Posts tagged ‘asu’

All Is Right With the World Again

Arizona State has climbed back into the top 10 party school rankings.

This is the same institution that is opposing Grand Canyon University's entry into Division I athletics because, as a for-profit university, they are apparently not academically serious enough.  For some reasons GCU's accountability to shareholders isn't as pure and wonderful as ASU's accountability to former customers who will never use their product again except perhaps to attend a football game (e.g. alumni).

I Used to Respect Michael Crow. Never Mind. The NCAA Hypocrisy Never Ends

Arizona State University (ASU) has always had a certain niche in the college world, a niche best evidenced by their making both the top 10 party school and top 10 hottest women lists in the same year.  President Michael Crow has done a fair amount to, if not reverse this image, at least add some academic cred to the university.  ASU has been creeping up the USN&WR rankings, has a very serious and respected honors college (Barrett) and hosts the Origins conference each year, one of the most fun public education events I have attended.

But Michael Crow is now upset that another Phoenix area school has been given Division I status in sports, a for-profit college named Grand Canyon University.  This could really hurt both ASU's athletic recruiting in the area as well as dilute its revenues.  But in the supremely hypocritical world college athletics, he can't say that.  Instead, he says (Via Tyler Cowen)

The conference's 12 presidents signed and delivered a letter dated July 10 urging the NCAA's Executive Committee to "engage in further, careful consideration" about allowing for-profit universities to become Division I members at the committee's August meeting. In the meantime, Pac-12 presidents decided at a league meeting last month not to schedule future contests against Grand Canyon while the issue is under consideration.

"A university using intercollegiate athletics to drive up its stock value -- that's not what we're about," Arizona State president Michael Crow said in a phone interview over the weekend. "... If someone asked me, should we play the Pepsi-Cola Company in basketball? The answer is no. We shouldn't be playing for-profit corporations."...

"Our presidents have a pretty clear view that athletics works for the broader benefit of the university," said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. "There's a discomfort with the idea that the sole accountability around athletics would be to a company that might use athletics as a marketing tool to drive stock price. There's a sense that changes the dynamics and accountability around athletics."

It is freaking hilarious to get lectured on accountability around athletics by the NCAA.  This is an organization that has been making billions off unpaid workers for years, workers who think so much of the value of the compensation they do receive (a free education) that most of the best of them never complete it.  I wrote more about the NCAA and athletes here.  In short, though, all these schools use the athletic program to raise capital (in the form of donations), likely far more so than a private school's sports team would raise its stock value.  Unless you grew up near the school, what do you know about well-known schools like Penn State, Ohio State, University of Miami, LSU, Alabama and even Notre Dame other than their athletics program?

Michael Crow reveals himself as just another incumbent that does not want competition.

In regards to Grand Canyon specifically, though, it would certainly appear that Crow, who's been spearheading the effort, is driven in part by protecting his own turf. Arizona State has long been the only Division I university in the Phoenix market. And in the bigger picture, it seems a bit self-righteous that the same group of presidents that in 2011 signed a $3 billion contract with ESPN and FOX -- and which last year launched a profitable television network of their own -- would play the "non-profit" card in calling out someone else's motives.

"It's different in the following sense," Crow said of the comparison. "Whatever income we generate from a television network goes to support the swimming team, the rowing team at Cal. We support thousands of athletes and their scholarships, their room-and-board, as part of the intercollegiate spirit of athletics. ... In the case of a for-profit corporation, those profits go to the shareholders."

His last point is a distinction without a difference.  First, I am not sure it is true -- Grand Canyon also has other athletic programs that cost money but don't bring in revenue. They also have a women's swim team, for example.  But who cares anyway?  Why is a student interested in swimming more worthy of receiving football largess than an investor?  Maybe Crow is worried that the people of Arizona that fund so much of his operations (and bloated overpaid administrative staff) might suddenly start wondering why they don't get a return for their investment as do GCU shareholders.

Postscript:  Phil Knight at Oregon and Boone Pickens at Oklahoma State (to name just 2 examples) get an incredible amount of influence in the university due to the money they give to their football programs and the importance of the football programs to those schools.  Boone Pickens says he has given half a billion dollars to OSU, half of which went to the football program.  But it is clear he would not have given a dime if he had not been concerned with the football team's fortunes and the problem of his university's football team losing to other rich guy's teams.  Is this really somehow better and cleaner than being beholden to equity markets?

The link in the original article is broken, so here is a better link to an article and video of how "non-profits" are spending their athletic money, on things like this palatial locker room for the Alabama football team that would make Nero's gladiators blush.

College Bleg, Wesleyan (CT) Edition

My son is being recruited, at a minimum, at Bowdoin, Vassar, Wesleyan, Haverford, Kenyon and possibly Amherst and Pomona to play baseball.  We have a pretty good handle on all these schools except Wesleyan in Connecticut, which we have visited but we are having a hard time getting a read on.

In the 2011 Insider's Guide to the Colleges, Wesleyan is described as an extreme example of a college dedicated to politically correct intolerance.  The book says that the classes tend to be mainly focused on teaching kids to be radical activists rather than any traditional subject matter.  Social life is portrayed as revolving around marijuana and hallucinogens.   It is by far the most negative review we have read (well, I suppose this would not be negative to some).

We are trying to get a read on the accuracy of this.    Any of you know this school or attend it?   Is there truth to this, or does the writer have an ax to grind?   He is not naive to what he will find politically at New England liberal arts colleges. The question is not whether there is a lot of leftish political correctness - that is a baseline in all such schools.  The question is whether this school is unusually extreme.  The book makes it sound like it is Kos Kidz Academy.    Comment or send me an email.

Update:  Hmm, based on the comments, I explained myself poorly.  Nic will likely never play pro ball.  If that were his goal, we would definitely be looking to ASU or Texas.  He has decided he wants to go to a small liberal arts college.  Baseball has two synergies - one, he would like to play in college.  Two, being recruited for sports helps in the admissions process at selective schools.

There is money set aside to pay for college, from a source such that it needs to be used for college, so arguments about price-value issues with college are not immediately relevant.

College Baseball Recruiting (part 1)

Update:  This is part 1.  Part 2 is here.

I sit here near Brookhaven on Long Island hiding in my hotel room as I don't want to make my son any more nervous in performing the skill evaluations at the baseball showcase camp he is attending.  Two hundred nervous kids and four hundred nervous parents is something I can avoid  (though for parental hyperactive competitive frenzy, nothing in my life has yet topped an elementary school chess tournament in Seattle).  Later today the format shifts to playing games and I will go over and watch that.

As I sit here, I might as well share with you some of the lessons we have learned in trying to land a spot playing college baseball.  I am not sure you should even listen to me, as I knew nothing about this 5 months ago and we still don't know if our son will be successful, though we are gaining confidence.

First, if your kid is a total stud, he may be scouted in high school, either on his school team or on summer and fall teams built for that purpose.  If so, great.   But just because your kid has never been seen by a college scout, or goes to a school that is not a traditional baseball powerhouse, he is not somehow doomed.  Our son certainly has never seen a scout and goes to a school that almost never produces college baseball players.  Worse, he plays varsity soccer and basketball so he can't even join a fall scouting team.  This probably rules him out for high-powered division 1 programs like ASU or Texas.  But there are a ton of schools out there who are likely not going to get even one scouted player.

My son is looking at small liberal arts colleges that tend to play division III (Williams, Amherst, Vassar, Pomona) and a few smart-school division I teams (e.g. Princeton).   He has a different equation than the top division 1 athletes.  They are hoping their skills will get them a scholarship and acceptance at a school that can offer them exposure to the pros.  My son is hoping his skills will put him over the top at a very selective school that is brutally hard to get accepted at, even with good grades.  And of course, he just loves to play baseball.

NCAA recruiting is a morass of sometimes non-intuitive rules.  And the rules are different for different size schools (e.g. div III vs. div I).  But the most important thing I can tell you is that your kid has to take the initiative to get in front of the schools.   You cannot rely on your coach or school or anyone else.   You can begin earlier, but we started around the middle of his Junior year:

2nd Semester Junior Year

Through much of his junior year, I video'd Nic's games, and then he spliced together a 5 minute highlight video.  We put that on YouTube, and sent coaches a letter and a copy of the video.

Most schools have an online prospect form they want you to fill out, and you need to do that.  You also need your kid to register with the NCAA clearing house -- it takes a few bucks and they want transcripts and test scores.

During spring break, when we visited schools, in addition to the admissions office tour, we tried also to either schedule a visit with or drop by the baseball coach.  Some said hi for 5 minutes, some gave him nearly an hour, but its important to show them you are interested.   In all of this, it is very important to have your son take the lead.  Yes, I know teenage boys and mine is no different than yours, so you may have to poke and prod in the background, but they need to make the contact.  In fact, whenever we meet a coach, I introduce myself, and then I leave my son alone with him.

If you take any message away, I would say this, and I have heard this from many people now:  The #1 mistake your kid can make is not being proactive enough in contacting coaches.  The #1 mistake you as a parent can make is being too involved with the coach -- they want to see what your kid will be like, at college, out from under your parental umbrella.  They do not want to deal with your hopes and fears and anxieties as the overbearing sports parent.

Summer between Junior and Senior year

By NCAA or conference rules, at least atthe div III schools we visited, the coaches cannot give your son a tryout at school.  We thought we might obtain something like this when we visited, but it is against the rules.  So you need to find a forum to play in front of the coach.  The best is if that school has a showcase camp.  A lot of schools do -- check their athletics web site.  The other great choice are camps held by third parties that have coaches from many schools attending.  Nic wrote the coaches at the schools he was interested in and asked them, by email, which camps they were attending so he could get in front of them.  If they don't answer, try emailing the assistant coaches (many times the head coach has delegated most of the summer scouting to the assistants).

There are a lot of camps nowadays, because certain groups have found they can be money makers.  In fact, I would say baseball camp folks fall into two categories -- there are ones run by baseball guys who really care about the kids and the game, but who can't organize their way out of a paper bag.  And there are the commercial ones, that may run well, but tend to have way too many boys for the number of coaches and don't seem to care much about the boys.  The exception I found was a group called  Headfirst, which runs a series of Honor Roll Camps, so named, I think, because they have coaches from a lot of "smart" schools.  These guys really care about the boys and run a fabulous camp.  If the schools you are interested attend these camps, I would highly recommend them.  Sign up early, they always sell out.

Here is how this camp runs, as an example.  In the first morning, the boys will do a number of skills workouts for the coaches (who are all on the field in folding chairs taking notes).  Outfielders will field four balls and make a few long throws to the plate.  Infielders will do the same from shortstop.  Catchers will be timed popping up and making the throw to second.  Everyone gets timed in the 60-yard dash.  Everyone gets to hit 9 balls in batting practice in front of all the coaches.  The rest of the two days the boys are organized into teams and play games, which are as much about pitcher evaluations as anything else. At this camp, all of the games are coached by the college coaches who are there recruiting. The coaches rotate so they see everyone.

These are weird events.  I have a ton of respect for all the kids.  Imagine hitting in a batting cage with one hundred coaches in folding chairs writing in notebooks all around the sides of the cage.  Or pitching when there is a net right behind the catcher, and right behind that are 50 guys taking notes, ten of whom are holding radar guns.

The kids get nervous, but one thing we have learned is that coaches are looking at something different than laymen might expect. What the kids may consider to be a screw-up may actually be a success.   You and I are impressed by the guy who lines a couple into the gap, vs. the guy who grounds out to the pitcher.   But the coaches are not even looking where the ball goes -- they are locked on the batter and his swing.  That is why they do the hitting showcase in the cage now instead of on the field like they used to -- the coaches just want to see the kid's form.  Ditto the other stuff.   In the last camp, my son put himself down as an outfielder rather than pitcher (though he plays both in high school) because he felt like his hitting was his best path to college.  But in one of the early drills they put a radar gun on him, saw he threw 88mph, and asked him to pitch.  And then the second day the head coach wanted to see him pitch again.

By the way, before each camp, My son looked at the list of coaches attending the camp and sent them emails, and called a favored few, to tell them that he would be at the camp, that he is really interested in their school, and could they please look out for him.  At the camp, the kids really need to take the lead in walking up to coaches (who are all wearing their school's gear) and introducing themselves.   No, your kid is not different from mine -- it is hard to get them to do this.  To their credit, the Headfirst camps actually work with the kids to encourage them in this. The camp leaders are constantly walking up to kids and saying "have you introduced yourself to a coach yet?"

The Fall of Senior Year

The rules vary by sport, but apparently the kids cannot be called at their home by baseball coaches until July 1 (again, this is in div III, rules may vary by sport).  This reinforces the need for kids to be proactive.  Most coaches will wait until the summer camps are over and develop their short list of kids to call and recruit.  That is all Div III schools can do.  Div I schools can bring a few kids in for a university-paid campus visit.  If you get one of those (they only have a few to give out) that is the best sign of all that the coach is truly interested and not just blowing smoke to be nice.

We expect this to be our fall challenge -- how do you figure out if the school is really interested?  In the common application era, it is absolutely critical to tell a college you are really interested and not just hitting the send button to the 29th school.  The best way to do this is by applying early admission, but you only get one of these.  We are hoping to match the school we pick for early admit with Nic's interests as well as baseball coaches' interest.  We'll see how it goes.

Mind of the Coach

The following could be completely wrong.  It is put together not by someone who has experience with baseball or who has been a coach and player, but as someone acting as sort of a baseball anthropologist trying to figure out what is going on.  The following applies mainly to smaller schools not in the top 20 or 30 national programs -- they have a completely different situation.

  • The camps seem intimidating, because there are so many good kids playing.  Coaches seem like these Olympian figures deciding everyone's fate based on inscrutable criteria.  But never forget this -- coaches are just as desperate as you are.  As much as your son is desperately trying to land a spot, coaches are desperately trying to get good players.  Remember, someone probably needs your son.  And smaller school coaches have to sit back and wait for ASU and Texas to skim the cream before they can even get started with the task.
  • They have to make decisions on very little data, or what you and I would consider little data.  Over and over again I hear that unless you are in a school or league with which they are familiar, your kid's ERA or batting average and stats means almost nothing to them.  They will make most of their evaluation from looking at him for what seems a really brief time.  If your son is being encouraged to rework his swing, but he is worried that his stats will drop for a while as he makes the changes, remember that his form, not his stats, will likely get him a spot at a school
  • Most schools allow the baseball coach to send a list of kids -3,5, maybe 7 names - to the admission office for special consideration.  Most of these kids will get in.  Being on that list at a school like Princeton or Amherst that have 8% admit rates is therefore a huge boost.   But, having a limited number of spots, the coach is not going to put a kid's name on that list unless he is pretty sure that kid is going to come.  Getting five studs through admissions is useless if they all are headed to Duke or Stanford instead.  My son has picked a few schools and has really worked to make sure the coach understands he is likely to accept an admission.
  • This is just a guess based on how organizations work, but my sense is that coaches have a certain "budget" as to how much they can ask the admissions office to bend their standards for their recruits.   This means that for selective schools, it still helps a LOT for your kid to have good academics and test scores.   The Headfirst camp we are at now actually asks for grades and scores in advance, and puts those on the cheat sheet every coach gets.   I can guarantee you that before a guy from Harvard falls in love with your kid's swing, he looks down at those academics to see if he can afford to.
  • Most medium and small school coaches have no idea on June 1 who they will be recruiting for the next class.  So if it is June 1 and your son is a rising senior, it is not at all too late.
To be continued, part 2 is here.

Hail Porkulus

Via the AZ Republic

10 of the 25 most lucrative stimulus-funded contracts for work inside the state were awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to one Alaskan company.

Bristol Environmental Remediation Services LLC, based in Anchorage, was not required to bid for the work, which is valued at more than $140 million and involves ground-pollution monitoring and cleanup at 10 Arizona sites, including San Carlos, Parker, Tuba City and Window Rock

Who wants to bet this company has had friends named Stevens and Murkowski?  What is it about Alaska?

As an added bonus, to my frequent point that regulation in general and our new emerging corporate state in general tend to favor large companies over small:

Tom Mertz is Tempe-based Sundt Construction Inc.'s federal division vice president, a position that has few counterparts among Sundt's smaller competitors.

Contracts funded by the federal government tend to favor larger companies such as Sundt, Mertz said, because there are additional steps involved in completing such a project, many of them involving protocol and paperwork.

"Federal-government work certainly is not for everyone," he said.

Sundt has landed both state and federal economic-stimulus projects, including one of Arizona's biggest, a $24.6 million contract to build federal-courthouse facilities in Yuma....

Mark Stapp, director of ASU's Master of Real Estate Development program and a longtime developer in the Valley, said that the problems smaller contractors encounter most often on public projects have little to do with the work itself.

"It's the administration of the work that kills them," he said.

As a result, many small and midsize contractors have avoided government-sponsored work, which adds to their current disadvantage now that the public sector is hosting the only game in town.

Fermat's Last Theorum

I second Alex's nomination - this is one of my favorite documentaries as well.  The book by the same name is very good as well and covers more of the math history.  I actually watched it just the other day in a home double feature with a A Beautiful Mind, mainly showing my kids the scenes shot at Princeton**  but it turned out to be a great essay on math and the human mind.

** I suppose I could have thrown in Transformers 2 as a Princeton triple feature but it seemed somehow out of place in terms of tone.  Also, seeing all the ASU girls walking around the Princeton campus was almost weirder than the hallucinations in A Beautiful Mind.

In the Pay of Big Transit?

I am always amazed at the lengths to which some folks will try to put lipstick on the light rail pig.  One example I found today.  Michael Graham Richard wrote on treehugger in June:

The sprawling city of Phoenix, of all places, is showing us how light rail should be done. They just opened a 20 mile line with 28 stops last December, and ridership statistics are beating all forecasts (evidence that the same might be true in other cities where they are afraid to invest because their forecasts are too low) with 40,000 daily riders instead of the 25,000 expected.

But here are the ridership figures from Valley Metro, who runs Phoenix Light Rail.  This is weekday ridership (actually number of daily boardings) -- weekend ridership is much less:

  • Jan:  30,617
  • Feb:  35,277
  • Mar:  34,376
  • Apr:  37,386
  • May:  33,553
  • Jun:   29,469
  • Jul:  26,554

It is hard to see where one gets a 40,000 figure, especially since a true daily rider/boarding figure would have to average in the lower Saturday/Sunday numbers.

And who cares if it meets some sandbagged forecast or not?  Is 40,000 even a reasonable number?  Note that even at the higher 40,000 figure this implies just 20,000 round trip customers.  This higher ridership number would still make the capital cost of the $1.4 billion line to be $70,000 per round trip rider, and ABSURD subsidy.

Update: The ridership numbers will likely pick up when Arizona State is back in school.  ASU and the baseball stadium are about the only major destinations on the line through dispersed, low-density Phoenix (it goes through our "downtown" but that is not saying much  -- it is not a big center of employment).  Did we really build light rail as another subsidy for ASU students?

Update #2: Let's say there are 50,000,000 big city commuters in the US in cities outside of Boston/NY/Chicago with large transit systems.   Serving these commuters at $70,000 each would create a capital cost of $3.5 trillion for light rail.   Who on the planet really thinks this is reasonable?  Sure, you would get some network effects as you built out lines that increased ridership, but these would be offset by diminishing returns (presumably the first Phoenix line was built on the most promising corridor, and all future corridors will be less promising).

Scientists Can Be Morons Too

I was in the audience yesterday at Arizona State for something they called the Origins conference, which attracted a lot of top scientists to talk about issues related to the origins of life and the universe.  Towards the end there was a panel discussion that was less scientific, and more focused on "future of science" and "science and public policy" type issues.

What I observed in this discussion was amazing.  Folks who likely set very high standards of proof and rational thought in their own disciplines threw all such concerns out the window when talking on these public policy topics.  In fact, in the same sentence, I heard participants decry the rise of anti-scientific Luddites and then make wild, unsupported statements of their own that are laughably easy to disprove.

Here are some semi-random observations:

On Scientific Education: The panel went on and on about how schools are somehow failing to make science interesting and magical or whatever and are killing interest in science.  One woman who used to work with Carl Sagan said every kindergartner should be taken out to look at the stars and think about alien races.  While I am not one to defend schools too much, I do think that this gauzy view of education is a crock.  For some number of years, kids can be engaged with science and nature with gee-whiz demonstrations and participation events and spurring a general sense of wonder, and elementary school teachers who can do so should be treasured.

But at some point, discipline has to kick in.  To be good at physics, for example, requires a deep, deep knowledge of math.  It means hours and hours and hours of stultifying work learning to solve various forms of partial differential equations (just to choose one example near and dear to my heart).  Or, to choose another discipline, I just don't think that memorizing isomers in organic chemistry is ever going to be magical.   I believe this happy feel-good approach to science is in fact part of the problem.  Kids may get to age 13 thinking black holes are cool, but they are utterly unprepared for the work it is going to take to go to the next level of understanding.   I think this is in some sense why so many hard science PHD's are foreign -- their culture and early education is preparing them better for the hard stuff that requires discipline to master.

On Obama: The panel members all agreed that the change in US administrations meant an enormous turnaround in the future of science in the US.    Really?  I understand the problems with the Bush administration, but does anyone really think that the quality and quantity of scientific endeavor in its full scope across the country is going to measurably change because Obama has several Nobel laureates among his advisers?   It's like saying the Earth's rotation is going to measurably change if we all jump up and down at the same time.   How can people who analyze complex systems for a living throw out everything they know about such analysis when then look at the government and the economy?

On Economics: I swear one of the panel participants got up last night and said that the US economy is tanking because we have failed to make investments in science, while other countries who have made such investments are doing well.  That one sentence, from someone who is nominally a scientist, has four unsupported, and I think unsupportable, statements in one sentence:  1.  That the US has somehow refrained from investing in science, against some unidentified benchmark (the past?  the Platonic ideal?); 2.  That current economic problems stem from this lack of investment, rather than, say from the housing bubble and poor banking decisions; 3.  That other countries have made more investments in science than the US; and 4.  That these countries are prospering while our economy is in the tank (who??).  And everyone nodded their head at this.  No one challenged this.

On the Politicization of Science: The panel lamented the politicization of science, which they say is a phenomenon that has arisen solely over the last 10 years.  Ignoring this perversion of history, I was amazed at their solution.  For example, one member lamented the pushback in teaching of evolution in certain public schools.  Her solution, however, was for scientists to get even more political, ie to fight fire with fire.  That seems to miss the point.  I would have thought a better solution was to merely eliminate the politicization.  For example, taking government out of the business of setting curricula, e.g. by allowing school choice, would eliminate the role of government in choosing sides in science teaching issues altogether.  Why escalate the problem when we can eliminate it?

On the Profit Motive: The hostility to the profit motive was astonishing.  One guy on the panel had the temerity to mention that maybe changes in scientific output were driven by changing expectations of making money from such investment.  We then had to endure a 5-minute interlude where each member jumped in to assure the world that neither they or anyone they knew or anyone with any real credibility were driven by anything but a pure and idealistic desire to understand the universe.

Update: I have been reminded rightly that this panel does not necesarily represent the mass of the Origins effort, and in fact this panel was much more skewed to media and public policy.  This post is solely in reaction to this one panel, and the rest of the conference was great, dedicated mostly to hard science, and a real learning experience for me.

The Opposite Problem

Megan McArdle writes:

Let's be honest, coastal folks:  when you meet someone with a thick
southern accent who likes NASCAR and attends a bible church, do you
think, "hey, maybe this is a cool person"?  And when you encounter
someone who went to Eastern Iowa State, do you accord them the same
respect you give your friends from Williams?  It's okay--there's no one
here but us chickens.  You don't.

Maybe you don't know you're
doing it.  But I have quite brilliant friends who grew up in rural
areas and went to state schools--not Michigan or UT, but ordinary state
schools--who say that, indeed, when they mention where they went to
school, there's often a droop in the eyelids, a certain forced quality
to the smile.  Oh, Arizona State.  Great weather out there.  Don't I need a drink or something? This person couldn't possibly interest me.

People
from a handful of schools, most of them hailing from a handful of major
metropolitan areas, dominate academia, journalism, and the
entertainment industry.  Our subtle (or not-so-subtle) distaste for
everything from their entertainment to their decorating choices to the
vast swathes of the country in which they choose to live permeate
almost everything they read, watch, or hear.  Of course we don't hear
it--to us, that's simply the way the world is. 

I have written before that I go out of my way not to mention my
double-Ivy pedigree within my business dealings because it tends to cause my
employees (who often have no degree at all) to clam up.  I absolutely
depend on their feedback and ideas, and those dry up if my employees
somehow think that I'm smarter than they are and they start to be afraid to "look stupid."

But McArdle's post causes me to think of another reason not to be snobbish about my eastern degrees.  I meet a lot of rich and succesful people out here in the Phoenix area, and I can't remember the last one that had an Ivy League degree.  I am thinking through a few of them right now -- ASU, ASU, Arizona, Kansas State, Tulane, no college, San Diego State....  Getting uppity about my Harvard MBA around here only leaves me vulnerable to the charge of "Person X went to Montana State and is worth $10 million now -- what the hell have you been doing with that Harvard MBA?"  Here in flyover country, college degrees and family pedigree are not really strong predictors of business success.

I'm on the Front Page, But Don't Bother to Look

The Arizona Republic had a stealth hit piece on skeptics in the paper today and, unfortunately, I inadvertently helped.  My kids woke me up at 7:00 this morning (Yuk!) to tell me I was on the front page of the Arizona Republic.  I was quoted a couple of times in an article on climate change skeptics.   I have a couple of thoughts about an article that really has me depressed today.  If you want to know what I really think about climate, see my book and in my movie (both free online).

  • After interviews, I am always surprised at what the writers chose to quote, and this article is no exception. 
  • I spent most of the article trying to explain this simple data exercise, but I guess newspapers today are science-phobic and would rather write he-said-she-said articles than actually get into the numbers.  Unfortunately, the article leaves the impressions that we skeptics have problems with catastrophic global warming theory  "just because."
  • The article is not about the skeptics' position, because it is not really stated.  In fact, more space is spent on refuting skeptics than is even given to skeptics themselves.  Here is the best test:  The skeptic's position would have been better served by not publishing this mess at all.
  • Almost my entire discussion with the reporter was about the forecasts.  I said man is causing some warming, but there are simple tests to show it likely won't be catastrophic.  I even said that it was the catastrophists tactic not to argue this point, but to shift the debate to whether warming exists at all, where they have a much stronger argument. Despite this whole discussion with the reporter, the reporter allowed the catastrophists to shift the debate again.  They want to argue whether things are warmer, where they are on strong ground, and not about how much it will warming the future and whether this will justify massive government intervention, where they are on weak ground.

This article really frustrates me, and may pretty much spell the end for my ever giving an interview on the subject again (I will do a podcast on Monday, which I will link soon, but that is different because they can't edit me).  Despite it being an article about skeptics, the catastrophists are the only one that get any empirical evidence whatsoever into the article (however lame it may be).  This really ticked me off in particular:  I spent an hour giving specific empirical reasons why there were problems with forecasts and the theory.  The reporter then just printed a few quotes from me that made me look like an uninformed idiot, saying "just because."  Then they print this:

"There is clearly a group of thought that says because we're not seeing
debate now, it never happened in the scientific community," Huxman
said. "That is simply wrong. It did happen, and it's over. The debate
now is over the idiosyncrasies, the internal workings."

Incredibly, they also credulously reprint the absurd Newsweek ad hominem attacks on skeptics

What also got my attention was the companion article on an ASU professor who is a climate skeptic.  Incredibly, in the whole article, not one sentence is dedicated to explaining why the professor is a skeptic.  What is the empirical evidence he relies on, or the analysis he finds most compelling?  We never find out.  All we get is an article on dueling motivations.  For example, the Republic writes:

Despite his notoriety as a hero of the skeptic crowd, Balling's research and lifestyle contain some surprising contradictions.

He is in charge of climate studies at the Decision Center for a Desert
City, an ambitious ASU program that looks at how drought will affect
the Valley.

He's a registered independent and lives a lifestyle that the hardiest environmental activist would recognize as green....

If there was a competition for living green, "put the cards on the
table, and I'll beat 99 percent of the faculty here," Balling said.

He avoids driving and  doesn't own a cellphone.

He would even have liked to see Al Gore win the presidency in 2000.

So?  Why is this surprising?  Should we all naturally expect that skeptics all eat children for dinner?  And, of course, an article on a leading skeptic would not be complete without this:

Critics have assailed Balling's ties to industries.

Balling received more than $679,000 in research funding from
fossil-fuel-industry organizations between 1989 and 2002, according to
figures provided by ASU. He served as a scientific adviser to the
Greening Earth Society, a public-relations organization founded by the
Western Fuels Association to promote the benefits of global warming.

Uh, OK.  Here is a Coyote Blog challenge:  Find me one article in a mainstream newspaper or news weekly that even once checks the sources of funding for climate catastrophists.  This focus on funding and motivation and political affiliation for skeptics only is scandalously asymmetric.  But take a quick look at the article - 85% of it is related to motivation, either how good his green credentials are or how much money he gets from oil companies - and not any discussion of what he actually thinks. 

This final bit is especially funny.  Think of all the wacko professors out there that are warmly accepted by their universities and the academic community.  We're talking about folks all the way up to and including men who have gone to prison for torturing and murdering women.  But apparently having a climate skeptic on the faculty is just too much:

But his climate work has garnered the most national attention, which bothers some colleagues at ASU.

"For ASU, having Balling as such a prominent figure in the climate
debate has been awkward, not so much because of his positions but
because we have lacked scientists of similar stature whose work
supports more widely held, opposing views," Jonathan Fink, director of
ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability, wrote in an e-mail. "Hence we
have been viewed as somewhat of a fringe institution in the world of
climate-change research."

Wow, its terrible to see such ill-repute brought to America's #1 Party School.  And by the way, what the hell kind of strategy is this?  We want to make a name for ourselves in climate research, so to do so we think we should be just like all the other schools -- that's the way to differentiate ourselves!

I will post links to my podcast that is coming up Monday night.  After that, I am not sure.  I am pretty depressed about the state of the media on this issue.  I have a lot of interests and more than enough to do with my time that I may take a break from climate for a while.

Follow-up on Segregation at ASU

Racially segregated classes at ASU may or may not still exist, and the University may or may not have ended them.  How's that for a follow-up.  FIRE does some more research here, and find:

In fact, there's no reason to believe that the racial restriction on that class
hasn't existed for at least eight years. And unless ASU is a university at which
students sign up for a class directly with the professor (which would be truly
unusual), ASU's administration had to be part of the effort to enforce the
racial restriction.
So why didn't ASU tell the truth in its letter to FIRE, especially if it
was planning to abandon the racial restriction anyway (once it got caught, of
course)? Probably because its administration didn't believe that anyone would
really do the research and find out that legal segregation has flourished on its
campus for at least the last eight years. This brazenness is shocking,
especially considering that a 2002
letter
from FIRE got ASU to drop
racial restrictions
on a Navajo history class. Are there other classes with
similar restrictions just waiting to be discovered?

Arizona State University Racially Segregates Courses

I am a big supporter of the work FIRE does to support openness and individual rights in universities.  Today, FIRE turns its attention on Phoenix's own Arizona State University:

State-sponsored racial segregation has found a home at Arizona State University
(ASU).  ASU's ironically named 'Rainbow Sections' of English 101 and 102 have
been advertised on flyers and on the university's website as being open to
'Native Americans only.'

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has written to the
university to demand that the classes be opened to all students. Shockingly,
this marks the second time in less than four years that FIRE has been forced to
protest a racially segregated course at ASU.

It is appalling that ASU would resurrect segregated classes five decades
after Brown v. Board of Education," stated David French, president of
FIRE.  "The idea that a class can be 'separate but equal' was discredited long
ago.

The 'Rainbow Sections' of English 101 and 102, ASU's freshman composition
courses, were advertised as "restricted to Native Americans only" on the faculty
webpage of Professor G. Lynn Nelson, the course instructor.  A flyer
addressed to 'Native American Students' states that they 'are invited to enroll
in special Native American sections of ENG 101 and 102.'  It also discusses some
of the differences between the special sections and the 'standard First Year
Composition classes,' making it clear that the special sections offer a
different educational experience.

Anyone heard of Brown vs. Board of Education here?  I wouldn't have a particular problem with private groups offering such education with these restrictions, after all I have said many times that the right of free association implies a right not to associate with whoever you want.  But public institutions have different obligations in this regard.  Its actually not that hard to deal with, and even ASU knows what the solution is:

FIRE last wrote
to ASU in April 2002
to protest a segregated Navajo history class that
limited enrollment to Native American students. At that time, ASU simply dropped
the racial restriction in response to FIRE's letter.

Its OK to have different versions of the same coursework, and probably OK to advertise one version as specially targeted at a particular group, as long as you let individual students make the final decision on which of the University-sanctioned versions are right for them.

Playing for Matt Leinert

I will pat myself on the back and say that I called it, way back in week 4 of the preseason and again after week 1:  The Cards, as usual, suck.  The only reason that this is news is that some national sportscasters were drinking the kool-aid and had predicted that this will be a turnaround year for the Cards.  One quarter of watching the Cards get manhandled by Denver's second team in pre-season convinced me that while the Cards had some interesting skill position players, they had no Offensive or Defensive line.  And now, their top player on each line has gone down with an injury. 

This is a team that has never given a crap about its lines, as illustrated by the brilliant trade a couple of years ago of the draft rights to Terrell Suggs (despite his being a hometown ASU hero), perhaps the best young DL in the game, for two mediocre receivers.  Here is Coyote's draft rule number one:  Teams like the Cards that draft receivers in the first round several years in a row are going to suck (hear that, Detroit?)

I said previously this is maybe a 5 win team.  Did I overestimate?  It looks like the Cards have a shot at the Matt Leinert sweepstakes, otherwise known as the first draft choice.  Of course, the Cards being the Cards, they will probably pull out some last second win in the last second of the game to drop out of the first pick, like they did two years ago against the Vikings.  If they do get the first pick, they should trade the pick for linemen or more picks to draft lineman.  Here's why:

  • There is no point in having a good QB and a bad O-line (see Houston Texans in their first year)
  • You can get more value by trading the top 3 picks for lower picks
  • Matt Leinert is going to be uniquely valuable.  Some team will see him as a once in a generation type player and will give up many goodies for him (see Mike Ditka and Ricky Williams)
  • Like Eli Manning and San Diego, Leinert will probably refuse to come play in Arizona anyway