the same topic in a matter of a day.

An excerpt:

McCardell thinks that, on campuses, a drinking age of 21 infantilizes students, encouraging immature behavior with alcohol and disrespect for law generally. Furthermore, an "enforcement only" policy makes school administrations adversaries of students and interferes with their attempts to acquaint students with pertinent information, such as the neurological effects of alcohol on young brains. He notes that 18-year-olds have a right to marry, adopt children, serve as legal guardians for minors and purchase firearms from authorized dealers, and are trusted with the vote and military responsibilities. So, he says, it is not unreasonable to think that they can, with proper preparation, be trusted to drink.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

On Having Been a Resident Assistant

Below is a response to a friend of mine about my experience and opinion on having been a Resident Assistant.

The year I became a resident assistant I actually volunteered to be part of a study with Dr. Robert Longwell-Grice of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Dr. Longwell-Grice was working on a project that at its core to me was about why a student wants to become a Resident Assistant, and then at the end of the year, what the thoughts of that Resident Assistant are about the job.

I have to say now that I am still so glad about volunteering myself to answer questions and hopefully help Dr. Longwell-Grice because by doing so I realized that my idea of the job did in fact actually change.

In my opinion, the student body has to deal with the perception, and more importantly, the preconceived notions of what school is. Unfortunately, to deal with the preconceived notions entails a philosophical debate that could take days, or an entire book, to simply come to an “agree to disagree” viewpoint.

So, the logical step to investigate? I say, lets look at a schools mission statement. Let us try the University of Delaware since I went there:

The central mission of the University of Delaware is to cultivate both learning and the free exchange of ideas. To this end, the University provides excellent undergraduate and graduate courses of study in a variety of disciplines. Our graduates should know how to reason critically and independently yet collaborate productively. They should understand the cultural and physical world, communicate clearly in writing and speech, and develop into informed citizens and leaders.

That was not the entire mission statement, but trust me that the rest is simply a garbled reiteration of the school’s history.

Now, please, I dare you to name me five students whom you knew - other than me - who cared about a mission statement like the one from the University of Delaware. Students, or applicants, pre-conceived notions of college have less to do with a college’s mission statement than they do with MTV and what happened on the last season of Laguna Beach. By the way, if you’re looking for someone who is going to be a new student at a college who actually does care about a mission statement, then look no further than Ben Casnocha. But Ben is the exception, hardly the consensus.

Naturally, Resident Assistants being employed by the school are (and in my opinion, should be) there to facilitate the mission statement of the school. The problem is that they are trying to facilitate a mission that only a minority of the students subscribes to.

However, the job doesn’t become a facilitation of the mission statement. And by the way, the supervisors (hall directors and the bloody like) will evaluate on that observed merit, but that is not what the job becomes. The University becomes a nanny state, and the RAs its officers. On top, we end up having a bureaucratic regime that tries to achieve goals that can never be achieved because they don’t involve alcohol.

In fact, that bureaucratic regime known as ResLife emboldens and enables itself to think it can do anything. Let me put it to you this way, if I were running a private university, my policy on catching residents with alcohol, I report it the local police and let them handle it. Of course, the problem with that is they reside on University property, BUT what if they are 18 and older? They are adults and the University does not and should not employ people to be nannies, but that is what RAs all end up becoming. In the end, ResLife in all its inherent wisdom decides to take this process internally, and I’ll tell you why.

The reason why the University has an internal judicial system and forces, and I’ll repeat that, forces the Resident Assistants to “write up” for “alcohol violations” by making it part of the job duties is because by doing so, you’re putting many regular students in a position to enforce law, which is not what we’re all cut out to be. So, because of the reluctance of students to (1) get others in trouble and (2) Have fear of retaliation from people who live next to you, you end up having a system that lets people off the hook, or is so taxing on the Resident Assistant, that they only choose to “write up” perpetrators every so often. When we realize that the situation I just described is, in fact, what is going on, it is only then we realize why ResLife keeps it internal. There is no way to properly police all the violations going on. And if all the violations were caught, scores more students would be suspended, or expelled, which is not the proper image to garner favor with parents for their child’s attendance, hence, you lose money.

On being a Resident Assistant, I will always say that the job is only a small part a way to enrich students’ lives, but rather moreover about trying to make sure they don’t kill themselves. I’ll give you an economic analogy to work with here. The University of Delaware works by its mission statement; of the wonderful professors I have met, I have no doubt that the University of Delaware takes that mission statement seriously. However, every college in the nation needs attendance, and it seems that many school provosts choose to the path of least resistance in order for prospective students to attend their schools. That is to say, they let the preconceived notions reign high, let the expulsion rate be as it is, and let the money keep coming in.

And like a true market, the product (school) is what we want it to be. And obviously, education is not the only product on the table at a college or university. I think it might be a downfall, but you may see another opinion. And if you do, then it seems you’re getting exactly what you want, and pay for, out of school. Maybe I just placed a different value on my money, and its purpose, than you did.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

F1 Post Bahrain Grand Prix

Now that the third round of the 2007 Formula 1 season is over, we can start to see where the teams are stacking up.

One of the meme’s that the commentators circulate on a weekly basis is that how the budgets of Toyota and Honda don’t really offer the results that you think such large sums of money would. On the other hand, I would still contend that the budgets of BMW, McLaren-Mercedes, and Ferrari aren’t exactly cheap.

2007 Constructors Championship
Pos Constructor Points

1 McLaren-Mercedes 44

2 Ferrari 39

3 BMW 18

4 Renault 9

5 Toyota 5

6 Williams-Toyota 2

7 Red Bull-Renault 0

7= Honda 0

7= Super Aguri-Honda 0

7= STR-Ferrari 0

7= Spyker-Ferrari 0

By the way, Jarno Trulli finished 7th in the race for Toyota. Ralf Schumacher struggled all weekend and finished 12th. I think Toyota – and Honda for that matter – is in a tough spot. Everyone has essentially written them off as Grand Prix winners. However, if (a strong if) and when they start contending for wins, everyone will simply say, “Well, look at their budgets, it’s about time.”

And hey, maybe it is about time. But in Formula 1, it’s a tough market.

(Photo from Toyota F1)

More on Farm Subsidies

Bryan Caplan has more on farm subsidies. Unless you’re actually a farmer, it’s hard to continue to argue for them…unless your entire constituency is comprised of farmers.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Fundamentalism and Homosexuality

This is yet another entry about the creeping in of fundamentalism into who knows…maybe a church that you go to; it is most definitely creeping into mainstream Christian media.

Last night, my small group got onto the topic of homosexuality. They feel the need for confrontation within the church. According to them and their church, gay patrons shouldn’t be allowed to become members until they repent (i.e. turn away from sin, or rather, from being gay).

But, lately, we’ve been finding out that homosexuality is within the genes. That is to say, if you so choose to invoke deity, God made us to be gay or straight.

But fundamentalism doesn’t allow for this. There within lies a paradox. God made these people to have that specific sexual orientation, but the fundamentalist belief structure wants them to change, to repent. But, God made them that way didn’t He? And who are we to try to change God’s plan?

And if you believe in free will, let me direct you to Scott Adams, who might change your mind on that topic. Also, let me ask you how you even believe in a deity and reconcile that with free-will.

And I put forth that thought experiment to the small group. I asked them that if we found out prior to someone’s birth that they would be homosexual, would they choose to change the sexual orientation of people (while in the womb). You could not believe the immediate responses of, “no’s.” That is to say, the responses seem to say that we need to “teach” heterosexuality, and that anything else is a sin. In terms of sin, and repentance, then it requires a conscious decision to change sexual orientation, which I again wonder if it would be even possible.

Here’s the thing, as a heterosexual, I can’t imagine my sexual orientation ever being changed. So, how am I to expect that from the vice-versa situation?

Nevertheless, it all goes back to fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is right, and anything else is simply wrong. No questions. No pondering.

Also, it’s fundamentalism that gives incentive for churches to convert homosexuals. That is to say, if a fundamentalist church were to allow homosexuals to attend services without confrontation, that church would see their allowance of gay attendance as permission of homosexuality. After that, the fundamentalist church fears that it would lose grips on other “sins.” So, if the church has all these clear-cut sins laid out, it can’t allow for margin or doubt in any one area.

Toyota Finishes 7th

Well, Jarno Trulli finished 7th for Toyota in this weekend’s Grand Prix race in Malaysia. Ralf Schumacher finished 15th after suffering a slow-bleeding tire puncture during the race.

The weekend saw once again the Toyota team being somewhat written off entirely for the race and qualifying due to their mid-pack performance during practice. However, all things considered, Toyota seems to think of itself as becoming the best of the rest, while possibly later in the season being able to close the gap towards the top three teams (McLaren Mercedes, Ferrari, and BMW). I can’t wait to see what comes of those aspirations.

The real big surprise was from the weekend was the McLaren-Mercedes 1-2 finish put on by Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari had a de-tuned Engine in Kimi Raikonnen’s car and Felipe Massa made a mistake trying to overtake Lewis Hamilton earlier in the race, from which he did not recover. The improved pace of the McLaren proved enough to keep the Ferrari’s at bay during the race.

(Image taken from

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Music Review: Traffic and Weather

It never ceases to amaze me how both Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood can so consistently craft together such wonderful pop songs.

Fountains of Wayne’s latest release Traffic and Weather - continues on their tradition of proper pop-rock song crafting. Once again, like their previous albums, they manage to fit in a great mix of songs that differ in tempo and message.

I find it difficult to listen to their music and not feel good. My personal favorite is their second track, “92 Subaru.” As a Subaru owner myself I can’t help but identify with the song. The link for the album above will also allow you to listen to samples of the album, just like Amazon.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Orphan Disease Realization

I just saw a Frontline documentary last night on ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) that hit on the unfortunate funding matter of how ALS is an orphan disease. A fact that I was unaware of.

It's these few times when I’m reminded of when the government does something that I really like, such as the Orphan Drug Act. (As an aside; I’ve mentioned the ODA once before.) But let me also say that this documentary also shows how foundations can get far as well on donations and operating as a non-profit. Also, I'm personally always skeptical as to when the government should give subsidies, but on the Orphan Drug Act, I'm very approving of the legislation.

More on the SEC and Section 404

As I’ve documented many times in the past on this blog, Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 has its ups and downs, and most of it deals with which side you work for.

In case you thought no one was thinking about the implications on business anymore, this Washington Post article suggests otherwise.

One of my quarrels with section 404 is that it has the ability to create a false security blanket. Remember that at Enron, if only people/investors had looked more closely at the financials sooner, they would have seen the imminent demise. And in my opinion we’ve created a whole bunch of rules for companies to follow that we’re still not sure are exactly effective.

Rally de Portugal

The Rally de Portugal finished up this past weekend, and after watching the coverage I must say that it was quite eventful.

We can take a look at the result from the rally’s official site:

1. Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena Citroen C4 3:53:33.1
2. Petter Solberg/Phil Mills Subaru Impreza WRC +3:13.9
3. Dani Sordo/Marc Marti Citroen C4 +5:05.3
4. Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen Ford Focus RS +5:37.1
5. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen Ford Focus RS +7:08.1
6. Daniel Carlsson/Denis Giraudet Citroen Xsara WRC +8:13.2
7. Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchni Citroen Xsara WRC +9:39.6
8. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miika Anttila Ford Focus WRC +10:44.9
9. Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor Citroen Xsara WRC +12:46.0
10. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Floene Ford Focus RS04 +13:51.6

As has become somewhat usual, Sebastien Loeb has won yet another round. Gronholm and his teammate Hirvonen had originally finished 2nd and 3rd, but a technical infringement gave them each 5-minute penalties. Which was good news for Petter Solberg in his Subaru.

Solberg’s teammate, Chris Atkinson did not finish due to a marvelous wreck he had on what I believe was stage 12. A crest, in which many cars had problems with, managed to catch Atkinson and his co-driver Glenn Macneall by surprise. After the event it was revealed that Macneall will no longer be Atkinson’s co-driver due to Glenn Macneall having some personal obligations he felt he need to get back to Australia for.

The Subaru WRC 2007 still seems to be improving, and with a few tests sessions scheduled in the 1-month break until Rally Argentina, things may start to look better for the Subaru team in Argentina. Here are your standings so far…

1. S. LOEB (F) 38 Pts
2. M. GRÖNHOLM (FIN) 37 Pts
3. M. HIRVONEN (FIN) 30 Pts
4. D. SORDO (E) 19 Pts
5. P. SOLBERG (N) 16 Pts
6. H. SOLBERG (N) 11 Pts
7. C. ATKINSON (AUS) 10 Pts
8. D. CARLSSON (S) 9 Pts
9. J. LATVALA (FIN) 7 Pts

By the way, there was never any elaboration on Tony Gardemesiter’s exclusion from the rally that I mentioned before. If and when I ever find out why Sebastien Loeb was allowed to continue in last year’s rally Acropolis, I will let you know.

(Photo taken from Eurosport.)