Culture of Imposters

From the LA Times:

Stanford University officials said Thursday they were investigating claims that a young Orange County woman passed herself off as a student, talked her way into several dormitories and lived on campus for eight months.

Looks like Azia Kim is starting a career as a campus admissions administrator, quite possibly at MIT. I’m surprised she’s not at Harvard…

Is there anything really wrong with this. Look, the woman is probably simply sleeping in dorm rooms perfectly legitimate students are unwilling to sleep. How about we provide a “Z” scholarship, which would grant her full-time status as a student, provided she pay a minimal fee, like, tuition. Just a thought.

MIT admissions scandal

The admissions dean at MIT claimed she had degrees from three different schools. The truth?

A spokesman for Rensselaer said that while Ms. Jones did not graduate from the institution, she was a part-time nonmatriculated student during the 1974-75 school year. The other colleges said they had no record of her.

Funny thing, this story. Maybe she was just doing a job no other administrative assistants would do. I mean, maybe there were no capable degree holders willing to do the work that she could. My point is that illegal immigrants with forged documents are simply undocumented, according to the Wall Street Journal and Chicano activists. They aren’t to be deported, according to the major presidential candidates (especially the Democrats). Maybe we should take this attitude towards all documentation…you know, medical licenses, bachelor degrees, drivers licenses. In this post-industrial navel-gazing economy, these are all arbitrary anyway, right?

I heard a rumor that with her distinguished background she’ll be better suited as a fact checker for Alan Dershowitz.

Universities the Wal-Mart/Google way

I always rant and complain about the University. I recently calculated a 50% increase in tuition for students in the last four years here at Ohio State University. That’s about 3 times the rate of inflation. Once you factor out education and health care, inflation in this country have been very low the last ten years or so. Now, many of the buildings on this campus are very beautiful, and I think football stadiums are cool, but does it help students be more educated, say, than the average student at Hillsdale? Quite frankly, no.

Now Wal-mart has it’s problems, to be sure. Cheap shabby disposable architecture occasionally built by illegal immigrants. I also tend to avoid their pie products, as many of you well know. But now all my local grocery stores are open 24 hours, in order to compete with Wal-mart. Now all stores have lower prices to compete with Wal-mart. Suppliers must be on the ball. I heard a story once that Nabisco wanted to push a new product with some stupid marketing campaign and coupons, and the guys at Wal-mart said, essentially, “Why don’t you calculate how much all that will cost, and then lower your prices across the board by that amount.” They’ve even forced credit card companies to charge lower fees to retailers and passed the savings on shareholders AND customers.

That’s what I like about Wal-mart.

So what costs so much about college? Where are some areas that costs could be cut? Well, first of all, there’s textbooks. Every year colleges forces students to pay outrageous prices for textbooks. I don’t know what kind of kick-back colleges get from publishers, but I know that many textbook authors are university profs. and many of the royalties go to the universities. I also know that copyrights don’t last forever. Obvious question: do we need a 2005 edition of a college algebra textbook? In a couple of years, couldn’t I get a fifty year old math/physics/zoology/biology/chemistry/english/french/western civ textbook from Google print virtually free? This would free up half the textbooks easily. You could easily free up some cost by abolishing all “ridiculousness-studies” departments I won’t even name.

Now, the only problem is, what about cutting edge science, you know, computer science, biomedical stuff, nanotechnology. I can’t say about computer science, but most of the content of a textbook is at least five year old research, and if you are in a cutting edge field (genomics, etc) that’s too slow anyway. All a university really needs is a lot of journal access, rows of servers, and a syllabus.

For universities of the future I envision simple sturdy buildings with lots of journal access and lots of independent study with less formal instruction. Sports of any kind would be like intramural sports leagues. College athletic programs as they are now should be separate financial entities from the university in which players are paid or have the option of taking a scholarship. Athletic programs will pay a license fee to use the school name, but no tuition money, state tax money, or federal tax money should be used to pay for football stadiums, basketball gymnasiums, and the like. Students in the sciences will be required to work in real labs doing real science and be graded on their work/attendance, and finally, a thesis. All business majors will have to work some kind of summer internship somehow related to the intricacies of enterprise (actually I’m lost on this one…does anyone have any ideas?). And lastly, all liberal arts majors will be required to sit in coffee shops and convince each other of the validity of bullshit theories.

Posted at 11:11 pm by Johnny B

Posted by BP @ 11/21/2005 04:40 PM PST
I must admit…”That’s what I like about WalMart” rarely escapes my lips, but I’m with you.

How long can we keep this up?

How about “slash”. As in “George W slashes the throats of black girls in the NO convention center.” W is always slashing funding for something. Otherwise reasonable people, those with PhDs holding positions of power in Universities, talk with great fear of the loss of federal funding. I look around my campus and here is what I see.

Additions to the football stadium
New auditorium (which no one performs in)
Brand new Recreation facility
New Architecture building
New Psychology building (good for me)
12 million dollar duck pond
“Renovation” of the oval (sprinklers and wireless internet…this cost like 10 million dollars)
Renovation of the library, which had been renovated around 1980.

Money from the taxpayer invariably pays for these pet projects of the university through indirect costs of federal grants. So the grant that’s paying for, let’s say spinal cord injury research, has to pay for a duck pond as well.

Under W, the annual budget for the NIH doubled to 50 billion $. Now, the past year or so the rate of increase had to drop dramatically (notice I said rate in increase and not reduction). Now I get emails every week about the “slashes to the federal budget” and I hear about how hostile the administration is to science.

Don’t forget slashing funding to NO levies. It’s easy to point fingers at Nagin/Blanco/W about the flood, but truth be told, a lot of people doing stupid things for generations before these guys showed up. Lots of municipal golf courses built at public expense. The MRGO, a giant canal from NO to the Gulf that nobody uses. This isn’t even counting the public housing. In Louisiana, and in NO especially, federal money drops in a disappears like so many sandbags into Lake Pontchartrain. Slashing a budget here or there might get people to focus on their priorities, and not duck ponds, Big Digs, or rebuilding the Superdome (My prediction: A new superdome will be built before levies could withstand a CAT 5 hurricane). Alas, W promises more federal spending. No congressmen talk about cutting 2 million $ bike paths from the federal highway budget, but we all gotta pay more taxes instead. Ridiculous.

Posted at 11:04 pm by Johnny B

Posted by Mark Adams, The Lib @ 09/20/2005 03:35 AM PDT
Actually what I saw was outright laughter by GOP lawmakers in response to Tom DeLay’s idiocy about the Fed Budget being cut to the bone due to all these years of their stewartship. The Dems simply rolled their eyes at such audacity.

Especially sanquine were Lindsey Graham’s observations. He’s pushing for across the board cuts in all non defense spending, period.

What I don’t see, and don’t understand, is any support on the right for holding back on making all those tax cuts permanent.

When asked how we can afford to rebuild the Gulf Coast and fight two wars abroad, Bush said we can do both.

We can cut spending and expect some sacrifice from the nation’s wealthiest too. We can do both.

Posted by John Broussard @ 09/20/2005 08:36 AM PDT
What level of taxation is acceptable to you, and how would you tier it (provided that you would)?

Posted by Mark Adams, The Lib @ 09/20/2005 10:34 PM PDT
Other than everyone else but me?

1. I’d eliminate corporate income tax in it’s entirety, which has a neutral if not negitive impact on the general economy by being passed on to consumers, never to shareholders. CPI will go down and GNP will go up dramatically

2. Reinstate the Federal luxury tax for goods and services above, say, $50 Grand, which when coupled elimination of corporate income tax should have a relatively neutral impact on sensitive industries like yacht building.

3. Find the progressive curve. I’m no economist, but there is an incremental curve representing a range of the percentages of income taxed which, at its zenith for the highest income bracket, will result in diminished returns/revenue. You can maximize revenue either to the point where current expenditures are met and/or revenue begins to diminish.

The actual numbers are merely a hunch on my part, but if my guess is right, the curve should be steeper than it is now, with the middle class rates remaining substantially where they are or only slightly higher, but with higher income groups — who not only are better able to pay a larger “fair share,” but also have more investment vehicles to shelter additional income — paying at either Clinton era if not Reagan era rates with no decrease either to revenue or national productivity.

Its a pro-growth prpgressive system which should also attract foreign investment in more American companies instead of buying our debt in the form of treasury notes. I’d rather have the Chinese having a financial impact on GE instead of USA, wouldn’t you?

Sure, this sounds like the usual “eat the rich” stuff from the left, but there are a lot more of us than them. If you’ve been lucky enough and worked hard enough to reaped the benefits of our system, you have a greater responsibility to make sure the system contuinues to work well and in a socially responsible manner.

Just because we are capitalists does not mean we must act like we live in the jungle. I’ve seen enough “trickle down” supply-side voodoo resulting in greater class disparity, increased poverty rates, wage stagnation and uninsured, to know it’s crap. GNP is no real measure of a nation’s sucess, rather you must look to quality of live which only increases for the top tier and remains flat or diminishes for the middle and lower classes in the current economic model.

The real elephant in the room, however, is health care. Without a dramatic, bold, top to bottom restructureing of the way we handle the medical industry, it will remain a drag on the economy. a black hole for tax dollars, and demonstrably ineffective for so many and completely unavailable for 41 million Americans.

You don’t fix that, then tax policy is just playing games.

Posted by John Broussard @ 09/21/2005 08:13 AM PDT
Mark, very thoughtful, although I disagree on sight at the thought that luxury taxes would raise sufficient revenue to offset relief at the corporate end. Of course I agree eliminating the corporate taxes is a good idea. Would a steeper income tax curve make America’s tax system look like Germany’s? I keep hearing about how German companies are trying their hardest to get out of dodge. Health care is another box of worms…I’m curious to know which country would serve as a good model for health care compared to America. It’s a cheap question I know, but I promise I’m not baiting you to say “France”. I’m sure you have some good ideas from different models/countries, so please feel free to share.

Posted by Shoobox @ 09/21/2005 07:24 PM PDT
As far as a luxury tax…I’m guessing that a boat may fit in the category to be taxed as a luxury tax….but what if the boat comes in the form of a kit (like many planes do) or what if it is bought in parts…I know this is far fetched but there are many ways around that as well.

What’s wrong with a flat tax. Let’s “slash” the tax code; I’ll bring the machete. Isn’t paying the same rate fair. It always seemed to me that those who say that higher incomes paying a higher rate is “fair” seems to feel guilty for those who do not make as much. Merriam-Webster defines fair as ”marked by impartiality and honesty : free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.” Please tell me how a flat tax rate is not fair.

Posted by Logipundit @ 09/21/2005 08:43 PM PDT
Well you’re right about one thing Mark: Without a fix to the healthcare system, it’s all for naught.

AS A WHITE MAN IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY (wanted everyone to know I was qualified to comment) I have never been so tempted to Federalize something in all my life. It only takes about 30 seconds every time I think about it to remember how BAD of an idea that is, BUT…

We can all argue how and which direction to go to fix the problem. Keeping the government OUT of the health care business, but standardizing (and simplifying) some of the requirements that State regulators require of underwriters…coupled with a little tort reform (two purposes there…making it a lot harder to convict, but also making the penalties of being convicted a lot tougher) which will allow costs to go down. You get the health insurance premiums down to a reasonable level then Companies won’t NEED a tax break.

If we don’t do this…then within 5 years companies will not being offering health insurance to their employees….period.

Evolution and Social Darwinism

A colleague of mine who is attempting to learn about neuroscience let me borrow a series of lectures on tape from a big name professor named Robert Sapolsky, Stanford professor and author of “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”. He will show up on PBS or NPR occasionally as well to tell us something about stress. I listened to this series of lectures mainly for style points, to see how he conveys complex neuroscience stuff to the masses.

At about the sixth lecture, Sapolsky started talking about how increased levels of circulating prolactin (hormone involved in breast feeding) from new mothers is a potent contraceptive. The key to prolactin is it needs to be released at low levels throughout the day. In other words, mothers can’t make the kids wait an hour or two and then give up the milk, it has to be little spurts all day long.

Then he goes off on this tangent (and I paraphrase): ‘People in Western culture seems to think that hunter/gatherer societies tend to live in horrible conditions. We think of these people as nearly starving, always succumbing to diseases, but in fact that’s not the case. In an anthropology study on (some tribe in Africa) it was shown that these people live just fine. They spend three or four hours a day foraging for food and spend the rest of the time doing social anthropology. They are the cream of the crop, health-wise. In agricultural societies people spend 10-12 hours a day producing food and are susceptible to all kinds of diseases due to the stress. One of the biggest mistakes in human history was the invention of agriculture. All agriculture does is allow for the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, which results in stratified societies etc. etc….maybe a little political motivation there’

Now I’ve read a little about Sapolsky. He seems like a nice guy. Definitely from a family of concentrated wealth, he attended tory Ivy League schools and succeeded everywhere he went. I’m sure he does wonderful charity work with the royalties from his textbooks, which are foisted upon college undergrads throughout the country. But the question I’ve got for Sapolsky is, how can the product of an agricultural society learn all this science, and why don’t the hunter/gatherers have some expert teaching kids about neuroscience (or music, or language, or film history, or biochemistry). The arrogant way these professors sneak some marxist propaganda into any topic they see fit makes me cringe.

Posted at 11:27 pm by Johnny B

Posted by BP @ 07/18/2005 08:40 PM PDT
Ok this post takes the cake as the most thought provoking of the month…anyone disagree?

Posted by Bonnie G @ 07/19/2005 04:28 PM PDT
I’ll say one thing for sure, it certainly isn’t comment provoking.

Posted by PB @ 07/20/2005 04:27 PM PDT

I guess one could make that argument, Bonnie…

However, it just goes to show you…that breasts in and of themselves…don’t sell.

Posted by Name @ 07/21/2005 11:39 PM PDT
maybe if there was a picture or something and not all them damn words

Where does it all go?

The ten percent annual increases in tuition? The 40% indirect costs from federal grants? Property taxes from your local state? Where does it all go? Well, any university worth it’s salt must have a 600,000 square foot recreational center. Who cares if the proposal was made during the internet bubble years, you can’t stop such an important project from going down. Certainly the students, taxpayers, graduate students, and faculty (typically the productive ones) won’t mind tightening their belts won’t mind if we defray the cost on their backs.

Posted at 08:44 pm by Johnny B