Links 7/6/10

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  1. Ina Deaver

    “Other generations may not have had as many temptations to plagiarize as yours?” HUH? I could guarantee that if I took a sentence verbatim from a text I dug up in the library special collections, my professor would never know. I didn’t, because that was not right – I could just as easily put quotes around it and use it properly.

    The problem here is with the students, not their access to technology. They seem to fail to understand that knowledge is accretive: we stand on firming layers of knowledge that others have laid down. There is no shame in merely pulling together existing knowledge in a novel way. They seem to believe that they are going to advance the ball in huge, hail-mary passes instead of handing it off at the line of scrimmage — and that in routine homework assignments! It’s a special kind of hubris and bespeaks the utter failure of the education system (and probably their parents).

    This corresponds to what I’ve seen of these geniuses in the workplace: a lack of attention to detail and ordinary hard work and a demand to be instantly in charge of the department on account of how fantastic they are.

    More to the point, who are they going to plagiarize when they need to write a letter to the client?

    1. Rex

      I recall going to school to learn information from the many who had spent their lives gathering it. Seeped in the brew of this knowledge I wanted to go forth to use it and, hopefully, grow it.

      I get the impression that now education is more viewed as passing a test for a passport to wealth and fame.

      Let them reap what they sow.

      1. Ina Deaver

        You are right, of course: it all depends on what your goal is. If higher education is just a credential you have to buy, rather than a process of improving how your brain works and learning your own limitations, why not cheat all the way through?

        But it certainly explains a lot about why purportedly educated people are so infrequently competent.

        1. Skippy

          Kids emulate the success’s of their betters, cheating has become the main stream american ethos, just turn on the TV.

          1. aet

            All of the above comments betray no familiarity at all with an apprenticeship system for technical vocational training, the most useful of all educational paths.

            How can it be, that the American hand was severed from the American head?
            Is this what becomes of scrapping Latin education in the “advanced” stream of higher education?

            If you cannot get academics right, try at least to get the mechanics right!

          2. aet

            How can one “cheat” in the manufacture of the simplest machine tool?

            The simplest cheapest way to achieve the required standard ( after fully accounting for externalities) is always the best way to make anything.

            I guess that does not hold for the products of “study”.

          3. Skippy

            Said just like a project mgr that has never spent a day on the tools. BTW how many microns (wet) of zinc primer do you need to achieve a film build of 90 microns dry, how many microns of high build normally do you need for saltwater immersion, followed by top coat.

            Why don’t we use super board feet when ordering timber any more, why don’t firemen like roofs on houses built the last 15 years[?] hint gang nails,

            Why do countries like Australia have major infrastructure built over seas, only to have to inspect and then reconcile so much work but find it advantageous.

            Skippy…why does the left hand not know what the right hand does.

          4. aet

            My only point was that “cheating” in an apprenticeship or vocational training program is not really possible: either you can do the tasks or not.
            It’s different in the academic disciplines.

            It seems to me that the “cheating” here being discussed is not really possible in trades education.
            Although there is some no doubt in the “written portion” of the courses which journeymen may need to undertake, such is marginal in importance.

            How can one cheat in the performance of a task, rather than the composition of written responses?
            Either one can accomplish the task, or not.

          5. aet

            Let’s try to put it another way: someone who has failed to learn how to swim has great difficulty cheating on the swimming exam.
            As opposed to the written portion of that test.

      2. anon

        This reminds me of something my supervisor has always said; “education is the only commodity that people are willing to pay less in order to get more”…

        E.g. suppose the registrar were to setup a deal where students could pay for class credits, without actually taking the course. He says the university would be filled with requests for this ‘credit swap’ and I unfortunately must agree.

    2. Conor

      Ina Deaver,

      Another big problem is the subject of ethics doesn’t seem to be emphasized in higher education – let alone any matriculation. Maybe it’s something one gets exposed to more in a Liberal Arts education than in the pursuit of MBA’s… And we certainly know how much value Humanities has anymore.

      1. Conor

        One more little thought on the subject of cheating:

        We have raised the bar so high in America to receive a collage education – specifically in term of the monetary debt most students must incur to receive one – that it’s almost necessary to resort to less than honorable tactics.

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but it most European countries, one only need bring good grades and effort and the state subsidizes an education. A good investment in that countries future, I should think.

        All the way around it is depressing.

        1. Ina Deaver

          Actually, Conor, I think that there is definitely something of a mismatch between students and education here. In Europe, it is only those who are shunted to preparatory education, and who show an aptitude for school, who go on to University. Society is paying for the education, so sees a benefit in providing it to those who are most likely to use it well. There are many other paths to choose – at least in Germany, you can go to Fachhochschule and be trained for a trade, or to a business training school and be trained for office work. The openly recognize that not everybody should go to University, and that it is a good idea to apprentice plumbers and electricians. Nutty, huh?

          Whereas here we have the idea that there is no one so minimally gifted that there isn’t a “university” that will take them – or more to the point, their money. The creeping requirement for a BA to do incredibly menial jobs is entwined so deeply it is hard to tell which is the chicken and which is the egg. The whole thing is stupid, and not likely to help with the problem of becoming entirely a service economy. The imbalances and policy failures go very deep, indeed.

          1. S Brennan

            I agree with you Ina,

            The article did not discuss the very good economic reasons for cheating…ie we have a dysfunctional society with a “winner take all” compensation system. Such compensation systems attract, breed and brood sociopaths.

            When I was in a top 5 engineering school, a great number of students would regularly walk out of test 5 minutes after the start. The fraternities kept files of old tests and homework because the profs were too lazy to write original questions, many students simply had know how to change the numbers while rewriting the proof to receive the top grade. Those of us who had to use the whole fifty minutes were thought of as stupid and slow, by the Proffs and Frat boys.

            As a side some years later I met one Frat boy while working the Super Sonic Tunnel at an aerodynamics lab, he had a model built for testing. The nacelles had been glued on, carbon fibre to 304 CRES with epoxy without any mechanical interlocking system. I was concerned that this would fail and told him so. He laughed me off and reminded me I was always the last to leave the test room. I reminded him this was a blow down tunnel which had a wide temperature swing and he two materials with very dissimilar thermal coefficients of expansion, could he show me notes where accounted for this? He pointed out his higher status and mocked my intelligence again pointing to his superior school work. We tested his model because a blow down tunnel does not recirculate so a part lost to the stream hits a “target” and is destroyed.

            The nacelle fell off during it first run. Really, no big deal, maybe 20,000.00 – 30,000.00 in costs…but

            Grades are over rated as predictors, they test for a set of conditions that rarely occur in the real world and they confer at an early age a superior intelligence that may, or may not, be present. Many who got higher grades stopped learning and started forgetting the day they graduated…others continued to learn, but our society makes no provision for the latter and that is how we wind up with “the best and the brightest” making buffoons of themselves. They never did their own analysis, never questioned what they were told.

          2. anon

            Brennan, I wasn’t at a top 5 engineering school — maybe top 30, but your anecdote reminds me of a signals & systems class I had to take. I found out half-way through the class that the professor always assigned the same questions for homework and used the same problems on exams, with just a few numbers changed. Many of the students in the class were cheating on both the homework and the exams (e.g. storing the solutions to problems as text in their graphing calculators). I didn’t cheat, but the professor was horrible, and I had to work doubly hard to learn the material on my own with the help of a few good books. I think if there hadn’t been so much rampant cheating in that class, the department would have been more clued in to what a horrible teacher the professor was. In general, I think rampant cheating hurts everyone, not just the individuals that are cheating themselves out of a good education.

    3. Bates

      Even Einstein famously said that he ‘stood on the shoulders of the greats that came before him’, meaning Newton, et al.

      Expecting students at any level to have original, and conclusively proven, original thoughts on every homework assignment is ludicrous. Few people, students or otherwise, have a single original thought in their entire lifetime.

      That said, attribution for thoughts or prior work by others, must always be given…otherwise the ‘work by students’ is simply theft.

      1. bob goodwin

        Einstein plagerized those remarkes from Newton who was actually making a joke about how short Robert Hooke was.

    4. bob goodwin

      Cheating in school did not start with this generation. Even though I went to an ivy league engineering school in the 70s (it is somewhat harder to bluff your way though engineering school). I can personally attest to the willingness of students – even good ones – to take shortcuts. There were only two things that were important, the knowledge and the credentials. And they are not necessarily correlated.

      1. Glen

        Cheating is not certainly not new. The frats have always been know for keeping records of exams. I attended an engineering college (during the late 70s) close to Silicon Valley and there were supposedly sabotage occurring in the EE classes where one built microprocessors leading to the students sleeping outside the lab to protect their work.

        What’s different now is one has to be blind not to see that cheating to succeed is now the norm. Wall St collapsed on a massive collusion of fraud and corruption, only to be bailed out and is back to record bonuses. Enron was not a warning, it was a role model.

        The company I work for was hit by a clip artist law firm that specialized in buying up obscure patents and then hitting companies using products supposedly in violation of the patent for bucks – they would never go after the company making and selling the product, only it’s customers. Us engineers wrote up how the patent was junk and provided plenty of examples only to have the lawyers settle.

        BP is another massive example of how cheating to succeed is now the norm. They published bogus clean up plans, cheated on safety systems on the BOP, and ended up causing the world’s largest oil leak and environmental disaster. They will work hard to minimize their loses and stick everybody else with the mess and the bill.

        I would have to say that those schools which crack down too much on cheating, and actually punish violators are not providing their students with the necessary skills to succeed in American capitalism: how to lie, cheat, and steal your way to the top.

  2. Ghost of Joe

    Oh please. Attended a school with a major basketball program many moons ago. The tests you need to worry about are the ones where the “student”-athlete pulls completed bluebooks out of his bookbag and swaps out the books just handed out.

    Americans cheat because they are cynical about the value of academic learning. Always have been.

    1. Ina Deaver

      I was a tutor provided to the basketball players, paid for by the school, to help them actually LEARN from their classes. I got one guy up from an “F” to a “C” in algebra, and that was the proudest guy on campus. They needed a hand, but they weren’t stupid. They were in an untenable spot.

      In part, the school has to have an appropriate attitude regarding its obligations to such students. They tend to take athletes who are remedial cases and then fail to remediate them. I can tell you that I was more proud of our athletics program after I graduated than when I was at the school. It’s another serious problem with the US system, but some schools do a very good job.

      1. Ghost of Joe


        Another way to remediate the problem is just give the test questions and answers (via a “tutor”) in advance. The young man in question graduated and had a terrific NBA career and enhanced the fame and fortune of his alma mater.

        It’s all good, dawg.

  3. Conor

    Anyway, here’s a little positivity for everyone:

    This is what one Reptilapublican said about another Repulsivepublican (who happens to be John (the tan dude)Boehner, of Ohio…

    “ I hear it on the Hill, it’s not reported, Republicans tell me this is a guy who is not the hardest worker in the world after 5 o’clock, 6 o’clock … you can see him at the bars. He’s not a hard worker.”

    *tee-hee-hee* They’re eating each other, like the icky vermin they really are.

  4. EmilianoZ

    The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki has a piece on how auto-dealers seemed to have gained an exemption from the to-be-created CFPA.

    That is weird. I thought the amendment to exempt them had been withdrawn because Senators Jeff Merkley and Carl Levin had attached another amendment (against proprietary trading)to it. How come the auto-dealer exemption finally made it into the bill? What about Merkley-Levin?

  5. Bates

    “June Sees Big Drop in Bankruptcy Filing Rate”

    Yes, big drop…duh…a few sentences into the blather we find the following pearl…

    “On a year-over-year basis, June 2010 was a 6.6% increase [in BKs] from June 2009”

    Are TPTB so desperate for good news about the state of the economy that we must find such non-sense on Naked Capitalism?

    I suggest the lead for the article should have read…’Bankruptcy filings increase 6.6% YOY’…

    The spin continues and will not stop till the bus goes off the cliff. Since many prople simply scan a article lead and never read the entire article they would miss the fact that bad news has a positive headline…Bloomberg and others are constantly offending sensibilities with similar leads that are disconnected from the balance of their stories.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Um, since when has Naked Capitalism ever been in the feel good news business? And do you even remotely KNOW the blog Credit Slips? They aren’t the feel good types either, by a long shot.

      With a pattern like that, up YOY, down relative to prior months this year, a headline pointing out either pattern could be dismissed as misleading.

  6. Valissa

    Great article by Nassim Nicholas Taleb…

    Beware those Black Swans
    Let me summarise my ideas of how Mother Nature deals with the Black Swan. First, she likes redundancies. Look at the human body. We have two eyes, two lungs, two kidneys, even two brains (with the possible exception of company executives) – and each has more capacity than is needed ordinarily. So redundan­cy equals insurance, and the apparent inefficiencies are associated with the costs of maintain­ing these spare parts and the energy needed to keep them around in spite of their idleness.

    The exact opposite of redundancy is naive optimisation. The reason I tell people to avoid attending an (orthodox) economics class and argue that economics will fail us is the following: economics is largely based on notions of naive optimisation, mathematised (poorly) by Paul Samuelson – and these mathematics have contributed massively to the construction of an error-prone society. An economist would find it inefficient to carry two lungs and two kidneys – consider the costs involved in transporting these heavy items across the savannah. Such optimisation would, eventually, kill you, after the first accident, the first “outlier”. Also, consider that if we gave Mother Nature to economists, it would dispense with individual kidneys – since we do not need them all the time, it would be more “efficient” if we sold ours and used a central kidney on a time-share basis. You could also lend your eyes at night, since you do not need them to dream. …

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      All those redundancies are nice – two brains, two eyes, etc.

      So, why do we have some very important body parts that are not redundant?

  7. doc holiday

    PRP: The Proven Solution for Cleaning Up Oil Spills

    The U.S. Coast Guard is always on the prowl for any boaters who expel oil-contaminated water from their bilges. Fines are often thousands of dollars, which makes sense, knowing that every year bilge cleaning and other ship operations release millions of gallons of oil into navigable waters from thousands of discharges of just a few gallons each. The BioSok is such an effective antidote to polluted bilge water, that even the Coast Guard has used it on its boats.

    The basic technology behind PRP is thousands of microcapsules—tiny balls of beeswax with hollow centers. Water cannot penetrate the microcapsule’s cell, but oil is absorbed right into the beeswax spheres as they float on the water’s surface. This way, the contaminants—chemical compounds that originally come from crude oil such as fuels, motor oils, or petroleum hydrocarbons—are caught before they settle.


  8. S Brennan

    Speaking of dumb monkeys Edward Glaeser economics professor at Harvard says:

    Cutting taxes for low-income workers makes better economic sense than spending on infrastructure projects such as high-speed rail. Arguing that unemployed workers need tax cuts more than jobs, we celebrate our national dominance in privileged white wankers from the University of Chicago.

    Edward Glaeser economics professor at Harvard says: “if America does embrace another stimulus round, we should limit the government’s role to being the big borrower rather than the big spender. Cutting payroll taxes for lower-income workers who have just been unemployed…extending unemployment benefits aids those hit hardest by the downturn, but at the cost of reducing the incentives to find a job.”

    He goes on to pontificate “While it is easy to get all misty-eyed about the Tennessee Valley Authority, public spending on roads or high-speed rail can be enormously wasteful…[it] may temporarily increase employment and gross domestic product, but it does so by burning a billion dollars on something no one wants. Infrastructure is serious business, and it is impossible to spend quickly and wisely.”

    So the while the Professor says he is unbiased in the matter, infrastructure expenditures like TVA wastes billions, unemployment insurance is bad…because unemployed people are lazy…and tax cuts solve everything.

    Just to make sure you see how wise this man is he tosses in this platitude…”While wading in ignorance, it’s best to avoid the paths near the most dangerous depths.” Apparently, the NY/DC nexus agree, what this nation really needs…is more platitudes

    …and the band played on.

    1. Sundog

      Seems the private-jet wing of the tea party movement is having a shindig in Colorado.

      They acknowledge that the real fiscal problem has to do with long-term health care expenditures and propose importing 200,000 medical professionals per year on H1-B visas, expanding Veterans Administration drug purchase negotiations to include the entire federal government and all the states, and implementing a crash program of discovering and propagating best practices throughout all the nation’s hospitals.

      Hah, just kidding! They actually want to gut social security, medicare and medicaid, and blame all our troubles on Obama. Surprise!
      (65-minute video)

  9. anonymous

    I teach and do research. It’s astonishing to watch the same individuals who know plenty of folks who fudge their taxes, break traffic laws, and otherwise demand the right to ‘set their own standard’ of compliance with laws they deem silly or inconsistent get the vapors when the less advantaged start jumping the line.

    The last president of the United States had enough money and enough political connections to be admitted and progress through a series of elite schools. He may or may not have cheated, but he certainly didn’t need to because his teachers cheated for him, with the tacit support and approval of the administration.

    The current occupant of the Oval Office is a poster child for circumventing the rules and we’re all living with the consequences of his political cowardice and lack of imagination.

    I feel cheated myself.

    1. patterson

      “…but he certainly didn’t need to because his teachers cheated for him, with the tacit support and approval of the administration.”

      What are you saying?

      1. anonymous

        You really can’t be ignorant of the fact that money and influence allows universities to offer places to the children of the rich and powerful. Are you?

        I’m certainly not about to go back over the details of the Bush case. He might have made the claim himself.

        I’ve spent time in and around the same institutions: teacher’s don’t fail the boss’s daughter or son. One finds a way to issue a pass grade for the children of the rich, especially if they donate or raise funds to the institution.

        Heaven help the lower classes who figure they’ll create their own special environment. A community of cheats.

        When the numbers are hitting 60 percent, we need to ask seriously if the student community is an anomaly or an accurate reflection of the nation at large.

  10. ScottP

    The whole Chineses banking sector has problems. These banks are reporting quite low non performing loan ratios; it seems at odds with reports of impending housing crashes.

  11. Conor

    GREAT GODDESS IN THE SKY!!! Will someone please softly, kindly, gently put David Brooks down!

    With X, Y, Z and I and Q… And I really think he’s suffering from Paul Krugman envy, or something. Sheesh! Give him a damned Nobel prize and send him to the glue factory, OK!!!? His mommy no doubt was sniffing it when she was preggers with little David – that must be it!

    And I thought SIV stood for Structured Investment Vehicle. NO!! It actually means Stupid Idiotic and really Vacuous.

    1. patterson

      I refuse to click on any link or read anything by David Brooks. He’s what happens when you give George Costanza a job as a Times columnist.

      1. Conor

        (heh,heh,heh)… If you have high blood pressure that’s probably a good idea. On the other hand, since we all – well, maybe not ALL of us – know that David Brooks is a twit, it’s occasionally a good idea to know what is going on in the twitlesphere.

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Cheating, lies and mistrust…

    It depends on the meaning of what ‘is’ is… or in this case, how do you go about cheating the defintion of ‘cheating.’

  13. Mrvin Wilson

    Students all over the world have been always cheating,
    and they will be cheating till the end of time.
    The point is to make them pay for it – bad students should not be hired – but sent to dig ditches instead.

  14. Sundog

    Spencer Ackerman just keeps on slammin’, now at Danger Room and that turn of events is very much deserving of a link on NC. Especially in the wake of the McMasters bail or betrayal, whichever way one interprets it, guys like Ackerman who’ve been reporting from the thickets deserve recognition and support and to know that we want to know.

    Last month, Army Colonel Randy George completed a year-long tour leading the nearly 5800 soldiers of Task Force Mountain Warrior in some of Afghanistan’s most violent and vexing areas: Nangarhar, Nuristan, Kunar, and Laghman provinces, a mountainous part of the country home to about 3.7 million people, 33 tribes and sub-tribes, and over 300 kilometers’ worth of porous border with tribal Pakistan.
    … …
    George titled of those slides “How Locals Ranked The Enemies To Progress.” Through the locals’ eyes, the slide reported four big challenges. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban rank dead last. A “Corrupt and Ineffective Government” is number one.
    … …
    There’s outrage over government officials who charge bribes for the provision of government services. And there’s resentment over “illegitimate” or “non-existent” rule of law. The government is seen as “Un-Islamic and People Don’t Want to Connect,” George’s slide notes.
    … …
    The area has natural resources — like timber with high-grade cedar — that could serve as economic drivers. But as the Wall Street Journal has documented, in 2006 the Karzai government instituted a ban on logging as a questionable save-the-forests maneuver. Unsurprisingly, logging didn’t stop. It just went underground and became illicit, benefiting the insurgency and reinforcing what George’s slide called a “take what you can get when you can get it” mentality that the locals resent.

    Spencer Ackerman, “East Afghanistan Sees Taliban as ‘Morally Superior’ to Karzai”

  15. Kia Dealer NY

    I got the opportunity to drive the new Kia forte with the economy package and was astonished. Roomy, comfortable and peppy. They really nailed this one. I have heard that the silica tires are expensive to replace, is it true?

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