Monday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. Democrats and anti-semitism.
  2. Politics trumps truth in the Democratic world.
  3. Freedom and the press.
  4. That secular/religion debate.
  5. Why I am not … 
  6. Fairyland.
  7. Immigration.
  8. Not grokking Mr Obama.
  9. Mr Obama visits GM.
  10. Equity.
  11. Tenure.

5 responses to “Monday Highlights

  1. Democrats and anti-semitism.

    That particular case is obviously wrong, but there is no larger pattern of Democratic anti-semitism. Jennifer Rubin and her fellow writers at Commentary have been part of a despicable smear campaign for years, crying antisemitism at the drop of a hat for any view that is not hard-line likud or hard-line Republican. They need to be read the story of the boy who cried wolf over and over again until they get the message. I cannot tell you how disgusted I am, as a Jew, by the people at Commentary.

    That secular/religion debate.

    Ridiculous.

    Why I am not …

    Because I want to believe, apparently.

    Not grokking Mr Obama.

    …so they’re just going to assume they can read his mind and then slam him for what they imagine they would find there. A brilliant piece of scholarship that will be talked about for generations.

  2. Tenure.

    I think the reason tenure exists is that academics are more or less unmeasurable in terms of performance. Yes a good professor or teacher can be spotted and signled out for promotions and other opportunities. Yes a really bad one can likewise be targetted. In between, though, they all tend to look alike.

    This is actually true of most positions. A large company, for example, cannot really tie most of its employees to any objective measure of performance. Salesmen can be measured directly by sales, people working on an assembly line can be measured directly by output less errors but beyond that you move into a very fuzzy zone where objective measurement becomes almost impossible for the bulk of people ‘in the middle’ between the clearly great and clearly bad.

    As a result a sub-industry has developed to introduce performance measures to the unmeasurable. These metrics generally can fit into two groups:

    A. Does your boss think you’re good? Typically here the boss is asked to evaluate you, maybe to keep it objective they are required to help you set goals and then he evaluates you based on them.

    B. Does everyone think you’re good? The typical measure here is ‘360 feedback’ where your review depends on a survey of people you work with.

    In both cases the metrics are highly imperfect and subject to a lot of gaming. They are used for two main reasons:

    1. Gotta use something, if you have to lay off 10% of your labor force and aren’t blessed with a huge population of layabouts to fire somethings gotta be used.

    2. There’s a working theory that in the absense of direct performance measures, the second best is to measure how well people work as part of a team and then measure the team’s performance…even if the team ends up being the entire company. Style A basically lets bosses assemble the teams they like but they are then held accountable for the performance of the company. Style B lets employee centered teams pick out people that they like and then the whole team is evaluated. An analogy for style A might be a professional sports team. The head coach picks his players and he is judged on wins. Imagine a sales department, though, where salesmen can be clearly measured on their ability to make sales. The other salesmen may hate Dwight (from “the office”), his boss may even hate him but since he makes more sales than anyone else no one even thinks of firing him.

    Imagine a world where Dwight is in a department where performance is not so easily measured. His abbrasive personality would almost certainly get him fired even if he was a great contributor to the company’s performance.

    What makes academics interesting is that A and B styles don’t really make a lot of sense. First start with B, academics are famous for their infighting. It’s quite likely a very vibrant and exciting department will be populated by professors who think their peers are idiots. The issue with B is that there’s not much to really judge a head on. Unlike the football coach, is Princeton’s economics department head fielding a ‘winning team’ or not?

    What seems to have evolved is tenure which is a combinationof A & B. Basically it let’s the very good and very bad be spotted early and lets the middle prove its dedication through the long road to tenure. It’s fault is in the middle person who starts out good but flakes out after getting tenure leaving the school with a ‘nutty professor’ no one can touch because he’s tenured. I’ll grant you that’s a weakness of the system but not a dramatic one and not one that can’t be addressed through various informal ways.

  3. Democrats and anti-semitism.

    Actually doesn’t the word “Democrats” imply more than one? This seems more properly titled “A Democrat and anti-semitism”

  4. Boonton,
    On what planet does a single person run a campaign for office without the cooperation and association with others.

  5. Usually campaign staff is assumed to be working on behalf of the candidate under his direction. Unless the candidate specifically claims the campaign did this without his authorization, they are usually treated as one unit.

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