The NCAA's ruling on UNCheat (aka Chapel Hillary)

I have no words.

So I'll borrow Dennis Dodd's: "There is no more academic fraud. Cheating might as well be a major."

Now, to be fair, there were at least two attempts to explain--not excuse, but explain--the decision. One is on Bill Simmons's site: "North Carolina Was Always Going to Get Off in the NCAA’s “Paper Class” Investigation". Here's its key point:

More importantly, the athletes involved did not breach their status as amateurs by taking the paper classes. And that’s a problem for the NCAA, which as an organization really only has the authority to deal with amateurism-related violations.

Excuse me? Why then does the NCAA nominally set academic eligibility requirements which all Division I schools make a huge--huuuuge!--production out of complying with? To wit:

Student-Athletes are required to meet and maintain certain academic standards in order to practice and compete in Division I athletics.  


The Academic Performance Program (APP) is designed to ensure Division I student-athletes receive exemplary educational and intercollegiate-athletics experiences.  The APP encourages student-athlete graduation through a reward and penalty system directly tied to a team’s academic performance. The APP umbrella covers both the Academic Progress Rate (APR) and Graduation Success Rate (GSR). 

I'm sorry, but while we thank you for playing, this explanation is no good.

The other attempted explanation I saw was from the usually extremely insightful Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine, "Widespread Academic Corruption Lets UNC Sports Off the Hook". Paul's argument is that while the charge was that UNC provided "unfair benefits" to the athletes in the form of these phony courses, the phony courses were provided probably with the purpose and certainly with the result of helping all UNC students who shouldn't have been admitted in the first place.  Hence, no "unfair benefits" and no penalty. 

The charge of "unfair benefits" was made because the enforcement staff thought that that would be a more acceptable charge. Charging fraud would, it was thought, put the NCAA in the position of assessing the academic quality of a member institutions' courses which the NCAA has vehemently said it cannot do. 

But fraud it was! There's ample documentary evidence that these were not "easy courses". They were fraudulent courses. (And I think the evidence clearly shows they were conceived and implemented solely to help the athletes not anybody else.) Don't believe me? Allow me to quote from the NCAA's decision memorandum, first page:

Within the academic review of the classes outside the NCAA infractions process, UNC told its accrediting body that the 18 years of academic conduct was "long-standing and egregious academic wrongdoing." It also originally adopted it's accreditor's characterization of the wrongdoing as "academic fraud".

The details are many and are so, so gory. If you want a decent summary, written in a white-hot fury, by a Dukie, I recommend, "A Pitiful Victory: Lies, damned lies and UNC". It ends this way:

How very sad then that after fighting Jim Crow for decades, after fighting for justice and inclusion, how dreadful is that the former champion of the oppressed welcomed African-American students and athletes to campus, only to exploit many of those athletes for their physical talents and money-making abilities and to fail at the one thing a university is supposed to do.

Enjoy your victory, champs.

This is what you wanted, right?

"The Identification Zoo - Meanings of Identification in Econometrics"

Arthur Lewbel, Boston College, forthcoming in JEL:

Well over two dozen different terms for identification appear in the econometrics literature, including set identification, causal identification, local identification, generic identification, weak identification, identification at infinity, and many more. This survey: 1. provides a general framework for characterizing identification concepts, 2. summarizes and compares the zooful of different terms for identification that appear in the literature, and 3. discusses concepts closely related to identification, such as observational equivalence, normalizations, and the differences in identification between structural models and randomization based reduced form (causal) models.

Related: James Heckman and Burton Singer, AER, May 2017:

Abduction is the process of generating and choosing models, hypotheses, and data analyzed in response to surprising findings. All good empirical economists abduct. Explanations usually evolve as studies evolve. The abductive approach challenges economists to step outside the framework of received notions about the "identification problem" that rigidly separates the act of model and hypothesis creation from the act of inference from data. It asks the analyst to engage models and data in an iterative dynamic process, using multiple models and sources of data in a back and forth where both models and data are augmented as learning evolves.

"Just Because A Dealer Says They Will Order You A Car From The Factory Doesn’t Mean They Can"

Including this, which I didn't know.

I came to find out after a long conversation with Lexus corporate, that Lexus, unlike the European brands, will not build a customer car. The dealership can request a build, but if the factory will only build the most popular configurations and if that particular spec never gets made, the store will never get it.