Friday, September 20, 2013

Universities are cash cows

Some quick facts:

In 1981, room and board at Harvard Universirty for an undergrad cost $9170.
In 2012, room and board at Harvard Univeresity for an undergrad cost $54,496. (source:

Using inflation calculator at, the total amount of inflation from 1981 to 2012 was 152.6%.  That means (using their calculator), something that cost $9170 in 1981 should have cost $23,161 in 2012.  It's true that not all costs rise at the same rate, but it's not like the base costs of a university are all that different from what the costs are in general for a university.  It's not a highly specialized market like gold or microchips

One more comparison:

In 1981, the endowment of Harvard University was $1.622 billion.
In 2012, the endowment of Harvard University, after a bad year, shrank to $30.7 million.

Again, using the calculator, a fixed investment growing at the rate of inflation in 1981, starting at $1.622 billion should be at about $4.1 billion.  Now of course we expect investments to outpace inflation.  And that explains part of how the endowment grew faster than inflation.  But also, we need to account for the continued new donations to the endowment.

But all of this gets us back to the basic point here.  The Harvard endowment is growing at a pace far outstripping the rate of inflation.  But in spite of that, the cost of tuition (and room and board) is also growing at a pace far outstripping the rate of inflation.

Something is seriously messed up here.  Universities like Harvard are simply becoming huge depositories for cash.  Its endowment has taken on a life of its own, completely untethered to covering the costs of running a university.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Best of Bond IV...Old Bond

Bond, Part IV

This post has been slow in coming, probably in part because these are the dismal years.  Let's face it: Roger Moore stayed with the role too long.  By the end of his run he was 57 and looking it.

So...the late Moore films.  A mixed bag - not uniformly bad but only one of the bunch is actually good in my opinion.  We last left the series with Moonraker, a film that has not aged well.  Then there was For Your Eyes Only, a film that has aged well.  And then we have the slow decline into Octopussy and the face plant known as A View to a Kill.

I think when I started this series I may have said that Never Say Never Again would be tucked in with the two Timothy Dalton films.  While that would partition the films more evenly, I think it's more natural to throw it in with the Old Roger films, since it was contemporaneous with Octopussy and has many of the same flaws (in addition to its own unique flaw!)

While the previous round of Roger Moore films featured super villains in hidden mega-complexes threatening to destroy the world, the later films eased up a bit on those cliches.  Still a lot of gadgets, though.  And a lot of camp.  Almost no concern for realism.

Let's recall the criteria in this series of evaluations again:

  • Bond – who the actor is, how good he is, and what he brings to the role
  • the Villain- Mr. Big, Scaramanga, etc.  I judge the films on how compelling the villain is.
  • the Bond Women – some films have few, some have many, but I’m pretty sure all have at least one. The quality ranges from Denise Richards’s absurd nuclear physicist to, of course, Mrs. Bond herself, not to mention Pussy Galore
  • the Good Guys – M, Q, Moneypenny, Felix Leiter in his many incarnations and other sidekicks
  • the Henchmen on the other side like Jaws, Oddjob, and Nick-Nack.
  • the gadgets – not just judging how neat the gadgets are, but whether they were unwisely allowed to take over the film (as often happened with the later Roger Moore filims)
  • whatever else I happen to think of

And now we move to

For Your Eyes Only

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Oppose military strikes on Syria

The reasons should be obvious

  • Syria is not threatening the US
  • Yes, somebody used sarin gas, but we don't know who
  • But even if we knew for a fact that it was Assad, the US isn't the world's policeman
  • Few things outrage me more than a government demanding a sequester in domestic spending while finding the money to drop bombs on Arabs.
  • Bombing is just going to create more chaos in Syria, not less...and that will lead to
  • escalation.

We tend to live in a reverie that presumes that the current way that our society is organized can persist indefinitely.  But there are many reasons why our current path cannot persist: dependence on non-replaceable fossil fuels, the effects of global warming (including the drought in Syria), and others.  Right now few things are as easy to get our government to do than to attack some small country that annoys us for some reason.  So I don't want to hear the song-and-dance about how our "credibility" is at stake.  I'm willing to stipulate that Assad is a terrible man.  But so are most of the rebels opposing him.

The way our society is running, we take a real shallow, short-attention span solutions to any problem outside our borders (and many inside).

As some point soon I'm going to revisit the legacy of the "Arab Spring."  Let's just say for now that it isn't pretty.