Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 2, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

ORWELLIAN?....NOT QUITE....Kevin Carey is the author of "Is Our Students Learning?" our cover story this month suggesting that we have surprisingly little information about whether our universities are actually educating anyone. Today he's back with another guest post. Kevin says universities are now hyping bogus privacy concerns in an effort to prevent anyone from collecting the data that might hold them accountable for their performance.


From Kevin Carey: In response to a recent proposal by the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, the Department of Education wants to gather information about individual college students in order to upgrade its long-established system of reporting public data about individual colleges and universities. Individual student records wouldn't be released to the public and the department would be able to create a whole lot of needed public information about institutional performance. That's why I endorsed the plan in a recent Monthly article, as did the president of private Lewis & Clark College in a Washington Post op-ed published a couple of days ago.

On Friday, however, the New York Times reported that the FBI has been accessing federal student loan records as part of post-9/11 anti-terrorism investigations, adding fuel to an uncharacteristically strident and public debate in the higher education community about student privacy rights and federal data.

Critics of the proposed data system, who've basically called it the precursor to an Orwellian police state, jumped on the FBI program as an excuse to condemn the Education Department's entire data gathering effort. David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the plan's most high-profile critic, said that the program "confirms our worst fears about the uses to which these databases can be put."

Two things in response.

First: Really? An anti-terrorism investigation that involves looking into whether people have or have not received students loans, data that could just as easily be gotten from for-profit student loan companies (who, as it happens, created their own private version of the proposed national student database ten years ago and have been maintaining and building it ever since): that's your "worst fear"? If so, there's not much to worry about here. My worst fears about data privacy involve a combination of government-controlled closed-circuit video monitors in my family room and having the intimate details of my American Express bill published on "MySpace." But that's just me.

Second: What this really highlights is the need for sensible, transparent law and policy when it comes to government data and privacy. Sometimes the government needs to gather and store personal information about citizens. The IRS is one example, federal student loans is another. Sometimes the government, particularly law enforcement, needs limited, confidential access to information reasonable people wouldn't want made public, like financial records or who you called on your cell phone last week.

The best way to keep the government from overstepping those bounds and I'm as sensitive as anyone to the potential for abuse, particularly given the current administration isn't to prevent needed data from ever being gathered in the first place. It's to establish strong, reasonable laws around about how that data can be used, and then enforce those laws vigorously. The FBI program seems limited and targeted, the article suggests that it had already been publicly disclosed, and no one seems to think that laws have been broken. I wouldn't want it to go any further, but that seems reasonable to me.

But the real agenda of the private colleges isn't protecting student privacy it's protecting institutional privacy, keeping information about how well they serve their students out of the public eye. When that's your goal, any excuse to cloud a very real debate about privacy will do.

Kevin Drum 12:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (70)

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Comments

If they are in the US using US money to go to school, then they should lose all of their rights and be open to daily anal inspections; this includes those untrustworthy grade school children.

Posted by: truthsayer on September 2, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

There IS NO LAW, for this sdministration. They will just do whatever they want regardless of any laws or legislation. They have made that abundantly clear.

Posted by: brkily on September 2, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Also, one other thing to point out: how many Islamofascist terrorist attacks have succeeded since the the FBI started accessing the records? Answer: zero. With this success rate, why would anyone but a liberal want to take the chance that ending the FBI access might lead to a successful Islamofascist terrorist attack on American soil? Freedom is great, but one should remember the most important freedom is the freedom to be alive. One can't be dead and free at the same time.

Posted by: Al on September 2, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

But the real agenda of the private colleges isn't protecting student privacy it's protecting institutional privacy, keeping information about how well they serve their students out of the public eye.

Two things:

1) My attitude about the success of colleges has always been, Let the buyer beware. Any competent HS senior and family can reach some general conclusions about the value of an education at any given college.

2) Please lets keep the feds from doing to college education what they have done to secondary ed. I can envision the name of future legislation, No Co-Ed Left Behind.

Under the guise of quality assurance will be a drive to control what is taught. The Right hates liberal arts and they are looking for a point of entry to exercise control.

Just say no!

Posted by: Keith G on September 2, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know that evaluating colleges and universities according to the academic performance of individual students really tells us that much. There is widespread grade inflation at some schools, and not at others, and the toughness of individual professors varies greatly as well. Plus there is the issue of curriculum. With some exceptions, the curriculum of k-12 schools doesn't vary that greatly, but the offerings of colleges and universities do. How can you compare the performance of a liberal arts school - where 2/3 of the student body is taking pomo courses on the deconstruction of Melville, and they don't even offer engineering courses at all - with MIT, or frankly even other liberal arts schools (whose curricula differ greatly).

America has the most dynamic, flexible, and democratic system of higher education in the entire world (even if there is presently runaway inflation in the cost of tuition at many schools). What we don't need is to make it *more* like our K-12 system, and adopting a system of performance evaluation might well encourage lower-performaning schools to alter their offerings and grading practices to conform to higher performing ones, create a whole new layer of bureaucracy to deal with this new issue, and generally spend a whole lot of time focusing on something that is mostly beside the point.

Posted by: Linus on September 2, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

I would add too that anyone can get a first class education almost anywhere in this country, from your local community college to the Ivy League. The academic job market is so competitive today, and the pool of top-notch people so large that graduates of top ten PhD programs in almost everything (but especially the humanities) now routinely have to beg and plead for an adjunct position at Southeastern Asscrack State University. I took several community college courses in high school, and the professors were more than adequate; most of them were quite brilliant. And a few of them were obvious brighter than a couple of the tenured blockheads I had in college.

Posted by: Linus on September 2, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

I worry that when the government decides to monitor student demographics, performance standards might be introduced. What's wrong with performance standards? Well, whose definition of performance are we going to use? Do we want students to be able to think creatively, work collaboratively, and become lifelong learners as I think is most important for our future? Or do we want students who memorize facts, work competitively against others, and follow directions without question, qualities that make for great sound bites by politicians advocating change in education?

When government gets into the role of deciding these standards, then politicians are in charge. They will introduce standards which will get them votes, not standards which are important for furthering education and research to move us back on top in the world. I got out of education for the one reason that politicians running for election are dictating the direction of our schools.

Let's make sure government doesn't become the standards-broker for higheer education.

Posted by: jim in Arizona on September 2, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Having worked with databases for more than 30 years, I am ready to put forth Cranky's Iron Law of Large Databases:

If large databases of sensitive information exist, they will be used. And then misused. So if you don't want them misused, don't create them.
Seriously, when was the last time you heard of any large public database that wasn't eventually misused by those with the power to do so? As with Nixon's misuse of the IRS, I strongly suspect that what we have heard of the current Administration's misuse of data is only the tip of the iceberg. Do you really think that they aren't using these "anti-terror" investigations to identify and damage their political opponents?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on September 2, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I think you got this one about right.

Note also that colleges and universities refuse to publicize records on their athletes; not primarily to protect student privacy, but to deflect criticism for having so many low-performing, non-graduating students on their teams.

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

> I would add too that anyone can get a
> first class education almost anywhere
> in this country, from your local
> community college to the Ivy League.\

I think any discussion of the quality of university education has to start with _The Winner Take All Society_. It is fairly clear to me that for whatever reason there has been overwhelming pressure over the last 20 years for our society to become winnter-takes-all. While this serves the needs of the Radicals (and whatever Republicans remain) quite nicely, I don't see any electable Democrat doing anything about it either.

In such a society, elite universites return to their 1850-1940 function of network-building and mating services, along with filters to allow that 1-in-a-million member of the lower-class rabble to trickle up. So yes, your kids can get a good _education_ at many colleges around the US. It might help them wile away the hours working in the back room at Wal-Mart or laboring to repay the nation's debt to China. Cheney's grandchildren will continue to attend Princeton and take their place in the ruling class, thank you very much.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on September 2, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, republicat just agreed with you. Need any more proof of just how off base you are on this issue?

Posted by: Keith G on September 2, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Kevin Drum: We should persecute Christian colleges by bothering them with endless paperwork, but listening in on terrorist phone calls is EVIL.

Posted by: American Hawk on September 2, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

The job market and people who hire graduates certainly have their own informal metrics of how well each school trains its grads. One useful metric to gather would then be hiring rates and salaries of a school's grads within each field.

Posted by: Red State Mike on September 2, 2006 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe in the abstract, maybe under a different regime, some kind of national university database might *might* be a decent idea (I have serious doubts . . . and definitely standardized tests at the university level are a bad idea, regardless of what Mr. Carey suggests). But with the current gang in power, it seems like a super-bad idea to push for such a thing. Maybe the Kevins here have good intentions, but they would be used as useful idiots by the Bush Admin cohorts, who have every reason to want to destroy the autonomy of one of the last liberal bastions in this country. What we will end up with, ironically, if we go towards a centralized, standardized university system is something akin to the French university.

The Euro university model is generally acknowledged to be lower in quality and innovation that the decentralized autonomous American model. Why we would want to go there, other then for reasons of ideological or cost control, I cannot fathom . . .

Posted by: trixi on September 2, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Linus, Jim in Arizona, Cranky, trixi:

Absolutely agreed. The "factory model" of education that characterizes American secondary education is simply not appropriate for the adults who wish to choose an educational path.

And large databases *will* be misused, as Cranky says, just like the proverbial dog who licks his balls.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 2, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

I think any discussion of the quality of university education has to start with _The Winner Take All Society_. It is fairly clear to me that for whatever reason there has been overwhelming pressure over the last 20 years for our society to become winnter-takes-all.

What exactly do you mean by that?

Cheney's grandchildren will continue to attend Princeton and take their place in the ruling class, thank you very much.

Yes of course, the bastions of liberalism that our universities are, are reserved for educating conservatives. Heh.

Posted by: Red State Mike on September 2, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Going back and reading the article...just what kind of data is anyone suggesting be collected, anyway?

Posted by: Red State Mike on September 2, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK
But the real agenda of the private colleges isn't protecting student privacy it's protecting institutional privacy, keeping information about how well they serve their students out of the public eye. When that's your goal, any excuse to cloud a very real debate about privacy will do.

And you know this is the motive how? Or do you simply presume it is the motive because it fits your prejudices?

There are laws that safeguard the privacy of individual student information from just about anyone except the school that it is not individually authorized by the student to receive it; there are very narrow exceptions to even the conditions under which the Department of Education can have access to such information.

The purpose of this plan is not consistent with the exceptions of the existing strong privacy laws in Education. You endorse, on the one hand, "the need for sensible, transparent law and policy when it comes to government data and privacy" and "strong, reasonable laws around about how that data can be used, and then enforce those laws vigorously". But when we have sensible, transparent laws on an area of privacy, and when we have strong, reasonable laws around how that data can be used, you are the first to scream bloody murder when someone objects to tossing those rules inside in favor of increased government gathering of personal information for a a purpose with no clear, concrete benefit. This isn't to audit the use of public funds, it is not for a specific research objective, it is simply to compel private institutions to release individual information to the government so that the government can aggregate and publish it on the premise that vague unspecified benefits will result from public access to the private data.

The beginning of strong privacy rules is that you demand that a compelling case be presented before requiring someone that has private data to release it to someone else. No such compelling case has been made here.

Your article in the Monthly laments the lack of simple numerical measures of how good a school is (you complain there is no equivalent of the "bottom line" on corporate financial statement.) This is silly. The reason such simple numerical measures aren't available, though, isn't because not enough private data is gathered and published by the federal Department of Education, but because the very concept of an education-quality equivalent of a "bottom line" is ludicrous. There is no simple unidimensional quality to be measured, so a simple numerical measure would be ridiculous and invalid.

Yes, people have to do some investigation to determine what university is the right choice for them. And, yes, that involves a lot of subjective judgement and interpretation of data that isn't always clear, numerical, and laid out in a spreadsheet. And it involves evaluating self-interested statements from competing schools.

People who are ready to attend university in the first place ought to have the critical thinking and analytical skills to make a reasonable pass at doing that. There is certainly no evidence that bringing the same standardized numbers game to higher education that has failed in its promise to bring revolutionary improvements in primary and secondary education is the answer to any real problem that exists.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 2, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike:

You're missing the point; it's only superficially about ideology, which is only window-dressing. It's about the top colleges in the country serving as nexus of connection-building amoung the children of the powerful who run the country. Does it suprise you how many Ivy-League educated presidents we've had? Do you think it's just a sheer coincidence?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 2, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK
Shorter Kevin Drum

Aside from questioning your characterization (which is ludicrous, too), don't you mean "Kevin Carey"? I mean, all Drum does is provide context for the discussion and introduce Carey.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 2, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

modification to what I wrote above:

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/MAC228898.htm

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

off topic, but here is one of the programs that can be cut to help fund a federal construction program aimed at energy independence.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,1863474,00.html

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

republicat:

I notice that your topic is frequently off. Have you considered getting professional help?

Posted by: Keith G on September 2, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

I don't think "private data" is private when it is no longer individualized. Would you say that Census data is private? The Census Bureau is careful not to publish data that could be traced back to individuals.

On the other hand, how many people have objected to the Obama-Coburn proposal to publish the records of those who receive federal money?

And does anyone object to having the names of recipients of farm program payments published by the Environmental Working Group.(http://www.ewg.org/farm/)?

Posted by: Bill Harshaw on September 2, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

"In such a society, elite universites return to their 1850-1940 function of network-building and mating services, along with filters to allow that 1-in-a-million member of the lower-class rabble to trickle up. So yes, your kids can get a good _education_ at many colleges around the US. It might help them wile away the hours working in the back room at Wal-Mart or laboring to repay the nation's debt to China. Cheney's grandchildren will continue to attend Princeton and take their place in the ruling class, thank you very much."

For sure. The value of a Harvard education isn't just the education itself, or even the symbolic cache of a Harvard diploma, but the connections one makes (or at least in theory can; not everyone who attends elite universities ends up as CEO of Haliburton [my local barista for months last year was a Harvard graduate]), and the access to information it affords. I would gather that membership to the Harvard Club probably affords one better access to information about publically traded companies than employment at many brokerages.

Clearly, much needs to be done to level the educational, economic, and financial playing field. On the other hand, I think it is an amazing thing that a 45 year old divorced mother of three can start community college at night, and a few years later end up with a degree in computer science or business from UCLA. That sort of thing is if not impossible in most other western countries (let alone the developing world), at least very difficult; there are both cultural and economic barriers.

The biggest hurdles for the middle class today are wage stagnation, the cost of housing, and the cost of higher education. The first and third are complicated, the second is easy (build more housing). There have been literally entire books written about the steep inflation in tuition costs, and virtually no one seems to be able to get their head around the root causes. (I heard two professors on TOTN a year or two - both of whom had written books on the subjects - and neither had anything useful to say about the causes or solution to the problem.)

My own feeling is that these tuition increases are being driven in part at least by private colleges without large endowments (who in at least some cases are not managing their resources well), with a kind of me-too effect by private schools that do have large endowments (and probably don't need to raise tuition by that much). And on the public university side there is continued unwillingness by state legislatures to properly fund these institutions, a trend that goes back several decades; the burden then falls on middle class families. What I think can be said with some certainty is that by and large the money is not going to professors. Tenure is in decline, and the number of low-paid (few or no benefit) adjuncts increases every year. The pool of highly paid professors with national name recognition is small.

There are probably ancillary issues too - the high cost of some sports programs, the cost of administration (esp at public schools), etc. I attended a small NE liberal arts college in the 1990s, and I remember the heat running full blast all winter long with windows all over campus open; no business (and probably not most homeowners) would allow that to happen.

Some of these smaller colleges with small endowments should consider radical changes to their business model, perhaps opening student-run, for-profit businesses (like at the College of the Ozarks) that allow students to work off the cost of their tuition. The private schools with big endowments need to realize that being miserly with their dough deprives them of the some of the best and brightest working and middle class students, some of whom at least will one day be appearing on TV and radio as famous directors, CEOs, and Nobel Laureates, introduced by name and the college(s) they attended; nothing is better for a school's reputation.

Posted by: Linus on September 2, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Linus:

Very nice post. In my first abortive attempt at college (after pissing away my time at a freaky alternative highschool where we read Pynchon and Eliot while requiring absolutely no math or foreign language), I'll never, ever forget the campus (in the Inland Empire of California) sprinkler systems.

They were on day and night. The result were perfectly round, brown dead spots encompassing the exact circumference of the sprinkers' reach, like crop circles.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 2, 2006 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Also, one other thing to point out: how many Islamofascist terrorist attacks have succeeded since the the FBI started accessing the records? Answer: zero. With this success rate, why would anyone but a liberal want to take the chance that ending the FBI access might lead to a successful Islamofascist terrorist attack on American soil?
Posted by: Al on September 2, 2006 at 1:29 PM

And along the same lines: how many asteroids have impacted on the surface of the Earth since the FBI started accessing records? Answer: zero. Thus, liberals work toward the extinction of all humanity by facilitating the radical-asteroidists.

Posted by: StiffMittens on September 2, 2006 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

It occurs to me that the educational marketplace has one very flawed dimension; there is too much importance attached to status and reputation and not enough to value. There are some terrific values in higher education (both public and private), but they often get overlooked by students and parents because Johnny also got into the #8 school (whose name they believe will be enough to secure him a spectacular livelihood, despite that it costs 40k+ a year to go there).

As I said, I went to one of those (overpriced) NE liberal arts colleges in the 1990s (I won't mention names, but the only reason you've probably heard of it is because one of its professors does the radio and cable news circuit on mideast issues). The school has been around since the 1920s, which makes it older and more wealthy than some of its counterparts (at least one of which [again: I won't mention any names] could go under in the coming years or decades unless something dramatic happens), but its endowment is still chump change compared to Harvard or Yale.

In fact, I really can't imagine what the old bat who was president at the time could possibly have said to CEOs and heads of foundations to make them give us money, that its better than having those snotty little assholes (I think that's what Brett Easton Ellis called us in "Rules of Attraction", or more precisely typical [name-of-school] asshole{s}) on the streets? That at least they're shooting up in a warm, dry place? I mean - really - how many more overeducated fuckers with a seething cynicism, and a talent for nothing more than writing short stories about one's penchant for attracting beautiful, abusive women does the world need? And appeals to alumni loyalty are like appeals to Dutch patriotism; one shouldn't count on it.

I imagine this particular school will survive (not least because it is a stone's throw from the greatest city on earth), but my own view - as I said - is that schools like this should consider radically changing their fiscal model, becoming far more pragmatic in curriculum (they have the post-colonial-diasporic-destructionalist thing covered, but how about a course or two on finance?), and far more sustainable financially. With a few good businesses, and some imagination, they become self-sufficient in the same way other schools have. (And what a joy it would be watching the daughters of rock stars [I will mention no names, and tell no tales] have to milk cows and wait tables rather than move into a place on Central Park West their first year because there are no video phone outlets on campus.) And the funny thing is that good business models - for for-profits and non-profits - tend to attract more money.

Posted by: Linus on September 2, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

The Bear Patrol and Lisa's magic rock strike again.

"Dad, that's specious reasoning."

"Thank you, dear."

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 2, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Linus:

Why do you have me thinking of the protagonist in Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections?

A Marxist deconstructionist who maxxes out his credit card on expensive wine :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 2, 2006 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Kevin Drum: We should persecute Christian colleges by bothering them with endless paperwork, but listening in on terrorist phone calls is EVIL.
Posted by: American Hawk

If xtian colleges weren't burdened with endless paperwork, there wouldn't be any learning of any kind occurring.

Posted by: Nads on September 2, 2006 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think "private data" is private when it is no longer individualized.

The data the Education Department wants to collect here is, specifically, "data on individual college students".

Would you say that Census data is private?

I would say that, in terms of the type of information gathered and the way it is gathered, the information gathered by the Census Department is generally not similar to the information at issue here.

The information wanted here is, however, information of the type that schools are generally prohibited to disclose to anyone, except for audit or compliance purposes or in response to a lawful subpoena, without explicit authorization for the disclosure from the person whose information is involved&mdasheven if, as it generally must be for audit and compliance purposes without a separate specific authorization in law, the information has personally identifying information stripped.

If you want to support strong privacy laws, then you don't chip away at one of the few areas where we have strong privacy laws without a compelling case for the erosion. And I don't see that here.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 2, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK
If xtian colleges weren't burdened with endless paperwork, there wouldn't be any learning of any kind occurring.

Bigotry is a poor substitute for wit.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 2, 2006 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

I spent 6 years at a christian junior and high schools, so if familiarity allows a certain amount of contempt shine through, then so be it.

Posted by: Nads on September 2, 2006 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: dsf on September 2, 2006 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

I spent 6 years at a christian junior and high schools, so if familiarity allows a certain amount of contempt shine through, then so be it.

Making sweeping generalizations about Christian colleges from your experience with a (making generous assumptions) handful of Christian secondary schools is about as valid as concluding that Iraqis are generally enemies of America because a 19 non-Iraqi Arabs crashed planes into US buildings on 9/11.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 3, 2006 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

"Why do you have me thinking of the protagonist in Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections?

A Marxist deconstructionist who maxxes out his credit card on expensive wine :)"

I often remind people of Oprah Book Club picks, though ordinarily only the ones whose authors don't (insanely and preposterously) try to retract from what is likely to be their only chance at home ownership and the occasional dinner at Le Cirque (unless they happen to be screwing the daughter of the Bertelsmann CEO).

Or maybe its because I'm a disreputable idiot who maxed out his own credit cards on hearty ale and those delicious orange pops with the cream in the center.


Posted by: Linus on September 3, 2006 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

Linus:

Franzen truly appears to deserve every last bit of opprobrium unleashed upon him by the kind of haughty critical avengers who have nary a good word to say about Thomas Pynchon, let alone David Foster Wallace.

OMG, have you seen the Michio Kautani review of his memoirs in the NYT this week?

Shredded. An empty, self-obsessed, overeducated, navel-gazing, dysfunction-revelling piece of steaming dog shit :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 3, 2006 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

You do realize that Nads is a pediatrician and medical reseacher of Pakistani origin, right?

Given that combination of intellect and ethnicity, I'm not quite sure I'd want to endure any "christian" primary and/or secondary schooling this country has to offer, myself.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 3, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

Bob,

I like your passion.

Although I confess that I was under the belief I had made a clever and insightful point only to find myself one-upped by you. I have no idea who Michio Kautani is.

(I wikied his name and got a blank stare so I'm not yet positive he can be said to exist.)

The last book I read was that 33 year old cash-in memoir of daddy by Truman's daughter. I bought it at the back entrance to the library for a quarter. I liked the part when they were on the train. That was the first page. I'm on the second or third now.

I also look down on people who still drink bad coffee, and if I'm in a bad enough mood may say so out loud in their presence.

Posted by: Linus on September 3, 2006 at 2:03 AM | PERMALINK

Linus:

I'm sure I misspelled the name. She (obviously a Japanese name) is the main book reviewer for the NYT. Lemme go find the correct spelling ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 3, 2006 at 3:14 AM | PERMALINK

Linus:

Michiko Kakutani :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 3, 2006 at 3:18 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks Bob ... I think the snark may have overtaken me on this one!!!

Posted by: Nads on September 3, 2006 at 4:38 AM | PERMALINK

"You know that if you die as an unbeliever in battle against the Muslims you're going straight to Hell without passing 'Go,'" Gadahn said on the video, addressing American soldiers. "You know you're considered by Bush and his bunch of warmongers as nothing more than expendable cannon fodder ... You know they couldn't care less about your safety and well-being."

"We send a special invitation (to convert to Islam) to all of you fighting Bush's crusader pipe dream in Afghanistan, Iraq and wherever else 'W' has sent you to die. You know the war can't be won," he said, using Bush's nickname.

Gadahn also urged other Americans to convert to Islam.

"It is time for the unbelievers to discard these incoherent and illogical beliefs," he said. "Isn't it the time for the Christians, Jews, Buddhists and atheists to cast off the cloak of the spiritual darkness which enshrouds them and emerge into the light of Islam?"

Adam Yehiye Gadahn
Sep 2, 11:47 PM


"I spent 6 years at a christian junior and high schools, so if familiarity allows a certain amount of contempt shine through, then so be it" - nads


I'll take your contempt for Christianity and ten fold it towards your insane, blood thirsty, pathetic excuse for a religion. Fuck Islam.


Posted by: Jay on September 3, 2006 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Al-Saeedi had been hiding in a residential building, the security adviser said. "He wanted to use children and women as human shields during the arrest, which is why the operation was based on a very precise military plan to preserve the lives of women and children in the building," al-Rubaie said, adding that there were no casualties during the arrest.

"Hamed al-Saeedi supervised terrorist groups that kidnapped people for ransom, and killed policemen after they received their salaries in order to finance terrorist operations," the security adviser said. "He used to order terrorist operations using mortars and roadside bombs, which led to the killing of several troops and innocent civilians."

Sunday, September 03, 2006

What a beautiful "religion".

Posted by: Jay on September 3, 2006 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: 联通铃声下载 on September 3, 2006 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

I would be more concerned about whether our university students were learning anything if people from all over the world weren't clamoring for admission here.

I would be more welcoming of an investigation into outcomes if it wasn't being done by the people who brought us No Child Left Behind.

Someone above correctly noted that it is not that hard to get pretty good information about universities in this country; even the very very deeply flawed US News and World Report ratings can be useful to students and parents.

(US News ratings are flawed in part because they compile many different measures of the exclusivity of a college or university and they equate that with quality. There is some correlation between exclusivity and quality, but it is far from perfect. US News therefore make two statistical errors; their independent variables are not really independent, and they mistake correlation with causation. Also, they sometimes use numbers based on perception rather than hard data, which tends to penalize schools that are newly emerging as quality institutions).

Posted by: Ba'al on September 3, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

"I'm sure I misspelled the name. She (obviously a Japanese name) is the main book reviewer for the NYT. Lemme go find the correct spelling ..."

That's quite okay. Spelling, as Dr. Johnson said, is a middle class obsession. (To be sure, I don't really know if Dr. Johnson said that or not, but my gay alcoholic Episcopal priest English teacher in high school said it once, and I believe he claimed to be quoting Johnson. He also once went on a mad rant during a graduation speech about embracing the godhead, or something to that effect, so make of it what you will.)

Posted by: Linus on September 3, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and I'm not sure what exactly might be wrong enough with the middle class to warrant Dr. Johnson excommunicating them from the league of humanity (although as a half-Appalachian I find their unwillingness to entertain the consumption of certain small animals unfortunate, and as a coffee snob I find their belief in the basic superiority of Starbucks misguided).

Posted by: Linus on September 3, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Nads:

Oh no, your snark is great (cmdicely, gods love him, can get a little defensive about religion sometimes).

There's somthing about a Paki doctor kicking ignurnt mealy white-people ass that's *especially* satisfying to watch :)

Linus:

The dark liquid waste product that Starbucks markets as "coffee" (no doubt from an effluent pipe they tapped somewhere as part of a payoff deal with the Bush-corrupted EPA) demonstrates like nothing else the power of branding to instill cache in the demonstrably-worse-than medocre. Their house roast is sludge. Used motor oil. It tastes like nothing so much as cafeteria coffee from those huge urns that nobody ever washes because the kitchen staff is completely demoralized.

And that maybe one or two pimply night-shift malcontents pissed in before being fired for sexually harrassing the 57-year-old cook.

Nothing is more mirth-inducing than hearing that a certain competitor has been "voted better than Starbucks in a national taste test!" What wonders an eyeballed mixture of pencil shavings and tobacco juice can perform, eh?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 3, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

"There's somthing about a Paki doctor kicking ignurnt mealy white-people ass that's *especially* satisfying to watch :)" - rmck1

The Jimmy Carter liberals attempt to appear international by denigrating white europeans in favor of someone who originates from a society that oppresses women, children and denigrates others belief systems, and still hasn't mastered a modern society infrastructure after thousands of years.

Fuck Nads. Fuck Islam. Fuck Allah.

Posted by: Jay on September 3, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

"......about a Paki doctor..." - rmck1

You do realize that "Paki" is a racial slur in Europe.

Posted by: Jay on September 3, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

"The dark liquid waste product that Starbucks markets as "coffee" (no doubt from an effluent pipe they tapped somewhere as part of a payoff deal with the Bush-corrupted EPA) demonstrates like nothing else the power of branding to instill cache in the demonstrably-worse-than medocre. Their house roast is sludge. Used motor oil. It tastes like nothing so much as cafeteria coffee from those huge urns that nobody ever washes because the kitchen staff is completely demoralized."

One can't fault you for not having strong opinions Bob. My own view is a bit milder, and puts most of the blame on management, and training. Once you get a certain threshold of bean quality, competent roasting, and better than average equipment it is all in the preparation. They don't train their employees well enough, and they don't pay them enough.

For my money, the best espresso drinks in the country can be had at Espresso Vivace in Seattle (on Denny, and Broadway).

Posted by: Linus on September 3, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Once you get a certain threshold of bean quality, competent roasting, and better than average equipment it is all in the preparation. They don't train their employees well enough, and they don't pay them enough." - linus

stay the fuck home and make your own coffee. Or are you paid enough?

Posted by: Jay on September 3, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK
You do realize that Nads is a pediatrician and medical reseacher of Pakistani origin, right?

Given that combination of intellect and ethnicity, I'm not quite sure I'd want to endure any "christian" primary and/or secondary schooling this country has to offer, myself.

Neither would I. I don't think that in any way justifies the generalization he made about Christian colleges, particularly in the context of a discussion of the US educational system. If anything, it makes it even less justified than it would appear without that context.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 3, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Given that combination of intellect and ethnicity, I'm not quite sure I'd want to endure any "christian" primary and/or secondary schooling this country has to offer, myself."
- rmck1

Well obviously you're neither, but I still don't see you enduring anything Christian.

btw, Gonzaga U. in Spokane, WA; stand up school.

Go Bulldogs.

Posted by: Jay on September 3, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

"stay the fuck home and make your own coffee."

That's a fine idea.

"...are you paid enough?"

No.

Posted by: Linus on September 3, 2006 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

"The Jimmy Carter liberals attempt to appear international by denigrating white europeans in favor of someone who originates from a society that oppresses women, children and denigrates others belief systems, and still hasn't mastered a modern society infrastructure after thousands of years."

I don't know about your white European ancestors, but mine were subsisting on gruel, superstition, and bloodlust (and oppressing my other ancestors the Jews) while the Arab barbarians were busy inventing logarithms, algebra, the telescope, the pendulum, and to no small extent modern astromony (as well as any number of other useful and interesting things).

Posted by: Linus on September 3, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

YMMV, as always on issues of rhetorical taste.

Linus:

Well, I'm going to have to disagree with you a little here, and in a somewhat more serious vein. I don't think preparation has much to do with a good cup of coffee made my modern mass methods. French press, oh yes -- but that's another story entirely.

With pre-roasted beans, timed grinding and automatic brewing, there's not much to do at Starbucks other than change the filter and hit the brew button. I think the key variable is the use of a large-capacity metallic urn.

One of the simpler reasons Dunkin' Donuts coffee is superior to Starbucks is that they make it in glass carafes. It's very easy to see when they need to be washed out. You know that the coffee at a diner is going to be rotten or not just by looking at them.

The first factor in Starbucks shittiness has nothing to do with brewing methods necessarily. First, they use an extremely dark, French roast for their house blend. This is part of the Europhilia cache, of a piece with why you get a Grande at Starbucks instead of a large coffee. There's nothing wrong with dark roast in itself -- but any kind of lack of attention to the urns or the sitting time and it quickly becomes pretty raunchy.

It's not that Starbucks coffee sits too long (and I've had Starbucks coffee at a hotel in one of those portable thermos-like decanters that was actually somewhat tolerable); the traffic at the local outlet is pretty high. It's that they simply don't clean the urns enough. The coffee at my local convenience store, just recently switched from carafes to a small boxlike urn maker, is quite drinkable. But the customer volume is nothing like Starbucks.

And that's where the management and training may well come in. Maybe people innocent of good coffee have allowed themselves to be convinced that the acidic, residue-y "bite" of Starbucks house roast is something "extra" and "European" that they provide for us to justify the insane prices -- and that's why they haven't complained.

And the managers are like "Hey cool. Less work for us."

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 3, 2006 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

Jay,

btw, Gonzaga U. in Spokane, WA; stand up school.

I'm trying to defend Christian colleges here; you aren't helping by holding yourself out as an example of their product.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 3, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

"The first factor in Starbucks shittiness has nothing to do with brewing methods necessarily. First, they use an extremely dark, French roast for their house blend. This is part of the Europhilia cache, of a piece with why you get a Grande at Starbucks instead of a large coffee. There's nothing wrong with dark roast in itself -- but any kind of lack of attention to the urns or the sitting time and it quickly becomes pretty raunchy."

Who can disagree with that?

Of course I consider that a part of preparation, and I do think the stuff sits too long.

Posted by: Linus on September 3, 2006 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

Linus:

It sure as hell *tastes* like it does, doesn't it ...

It's just hard to believe that's the factor when an entire downtown building will crowd the place every morning. Logistically speaking, the stuff really can't sit *that* long ... can it?

I still think they just go light on cleaning the damned urns.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 3, 2006 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

"It's just hard to believe that's the factor when an entire downtown building will crowd the place every morning. Logistically speaking, the stuff really can't sit *that* long ... can it?"

The trouble is that there's few places out in the country with comparatively better coffee. I wish Peets would go national.

Posted by: Linus on September 3, 2006 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

Linus:

I'm very fond of Green Mountain, myself. A Vermont brand that makes it down here to NJ. Very balanced, no bitterness and strong enough for a caffieniac such as yours truly.

Bob

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Posted by: TramadoL55506 on September 3, 2006 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the tip Bob.

(And I hereby promise Kevin not to clod up this thread with my o/t drivel [although this should not imply that the o/t banter of others is drivel].)

Posted by: Linus on September 4, 2006 at 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

Linus:

But off-topic posts are our friends :)

Seriously, O/T banter is only a "problem" when the thread discussion topic is active. When it's died out and two people shoot da shit on whatever, I honestly don't think anyone has occasion to mind.

And the ones who pretend they do have underwear adjustment issues :)

Bob

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