Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Second Take on "My Class From Hell"

I was telling a friend about my Spring 2013 semester, and the course I have referred to as "my class from hell," as well as the bureaucratic acting out that made it my semester from hell. She asked if I had such before. When I said, No, she then said, That's wonderful. I realize now that after teaching for more than forty years, I should have had more of these diabolical gifts. Hence, I am quite fortunate, and ought be grateful that such nonsense was so late in coming.

In any case, I have always realized that the various nonsense had nothing to do with me, although I am sure I provided a nice occasion for their being realized. Students and staff have their own lives, their own nonsense, and it just happens to rain on your parade. Whatever I do, they will take it as being about them, rather than generic. Whatever they do, I must take it as being about them--I just happen to be in the way of their one-car accident.

Also, I have discovered that what I called "brick wall plagiarism" is quite prevalent. Again, what I encounter is generic.


One of the most disappointing aspects of my recent review on access to finance for the Welsh Government was the absence of any detailed information on lending from the banks to small to medium enterprises (SMEs), despite numerous requests to the British Bankers Association (BBA).

It is not surprising that given the lack of information on the lending practices of banks, considerable political pressure has been placed on the banking community to publish relevant data on a quarterly basis by post code, including the total amount of lending to small and medium sized enterprises.

This pressure has finally paid off, and this week saw the publication of detailed statistics from the BBA that details the lending by the banks to SMEs within 120 postcode areas in the UK.

So what this data tell us?

First of all, total borrowing by small and medium-sized businesses in Britain, in terms of loans and overdrafts, stood at £100.3bn at the end of 2012. However, overall lending had contracted from £104 billion in 2011 to £100 billion in 2012, a decline of 4.3 per cent. This was at a time when the high street banks were keen to emphasise that they were open for business.

Of course, throughout this debate on lending to SMES, the BBA and the banks have been at pains to emphasise that the lack of take-up of loans has not been down to their own approach to lending. Instead, they have suggested that this is not a supply issue but a demand issue from small firms and the current data does partly support their case.

For example, the SME sector in the majority of UK regions is currently sitting on £125 billion in cash, a sum that is actually higher than the total amount of debt outstanding to the banks. In fact, the amount of deposits held by SMEs has actually increased by £7.2 billion overall between 2011 and 2012.

However, that argument does not hold any water in the context of the Welsh economy. Whilst the SME sector in nearly all of the UK regions have a cash surplus with the banks, Welsh SMEs had £3.6 billion of cash available within their accounts as compared to £4.8 billion owing to the banks.

And if we dig down deeper, we find that there are more localised problems regarding borrowing within Wales. For example, the three main postcode areas covering North Wales, Mid-Wales and Swansea show businesses in those areas have amongst the lowest proportion of deposits to loans in the UK.

Certainly, this goes against the BBA’s arguments on loan funding i.e. that many businesses have been building up their cash reserves and are using this to fund activity rather than take on additional borrowing. Indeed, it simply fails to explain the fact that borrowing to SMEs in Wales declined by £172m between 2011 and 2012.

This could suggest that UK Government’s current approach to stimulating bank lending may not be working across all regions.

Take, for example, the case of Business Bank that was announced in the Autumn Statement of 2012 by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is a fantastic idea that aims to increase the amount of lending to businesses and provide more diverse sources of finance.

With £10 billion earmarked to help get funding to businesses, the Business Bank will not directly lend to businesses but will instead work with the private sector to support and increase the capacity of current channels of finance.

Encouragingly, the Business Bank’s programmes have already started operating with £300m of funding allocated in April 2013 to encourage the growth of smaller lenders in the market. The bank itself aims to become fully operational as a new institution in the Autumn of 2014.

Many bankers, intermediaries and small firms I have spoken to about this development have welcomed the creation of the Business Bank. However, concerns have been raised that it will not take into account the real regional differences that exist across the UK in terms of funding for business.

For example, BBA data has shown that whilst the amount of lending to small firms (with less than a £1million turnover) decreased by £175m in Wales, it actually increased in Scotland by £246m over the same period. Yet, the same financial instruments will be used by the Business Bank to support small businesses in both devolved regions.

With the recovery from the recession starting within the more prosperous regions of the UK such as the South East of England, it would only be natural that the Business Bank and its private sector partners would focus on companies in these regions to the detriment of good businesses in less wealthy regions such as Wales. In fact, my research has shown that Welsh firms are already in a position where they not getting as much access to current UK Government finance programmes as they should.

Similar concerns have recently been raised by the Institute for Public Policy Research.  In their recent examination of strategies for local authorities to promote investment in the North of England, they suggested that any national business or investment bank must respond to the different regional economic contexts of parts of the UK.

If SMEs are to be supported by the UK Government, then consideration must be taken of the different regional differences that exist across the economy and conscious effort must be made to develop specific interventions to boost prosperity within poorer areas.

In this respect, the Business Bank must take this into account when developing financial instruments to support smaller firms. In addition, the Welsh Government must also lobby for this to happen, either through requesting a proportional allocation of funding from the Business Bank or by getting it to support specific programmes for Welsh SMEs.

Therefore, with the data showing that bank lending continues to fall in Wales, it is critical is that Welsh businesses get their fair share of funding available from the new Business Bank so that they can develop their markets, create jobs and grow the Welsh economy.

Monday, July 29, 2013


People come from all over to teach at your institution. Things being the way they are, the quality they found in their original institution is not evidenced here. They may proudly wear the gown of their doctoral institution, they may casually refer to Harvard, or Yale, or Chicago, or...

Most of us end up in dumps. We do our best to make them better, and some of us more than acquit ourselves, perhaps being bid away by a stellar institution, or we stay at our dump and make it better. Sometimes we can transform our department or our subfield to make it a real contender.

Such dumps may well allow for a strong scholarly career. I always say I get away with murder. I cannot judge my colleagues, in the detailed and titrated way others seem able to do. But I do judge the extent of their ambition in the work they choose to do. And the institution's ambition gives me freedom to follow my nose.

I am enthusiastic about the high quality people we hire and promote, while noticing that this is still rare. I am appalled by deans who justify weak candidates, and advocate tenuring those who have not proved themselves in an assured way, or their hiring ringers. But deans are effectively the proverbial used car salesmen, at least to their provost and to donors. What's nice for deans is that they are rarely around for long enough for the lemons they have sold to break down.

Of course, such is the history of Southern California: celebratory and hyperbolic. And that has made it a rich and growing place: agriculture, armed services, aerospace, entertainment/motion pictures, the Ports.

When I Give the Homeless Money

I am with my niece and nephews every Wednesday in the summertime. These kiddos
Every week I am laughing over something hilarious that they say or comment on, really, they could have their own show.

Last week, I rolled down the window at a stop light and gave the homeless guy standing there, some cash. My niece says to me after we drive away,

"Auntie Gina! What are you doing? Why are you giving him your money (she laughs sweetly, quietly)!?" 
I say,
"What do you mean, why?"
She says, 
"You know what he's going to do with it, don't you?"
I say, 
"No, what?"
She says,
"He's probably just going to spend it on something he doesn't need like cigarettes or for drinking, they always do don't you know that?"

I am well aware that this is the popular opinion of the general public. And I can't say that I disagree. The thing is, is this. I told my niece that I feel that I am being obedient. God has flat out asked us to take care of the poor in many many ways, and one of the ways I can do that is by giving some cash when I drive by a corner they stand on. I told my niece Sophia that it didn't matter to me what the guy does with the money after I give it to him, what matters is that I gave it to him. God looks at my heart. God is concerned about my responses in life and loving people. And by showing this homeless man some mercy by giving him some cash, is loving him and loving God, and I told Sophia that that is all that mattered.
I also told her that I can pray for that man, and that there is a lot of power in prayer.

I am sure she never heard it that way before, but she seemed to understand and liked the new way to look at it. I love teachable moments with kids. I am SO going to miss, I already do, those moments with my own girl.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bulletproof your CV

Your CV will be read by people who are experts at detecting misrepresentation. It's important that all your claims be absolutely true.

Hence, if you have published a book, list the publisher and the co-authors, so that we are sure it is a real book. If you have published an article, do much the same.

If you have had an appointment, but no longer hold it, don't list your former title where it might be construed as your current title. (You were once chair of your department, but now are not chair, for example.)

If you did postdoctoral work, make sure it is not merely post-doctoral work (that is, a postdoc is advanced research training, while you might well have gotten another degree after your PhD but those years are not considered postdoctoral work). If you list your consultancies make sure they are distinguished from scholarly talks.


Were you the PI, the co-PI, or a recipient of some of the funds from a grant?


The problem is that one such misrepresentation devalues your whole CV. If you mention how many citations you have, someone is bound to check Web of Science (Google Scholar is not considered reliable). If many of those citations came from when you were a postdoc, and in effect worked in X's lab and X's name is on all publications, it's not clear that the citations should be attributed to you (alone).


If a book or article is "in press" it should be coming out in the next year or so. Contracted but not in-press books are best listed as manuscripts.

False Witness and Accusation

False witness and accusation is a standard theme of academic novels. Whether it be plagiarism, sexual harassment, or favoritism and bias. Often, the claims are in fact true, and then the novel has a satisfying sense of the vindication of the truth. But if they are not true, if they have been exaggerated, or the claimant has a history of not being a truthteller, it gets quite messy. And often, the claims prove less than provable.

If the claimant is known otherwise to be unreliable, it still might be the case the the current claim is true. But it is likely that the claimant will be destroyed by cross-examination, especially if there is no further evidence than he-said, she-said. Of course, the accused is unlikely to recover from the false claim, except in terms of a liability suit on the university.

One might think that issues of plagiarism are much easier than sexual harassment and favoritism, but it would seem they may not be if the plagiarism is what I call "brick wall" plagiarism--taking phrases from the source, giving reference, but no quotation marks.

Essentially what happens is that the administrative procedure becomes subject to the legal realm, often by means of a future implied lawsuit by the accused. Settlements leave reputations ruined. Universities have the resources to extend legal proceedings until the accused's resources run out.

Hence, institutions have to investigate the reliability of claimants, even before they share the accusations with the accused. Their future liability may well be much greater than if they did not. This is not nice, and it would seem to make the "victim" subject to accusation. It might discourage reports of harassment or plagiarism or bias. To take accusations seriously, the institution not only must listen to the accuser, but also be sure that what it hears is worth relying on.

Essentially, we are in a litigious world, people have financial and bureaucratic incentives to make accusations, and the institution has an obligation of defending those who are actually victimized. So, the institution needs a devil's advocate who points out weaknesses in accusations. It's not a matter of not believing in such accusations but of making sure those claims will hold up to scrutiny, and so saving the accuser the shame of being found not a truth-teller. You don't want to discover that the accuser is known in the following way by a reliable colleague who has no interest in the allegations but has some experience with the accuser:

Apparently, the person has made some testimony connected to a job action related to some other person. This  person is not likely to be a truth-teller. Personally, I would *not* trust this person to be telling the truth, particularly if it involved an accusation against another person. I would absolutely not accept a serious accusation made by this person without credible external verification.

Again, we do not want to discourage the reporting of sexual harassment. At the same time, the process will not possess legitimacy unless effort is made to check the reliability of the claimant--AND keep in mind that unreliable claimants can have genuine claims not to be dismissed out of hand  by the reputation for unreliability. If you want the process to have the support of the academic community, the process must encourage reporting of concerns and at the same time be seen as careful in making its allegations. (None of this dismisses concerns about sexual harassment etc. Rather, you need to be seen as protecting the accused against false allegations if you are to have the support of the largee community.)


Last week, this blog examined some of the options relating to the way that small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can access alternative sources of funding rather than just going along to their local banks for either an overdraft or a loan.

However, another key issue that may be worth examining in terms of improving access to finance is the current situation regarding trade credit to Welsh businesses.

It is estimated that more than 80 per cent of all business-to-business sales are made on credit, allowing SMEs to ask suppliers for twice as much short-term credit as they obtain from banks.

In fact, SMEs in the UK typically owe their suppliers an amount equal to a fifth of their total assets and the role that large companies can play in supporting smaller suppliers was one of the key recommendations of a recent review undertaken for the UK Government on non-bank lending.

And given the close relationship between large and small firms within the supply chain, it may be possible for those large businesses sitting on mountains of cash to extend credit to their suppliers. They can also, through their procurement processes,  make contracts more accessible to small businesses. This would generate business and cash flow for them thus reducing reliance on bank lending. However, trade credit can also work negatively for SMEs in the form of late payment, or payment outside of agreed credit terms, which is seen as one of the biggest problems faced by the SME sector in the UK.

According to the Forum of Private Business, over one million SMEs in the UK face late payment difficulties, equivalent to 20 per cent of the business population. This equates to around 40,000 SMEs in Wales. In addition, the amount tied up in late payment across the UK has risen to nearly £37 billion or, extrapolated to Wales, would mean that £1.5 billion is currently owed to Welsh SMEs. Incredibly, this is the equivalent to a third of the total loan book of the banks i.e. the total number of loans that SMEs owe to the banks in Wales.

As many firms know all too well, a business can often get into serious financial difficulties if their customers refuse to pay them on time. It is not only the amount of money owed but also the amount of time taken by the owner of the business in chasing payments. Some of which may never be paid. This can put pressure on the creditor’s relationship with their own bankers and very few banks are prepared to extend a loan or an overdraft to account for the money owed to a small business by one of their larger customers,

Therefore with the lack of availability of trade credit being an issue that leads to many smaller businesses seeking short term funding for working capital from banks (and often failing to get this), this is an issue in which the Welsh Government can, surprisingly, have a direct impact.

To begin with, it could explore how it can use its power as the biggest purchaser in Wales to encourage its own suppliers to adopt supply chain finance or similar schemes to support their suppliers. In addition, it could set an example by ensuring that all contractors operating within the public sector in Wales have to pay their suppliers within a maximum 30-day period.

With over £4.3 billion being procured via the public sector, this could have a major effect on the cashflow of a significant number of smaller businesses and, more relevantly, get cash flowing to those smaller businesses that need it the most. More importantly, it could set a precedent that large firms in the private sector would be shamed into following.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Writing Effectively, Getting Done

Organize what you write so that if I read the first paragraph of each paper, the first paragraph of each section, and the first paragraph of each subsection, I get the gist of what you are saying. This means that these paragraphs are likely written after you have written the paper, section, or subsection. And that you have organized the work into chapters, sections, subsections.

Make you main point (your contribution to scholarship or practice) clear in those first paragraphs, and make sure that what is most important in the paper or the chapter, or the thesis/dissertation, is up front. Don't hold back.

Last point, be sure you refer to sources carefully, use quotation marks around direct quotes, and spellcheck. And get the work in before the deadline. Plagiarism or Late won't work.

Don't worry too much about your personal issues about writing, learning styles, etc. If you do the above, and you work every day on your projects, you will get done and it will at least be readable. There's lots written about writing, and it may be of help to you.  No end of workshops etc. Even my new book has lots. But the above in bold is the main point.


As my recent Access to Finance review for the Welsh Government has shown, it has become an increasingly difficult environment for smaller firms to access finance.

Fortunately, the UK Coalition Government recognised quickly in 2010 that this lack of funding was one of the key areas that needed to be addressed if the British economy was to recover from recession.

Most of their efforts have focused on developing initiatives that would enable banks to lend money to businesses such as the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme, Funding for Lending and the announcement of a new Business Bank.

Despite this, there remain considerable problems in getting capital from the high street banks to small firms in the UK and some are wondering whether those firms wishing to grow should look elsewhere to support their growth?

Indeed, with the relative failure of banks to get money out to small firms since the recession of 2008, increasing attention is now being focused on alternative non-bank sources of lending such as peer-to-peer (P2P) lending and crowdfunding lending platforms to raise much needed capital.
P2P organisations lend money to unrelated individuals, or "peers", without going through a traditional financial intermediary such as a bank or other traditional financial institution.

Whilst the first P2P platform in the UK was established in 2005, the demand for peer to peer lending has only started to increase in the last couple of years as credit from mainstream funders has dried up. It is currently a small market in the UK, accounting for only £120m of funding per annum but according to the innovation agency NESTA, it has potential to deliver as much as £12.3 billion in business lending annually. This could equate to 12 per cent of all business lending in Wales by the end of the decade and thus reduce the dependency on banking.

According to Funding Circle, the UK's largest P2P business lender, nearly two thousand businesses had received over £100m since it was established in 2010. In Wales, 72 businesses have been supported by Funding Circle to raise a total of £4 million. In fact, as high street banks are moving towards supporting larger loans of more than £100,000, the good news is that such P2P lending is catering for smaller businesses that are borrowing £35,000 at an average interest rate of 8.2 per cent. This, in terms of the average loan and the cost of borrowing, is lower than the offering from the Welsh Government’s own development fund, Finance Wales.

For higher risk projects, there is a similar platform known as crowdfunding. This is defined as the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organisations.

There are over 450 crowdfunding platforms available and many have different models e.g. Crowdcube is meant for users to invest small amounts and acquire shares directly in start-up companies whilst Seedrs pools the funds to invest in new businesses, as a nominated agent.

Unfortunately, there seems to be little take-up of such opportunities for funding by Welsh businesses despite their success elsewhere in the UK and it is time that they made the most of this type of lending.

Therefore, for those businesses that are reluctant to go to the banks for funding, there are now other channels available to help support their business.

Certainly, there is a major role for the Welsh Government to take the lead in supporting these alternative sources of funding either through partnership or direct funding. It could also raise awareness of both types of funding through its various business support programmes.

At the very least, this could begin to increase the choice for those wishing to access funding to develop their businesses and, at the same time, help to grow the Welsh economy.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

11 1/2 Month Masters Degrees

I am not at all sure about the business plan, but it may make sense to make two year masters degrees into almost one full year, in effect three intense semesters. For the student, the major cost of graduate education is the foregone income (total tuition is likely to be less or roughly equal), so faster is better if there are good jobs at the end of the program and they are a step up from before ($, prestige, kind of work). For the institution, I am not sure about the flow of income, but this is easy to assess.

Some students want to continue to work, and we might offer part-time programs. They are willing to delay the "step-up", or perhaps their being in school is enough to make a step-up possible?

Some programs may depend on a slower learning process. And those would not benefit. And some fields could not take so intense a program since the work required would overwhelm most students--although good curriculum design should make this less of a problem.

Doctoral programs might also be speeded up, but here the problem is that actual dissertation research cannot be so speeded up.

And of course undergraduate degrees, with no advanced placement, could readily fit into three years.

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Pearl Harbor" by R. Wohlstetter: Entrepreneurship, Universities, Signals/Noise, Unimaginable/Improbable?

It would seem that the Japanese, in playing out the detailed strategy that led to Pearl Harbor, were prudent and ambitious. They did not conceive of continuing to be "a tenth-rate power" , so not attacking was a matter of honor and national destiny. They could imagine a fairly quick defeat of US/Britain/The Dutch, but beyond a year or so of battle their imagination failed them. They knew that in a long war they were likely to be defeated, but to have that be crucial in their decisionmaking and planning (perhaps to have made it part of their considerations) would be to accept defeat and be dishonored. They could not imagine the US... not withdrawing, and accepting Japan's enlargement of its sphere of power, for if they did their plan of attack would make no sense.

So, imagine you are a university with great ambitions. You look around and you realize that your competition is formidable, able to counter your moves. But over a "short" period of say 5-10 years you can imagine how you might act to enlarge your sphere of excellence. To admit that your moves might blunted by other institutions would  be to admit the limits of what you might do. So your plan is quite detailed in the next few years, but becomes a patriotic fantasy beyond that. You aggressively recruit new faculty, raid other institutions, run successful fund-raising programs (even though your endowment/student is perhaps 1/10th of your competitors). You have a business plan that allows you to do all this, retain your reputation among the convinced, yet in fact there are weaknesses you might be aware of but indicate that they are not crucial (at least now).  That is, you figure that the short run campaign is where you will triumph, and know that if it is a very long campaign, all bets are off. You imagine that the competition will allow you to get away with striking moves, accepting your new power and their decreased power.

Likely, you find ways of measuring your success that provide the kind of technical reassurance you need. In areas like athletics, where measurement is not at all subtle, you must be preeminent, in effect giving you assurance that your other measures are reliable.

Since most deans and provosts are in positions for less than 10 years, they leave the long run to their successors. Presidents rely on a supportive board and boosters and committed alumni to allow them to "see" over the horizon--for vision is what this is called. The deans and provosts are on on the battle-field, and do not tell the president just how things are going, and the president and supporters do not admit doubts. All cannot have any doubts about the short term, and all do not dwell on the longer term. Never can they acknowledge their weaknesses. We're always number one, somehow.

Yet, some institutions really do transform themselves. As far as I can tell, they find a niche where in fact they do have advantages, and that niche allows them to become more dominant, and that partial-dominance allows other parts of the institution to grow. It helps to be in an especially rich region or field, it helps to take big risks, it helps to have superb taste. We might want to study such triumphs--Stanford, University of California system, Stony Brook, MIT in economics, NYU in part.

Here is another cut on this, posted on my This Week's Finds Blog

Originally published in the early 60s, Roberta Wohlstetter's PEARL HARBOR accounts for the surprise of PH by the noise that overwhelms the signals. Retrospectively, all is clear. Prospectively or in actual time, all those breadcrumbs are mixed in with crumbs from seven other bakeries and a thousand passersby.
The best you can do is to take warnings seriously, AND set up picket fences to slow down opponents. You won't stop them completely, but you can make it harder for them at modest cost to yourself. Hence even an inadequate deployment of cruisers around Oahu would have made the Japanese think twice.
Just because something is unimaginable does not mean that it is improbable, is the message in Schelling's forward.
My take is about entrepreneurship: You have an idea, and figure that you must succeed in something like two years. You feel that if you don't pursue it, you have lost your mojo. You also know that your competitors will doom you if you don't succeed in those two years, for they might well catch up. You will make your major announcement now, for you are ready--and you tell yourself that the competitors might cede some of the market to you. But that is just telling yourself. But that uncertain longer term is not going to stop you from trying. In other words, you don't think in terms of real options.
(Japan is the entrepreneur; the competition is US, UK, the Dutch; the idea is the Greater Asian Prosperity Sphere; the announcement is PH (albeit you have made earlier announcements, as in Manchuria, but no real competition is present then); mojo is Japanese honor and also the anti-mojo is Japan becoming a tenth-rate power, unable to follow the West's imperialist model (the UK is also a small island state); catching up is awakening the US's industrial military might; you are ready since you have extended the range of your bombers to 450 miles but really need 500 miles and hope the pilots are careful with their fuel, the torpedos have been adapted to PH's low-depth; and no one really thinks through what might follow if success does not happen in the first year, for to do so is to violate a taboo and to be dishonorable.)
As for the picket fences in actual entrepreneurship, they may be patents, design elements, pricing, proprietary features, even disinformation.

A New Day

Each day it seems I wake to struggle with acceptance. Acceptance of circumstance. Acceptance of my current situation. Not that it is entirely all bad, in fact if it's measured next to some, it looks like quite a good life. But I don't measure myself or my life on goodness based on if it is full of travels, or good health, family and friends or shelter and a pooch to cuddle. Although, those things are indeed what make my life wonderful and full. But it's a contentment and peace that is deeper than all those things that I long for. Whether things are "good" or "bad" in my life. Whatever I'm facing, I long for peace in each new day. And even though I'm aware that that, for me, only comes from knowing my Creator, I still struggle.

But I woke this morning to a realization. I felt God speaking to me, "Wake without trying to change your circumstances today. Rest in my provision, wisdom and grace, and let that be enough."

I seem to wrestle with peace in each new day because there are more things I'd like to be doing physically. I thought my life would look way different than it actually looks right now, don't you?

It's easy to focus on what I wish I could do, or what I wish my life was instead, instead of appreciating all I am able to do. Gosh we are prone to selfishness. Quite frankly there is plenty I can do! I long to get out of the rhythm of measuring myself up against what the world views as "purposeful" or "successful". I know in my head as I am doing that measuring, that it's a waste of time and does me no good. I know the Truth, yet I still struggle.

But today I feel like I can fight against it less.
I can stop analyzing what I think I "should" or "wish" I could be doing and what others might think I should be doing. I can gently remind myself that each day is as it should be for now, and I have the freedom to make it what I can as best as I can. I don't have to try to fix, plan or figure out what lies ahead for me. I can accept that something deeper and bigger is being composed "behind the scenes" of my interior life, and that is a profound, beautiful thing.

Embracing each day with acceptance and grace will get us far. Approaching the day with gratitude, and redirecting our focus will make a huge difference for us. Whatever situation we are in, whether we are stay at home moms with 3 children and we are run down and need a break, or we work FT and come home to a mess, or if we are single, we can re-frame our days so we are able to have peace. That's the cool thing about new days, we can start over every morning.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Going to Court: The Fragile Legitimacy of Bureaucracies and Due Process Institutions

Recently a recently resigned senior faculty member of USC was put in the FBI Most Wanted List, albeit at #500. He was apprehended, since in fact he was not in hiding. Whatever the issue is, one might suspect it influenced his resignation.

But imagine faculty (or senators or representatives) refusing to resign. Political pressure is now being put on the Mayor of San Diego (and former Congressman), who has offered an apology in a YouTube like video. One can begin impeachment and voting procedures, presumably under administrative rules that are deemed fair (at least by someone). Almost always, institutions have not followed their own regulations scrupulously, and often they have be quite varied in their response to similar offenses, the seemingly preferred being slapped, the less preferred being ejected.

In part this is a game of chicken, in part this is a game of hardball. But whatever the offenses and procedures, inevitably, it would seem, the institution turns out to look quite bad, unfair, perhaps vicious, and discriminatory.  In part the problem lies in the mixture of legal procedure with managerial discretion, resulting in what appears to be rotten legality and discriminatory discretion. I am not suggesting the accused person is saintly, but no one expects saintly behavior. But fairness and nondiscrimination is expected of the institution if it is to be legitimate and authoritative.

One must keep in mind that professors are likely to be fluent writers, so if they feel they have been unfairly treated, a book might well emerge. No one on the administration side is likely to write a counter-book. And as usual in legal discovery, emails and documents within the accusers' camp, presumably administrators as well as the harmed, are likely to create a minor or major brouhaha.

Settlements have been the preferred mode of moving forward. But if the accused proceeds to the courts (judicial and public opinion),  the institution rarely comes out well, even if the accused is eventually proven "guilty." Collateral damage, besides on the administrators, are other persons who may have benefited from being positively preferred and discriminated, for now their position is seen as illegitimate. They might still enjoy their position, but it is tainted. They might just go to the bank smiling, but it seems they cannot resist trying to redeem themselves by attacking

A few years ago Justice Clarence Thomas's wife publicly asked Professor Anita Hill to admit that she was not truthful in her testimony. I did not hear what happened subsequently, but all Professor Hill needed do is to be quiet. The evidence offered by others supports Hill and the stains on Thomas's character. I was surprised that Mrs. Thomas went public with such a request, just when the past might have faded. If you find yourself in such a situation as did Justice Thomas, the best you can do is show that you are worthy of the position you have achieved, and never try to prove that the allegations were false.  (Thomas's supporters in the Senate went on with no problems, since whatever Thomas's opponents might have thought, they needed to work with their colleagues. On the other hand, Bork (and it would appear Thomas) could never get over his rejection.)

Social Capital?: Nazism, Bismarck's Unintended Monster and Bowling for Fascism. Or, The Soprano Effect.

This kind of article is not so much about the triumph of economics' (and other social sciences in its wake) ways of thinking, as about the strong push to explanation, working carefully and critically with data sets, and in effect an light-theory endeavor. In other words, economics-type training has externalities, much as does physics training.

Studying politics might get you a doctorate in Germany, and you go into politics, but then your thesis is discovered to be plagiarized. But studying physics and physical chemistry, you go into politics, and you are Angela Merkel.

Nazism depended on the solidarity of the German people (vs. the principalities)--Bismarck's legacy (the Prussian triumph, although he would have been horrified  by what happened).

Bowling for Fascism: Social Capital and the Rise of the Nazi Party in Weimar Germany, 1919-33

Shanker Satyanath 

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Nico Voigtländer 

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Hans-Joachim Voth 

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Centre de Recerca en Economia Internacional (CREI); Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

June 25, 2013

Social capital – a dense network of associations facilitating cooperation within a community – typically leads to positive political and economic outcomes, as demonstrated by a large literature following Putnam. A growing literature emphasizes the potentially “dark side” of social capital. This paper examines the role of social capital in the downfall of democracy in interwar Germany by analyzing Nazi party entry rates in a cross-section of towns and cities. Before the Nazi Party’s triumphs at the ballot box, it built an extensive organizational structure, becoming a mass movement with nearly a million members by early 1933. We show that dense networks of civic associations such as bowling clubs, animal breeder associations, or choirs facilitated the rise of the Nazi Party. The effects are large: Towns with one standard deviation higher association density saw at least one-third faster growth in the strength of the Nazi Party. IV results based on 19th century measures of social capital reinforce our conclusions. In addition, all types of associations – veteran associations and non-military clubs, “bridging” and “bonding” associations – positively predict NS party entry. These results suggest that social capital in Weimar Germany aided the rise of the Nazi movement that ultimately destroyed Germany’s first democracy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 55
Keywords: social capital, democracy, political economy, Weimar Germany, Nazi Party

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Wealth of Universities

Over time, universities become stronger and sometimes weaker, often department by department, sometimes  more generally. Hence one might try to understand why MIT's Economics department became so strong, rising from undistinguished to #1 for a long time

This problem might be analogized to Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776), and the subsequent literature in economics. My colleague Peter Gordon led me to an article in the Journal of Economic Literature by Spolaore and Wacziarg (vol 51, 2013, p. 325ff) on explanations for differential economic development among nations and peoples. It's a remarkable survey--long term forces and persistence: biogeography and Neolithic conditions matter; long term persistence is at the levels of populations rather than locations; and, long term genealogical links across populations. Not nature vs. nurture, not genes vs. culture--it's epigenetic, it's the interaction.

Economics has two main accountings--prices and growth, and the problems of growth (and decline) are surely the most difficult. At the same time, all the explanations so far offered explain about half the variation. What Hirschman called the bias for hope, namely that even if you could prove that nothing is possible, in fact good things do happen, some people and groups find their way around the conventional historical limitations and current barriers. And so we want to know more about what they did, the lessons, and how replicable are those strategies.

Imagine trying to account for the wealth of universities, where by wealth I am thinking of the quality of their faculties and their research more than their actual endowments etc. Surely there are big exogenous effects, such as the land grant universities, the rise of the research university, the impact of federal (US) expenditures fostering research and education (fellowships) in the years since WWII, and especially from the 50s through the 70s, and the strong growth of the economies of the western part of the US (California in particular, after WWII) and the subsequent defunding of state universities (Michigan, Ann Arbor, being the prime case post-automobile industry declines). And there were internal effects of discrimination against particular ethnic groups and women, where some universities and fields were able to make enormous strides by opening up, while others took longer and suffered.

If you were a private university, if you did not become a serious research university, if you missed the boat in those 30+ years after WWII, if you were located in poorer parts of the country, and if you affirmatively acted for "white males", you were likely to suffer. Harvard had its "happy bottom quarter" of undergraduates until the later twentieth century.

But there is the story of Stanford and UCLA, and particular departments, such as economics at MIT, where leadership and chance were able to make a big difference. What are the lessons for universities and departments?

1. History and location matter, but often not how people imagine. It helps to have a big endowment and be located in a good place.  But it's not about universities but about peoples. Hence if you can import the right peoples you can plug into stronger traditions and make a big difference. The barriers are prejudice and allegiance to legacies.
2. Among populations, some have big advantages. Hence in The Chosen Few the fact that some post-Second Temple Jewish populations educated their sons to be literate (to read and understand the Torah) even though they were agriculturalists (and so there was no economic return from doing so, in fact a penalty) meant that centuries later those Jewish people had the advantages needed for a world economy that developed post-1500 or so. (Not that they got rich, but their skills gave them important roles in that economy--literacy and numeracy.) In the last forty years, the entrance of blacks and people of color, gay people, and women into the humanities has revitalized those fields and saved them from dying out.

In so far as you did not hire these populations you suffered gravely.  Berkeley did not try to hire Feynman after WWII since they already had one Jew in their physics department, and Harvard economics missed Samuelson because his "numeracy" was not their type. Many women were adjuncts or research faculty, in part due to nepotism rules, and were only made regular faculty when it was almost too late. African-American history was wide open for exploration for a century, and even after John Hope Franklin published his textbook, it was necessary for there to be many African American historians for the subject to be explored fruitfully.

Probably what has held back most institutions is their unwillingness to admit that past policies, now embodied in their tenured faculty, were less than optimal, and to write down these sunk assets and move forward. Faculties tend to reproduce their own, that writedown being an attack on themselves. Solidarity rather than competition.

More to come....

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Bureaucratic University

Almost all universities and even some colleges are traditional bureaucracies. As such:

1. Rules and regulations ensure fairness, in so far as that is a criterion.
2. There is likely to be at least some appointments that are big mistakes, whether because information was lacking, or because someone turns out not to be productive, or because some boss decided that they wanted X and pushed the appointment through. (Most such bosses are insufficiently careful in their pushing, and were the details of the appointment to come to light it would not look good. Typically there is a false search, and sometimes no candidates other than the planned one are invited. Some bosses are scrupulous and there are no fingerprints, but usually pride goeth before the fall.)  In the latter cases, since the bosses have temporary appointments of 3-10 years (chair, dean), there seem to be no clawbacks, and the persons who suffer are the colleagues in the unit and of course the students.
3. The trick here is to sideline X, to find a role for X where they might well be useful or at least do less harm. Even better is to find another institution that needs just what X really offers, and see if you can recommend X for the position.
4. If you find yourself in in the grips of X, it's best  to never respond to them, but be obsequiously pleasant if you meet them. No need to talk about them behind their backs. They always bury themselves.

The alternative to a bureaucracy is a patronage system: you are Mr. Big's "boy" or "girl," and Mr. Big builds an empire around himself.

Dementors,Tormentors, Degrading, Groaning Pains, and other Terms of Art in Professoring

I am accumulating terms that accurately describe academic experience:

Tormentors are mentors who are destructive under the guise of helping you. (Think also of "dementors" from Harry Potter, with their kiss that steals your soul.) In effect, tormentors are "internalizing the aggressor," saying it (torturing) was good enough for me, so it is good enough for you. Pronounced tor'mentors

Degrading is when you discover, after you have submitted the grades, that students have plagiarized, and you wonder whether you want to give them a failing grade and go through the university procedures. and are forced to do so by the university rules. Pronounced dee'grading

Groaning Pains are what students give you when they are trying to figure out how to get an A by giving you the third-degree on your implicit rubric.

... more to be added

Monday, July 8, 2013


For those of us looking as to how Wales can become a more competitive economy, we have examined smaller nations such as Denmark, Sweden or Ireland as examples of good practice.

However, very few have ever considered the case of Switzerland, with its population of eight million people, as a nation we should emulate.

Indeed, our attitudes may be best encapsulated by the famous lines that Orson Welles delivered in one of his most famous roles as Harry Lime in “The Third Man”.

“In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Apart from the fact that the cuckoo clock was not invented in Switzerland, a new book launched in Wales last week suggests we may want to rethink our view of a country that many of us might have thought was only famous for watches, banking and chocolates.

'Swiss Made - The Untold Story Behind Switzerland's Success' by the financier James Breiding shows how this small and successful nation has developed into something that is now far more substantial both in terms of its global reach and industrial impact, being home to fifteen of the World’s 500 biggest companies. The World Economic Forum also rates Switzerland as the most competitive nation in the World today and only this week it was rated number one on the Global Innovation Index.

This high level of competitiveness and innovativeness is having a direct impact on the economy – its relative prosperity per head of population is amongst the highest in the World and unemployment is only three per cent of the working population.

Naturally, the author examined various factors that had led to this incredible economic success story, including an egalitarian society, the importance of communities, a lean government, a superb public education system, investment in apprenticeships and efficient public transportation.

However, I was most impressed by the attitude towards immigration which has been a key differentiating factor in Switzerland success as it became a haven for those persecuted in their own countries and who ended up establishing the foundations for today’s industries.

For example, Heinrich Nestlé was a refugee from Germany who set up what is now the biggest food company in the World whilst Nicolas Hayek emigrated from Lebanon to create the Swatch brand and singlehandedly rescue the watch industry in his adopted country.

Such openness has certainly contributed to making Switzerland an attractive location for business with companies such as Google and IBM choosing the country as a base for their European research operations,

This is also reflected in its universities with seven ranked in the top 200 in the World and having some of the highest proportions of international students of any higher education institutions in Europe.

The importance of knowledge to the economy is also reflected in the fact that it has the highest number of Nobel Prize winners per capita in the World, many of whom were born outside of Switzerland.

Of course, it could be argued that Switzerland’s stance on neutrality has also helped its economic position, especially during the Second World War when Swiss companies, especially banking, took advantage of war torn Europe. However, this fails to explain why this landlocked nation has excelled in a range of industries over the last two decades and there are lessons to be learnt from understanding how this has happened.

Fortunately, James Breiding’s book provides a long overdue revised view of the economic power of Switzerland and it certainly should be summer reading for all of us who want to learn how to develop a small successful economy.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Glimpse

What a whirlwind my life has been the last several months, but I thought I'd consolidate the best way I know how! So here is 1-5 of what's been going on in my world.

1. Spring (and summer) came to Minnesota! We literally had a snowstorm the first week of May, it was crazy! Beautiful, but crazy. And a mess. I think we were all convinced it would pass us by this year. But low and behold, it arrived. . .

 Since this year has been so busy, I rested when I could, especially before it got warm outside. Several of my days looked like this.

 My daughter will be attending Winona State University (yep, home of Winona Ryder ;) in the Fall. We had a chance to go visit and walk around a bit.

 See, see, spring!!!

 Out my window

I got the most beautiful bouquet of flowers the morning of Madelynn's graduation party. Most thoughtful gift I've practically ever received from a friend.

Went to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN

Do you get Peonies where you live?

Nells is doing great!

Been hanging out and being blessed by some Young Life girls. Oh they are precious to me.

Making sure to always treat myself to little pleasures.

Again, do you get Peonies where you live?

At the Eagle center with the In-Laws; we are in a giant nest! As big as a hot tub.

 This summer Minnesota has delivered quite the sunsets and pink skies. I have been goo goo ga ga over them.

Getting out and visiting these guys makes me so happy.

 Neighborhood streets.

 Day trip to Stockholm, Wi.
Quaint and lovely.

 We were blessed to have Robin's again this year!

 I look forward to my Lily of The Valley every May. They were 3 weeks late this year!
Worth the wait.

 Finally got to sit outside and eat!

 Front yard potting. And my helper.

 Walks and catch.

 I got to get all dressed up and go to a bachelorette party!
And her wedding.

Bride and I being silly the day before her wedding!

 More resting days.

 When it first started getting warm to the point that we could finally open our windows, Nells was in heaven! He stood amazed and all the sounds and smells of the air!

 I thrifted a new chair!

 Madelynn took the day off so she could spend Mother's Day with me. It was a fun day.

We went and spent some time with my mom, my sister and niece. Cherished time!

 Madelynn was invited to Awards night at the High School and was awarded 4 achievement awards and 3 scholarship's! I was beaming.

 One of his last trips to pick up sissy from school. Lots of "lasts" this year.

Last choir concert ever, bravo! We were all in tears.

2. Senior Prom happened.

3. I "graduated" from my training in Lay Counseling, so I am now officially a Lay Counselor! I'm already seeing a client and it feels natural!

 One of the books we had to read--AHmazing.

 Studying for our last test with a friend.

My husband and family threw a little congratulatory surprise dinner for me, how sweet.

A bunch of us from our class at a wedding in June--we had such a special, close knit class. Love them so much.

4. Still getting my craft on!
 I am having a blast making these bracelets, here is the pattern if you are interested: crocheted bracelet.

 Creating and planning for my daughter's grad party!

 I made this "13" board for the grad party full of "pre-digital" time photos-I love how it turned out!

 My afghan is coming along nicely, I want it done by Fall!

 Paper doily banners for grad decorations.



 The start of a new afghan!

 I am hoping to open an Etsy shop come September or October!

 Lace bookmark, what took me so long to think of it?!

Thee best coconut pound cake, THE best. Recipe!

 Creating on Vintique!

Signage and goodies for grad party.

More creating on Vintique.

I know I know, I need a manicure.

More bracelets

and finally number 5., last but not least my daughter graduated from High School!!!

Seeing this laying on my island the morning of graduation was bizarre. 

Excited graduate!

Ya, I have "that" kid.

Watching my baby graduate. Full of emotion.

When I saw her come toward me on the field afterwards, I was stunned. I was nervous because all I could see when I looked into her eyes was this 4 year old, going off to Pre-K. She still has those same eyes, ya know. I would relate a lot of this time of year to my wedding.

Such a surreal moment. So many feelings. So many people. Such a long awaited celebration.

I must say we had the most beautiful cakes!

Cake table! My MIL made the tablecloth, isn't it gorgeous? I made the banners and the chalkboard.

The centerpieces. I made the mason jars with lace. And a friend of mine, Sunny, made the photo circles and quotes. Sunny by design. You would not believe how she has blessed me in this season. Making everything from invites, thank you's, paper banners, food flags etc...she was amazing and I am in complete AWE of her.

Creating her "memorial"!

Yes we had rain for the first hour but this Momma refused to let that bring her down!

Lots of sweets!

Decorating in the rain.

What a time this year has been. After the graduation party, I looked around at 9pm, and thought, "now what"? I froze. I couldn't clean or pick up a thing. I was numb for days, weeks actually. I finally just started snapping out of it last week. I'm so thankful for all the help I received; I have the best family and friends. Don't we all? How grateful I am for that. The immense emotion that I felt I just didn't expect. Seeing old friends, seeing family I hadn't seen in so long. A good friend said she thought it was adrenaline that saved me; that that's what got me through the day. What a heavy weight! A total whirlwind and roller coaster. That's why it reminds me of something similar to a wedding. Seeing guests, tons of gifts, so much preparation, a happy couple or person of the hour, (we were all really really happy),  and then BAM, it's over. Another chapter closed but many many more that will open. Thanks for being on the journey with me and for encouraging me, I love your support!