Higher Education whirlwind. And check your DNS virus

View 721 Tuesday, April 24, 2012


The President has discovered that colleges are expensive and people are graduating with crippling debt, and this is a hell of a way to start life. It’s not fair and unless Congress intervenes the interest rates are going up, and –

Of course Obama took over all college loans and ended the college loan business; it is now a Federal monopoly.

But the real question is, why does all this cost so much? My wife and I both worked our way through college, and all four of our boys got through without lifetime debts. In those days college tuition was high for prestige private colleges, but most people could afford state college or even state university tuition; the tough part was making a living. In my case the Korean GI Bill paid my tuition and left a little over for rent, but eating wasn’t included: I ate through the courtesy of Reich’s Café, two blocks from the campus of the State University of Iowa. Reich’s had what were known as “board jobs”, meaning that you worked an hour as a waiter and in return you got one meal off the regular menu with a few exceptions, except that on certain holidays you could order anything you wanted. You also got to keep your tips, typically in 1953 about forty cents in an hour. Reich’s had been doing this for generations; I found out about it before I decided to go to Iowa, and I got my board job before school opened. I continued at Reich’s until I got a position as an undergraduate assistant.

The federal government won’t allow board jobs now. It exploits the workers. Now waiters have to be paid minimum wage and get all sorts of benefits.

Even so, it’s not the rising cost of living that has made bondsmen of the graduating aspirants to the middle class. It’s still possible to live several to an apartment and eat Purina Monkey Chow (I can tell you from experience that it works: it’s wholesome, has all the vitamins and minerals and such that primate mammals need, and has the added benefit that you can eat all you want of it and you won’t get fat provided of course that you don’t eat anything else. If Purina Monkey Chow is hard to find – it wasn’t in most college towns in my day – you can manage on whatever brand of dog good you fancy but you may want to invest in a good one-a-day vitamin/mineral supplement; dogs have adapted to eat what humans eat, but they’re still no primates. And of course there are more appetizing low cost diets, ramen is cheap, mac and cheese with leeks is pretty good; the point is that the cost of eking out a living for four years isn’t what puts you in debt for life.

Tuition costs are going up. Even as we discover that for about half the college grads the education is useless. See:

 ‘1 in 2 new college grads jobless or underemployed’

What everyone seems to overlook is that the cost of college tuition will always rise to exceed the amount of money seeking tuition. The more money the government puts into the market, the higher the price of college, and it will trickle down from Harvard to the meanest community college. When more money chases goods, the price of the goods goes up; and if government then acts to increase the money supply, the price will rise without limit. Evan as I write this, the faculty of the California State Universities is voting to authorize a strike because they have not had raises in four years, poor things. The California State Universities were in the master plan to be the State Colleges, undergraduate institutions kept cheap and open essentially to everyone qualified to be in a a State College. They were to incorporate the State Teachers Colleges, and be the primary undergraduate education system; outstanding students would be accepted at or allow to transfer to the State University system, which would have a monopoly on graduate education.

The State College took over the State Teachers Colleges and next thing you know they needed to offer graduate degrees in education (although there is no evidence that those who have graduate degrees in education are any better at teaching, and in fact California State Colleges for twenty years taught such an ineffective system of reading that the illiteracy rate in California soared; but that’s for another story. If you know anyone about to enter the California state public schools, go to www.readingtlc.com and get my wife’s reading program so the kid will learn to read even if the teacher is a Cal State grad.) Anyway, all the Cal States offer graduate degrees in everything, and most of them are not very useful; but so long as the money supply lasts the costs will continue to rise, the faculties will be paid and paid and overpaid and pensioned off at very high levels, and the dance will continue.

So now it is becoming manifest that not only is the public school system nearly worthless, but half the graduates of the higher education system are unemployable.

There are solutions to this, most of them drastic, and we know how to have good higher education institutions. But so long as we are willing to pay for it, we’ll continue to have what we get. Charlie Sheffield and I played with this decades ago in a book called HIGHER EDUCATION. Alas it is not yet a Kindle book (I’m working on it). But the decay of our institutions of higher education under the relentless attacks of the government shoveling in money and the Iron Law assuring that the money will be accepted and overspent continues. And the beat goes on. We sowed that wind a long time ago, so why are we astonished at what we reap now?

Niven and I will address this in our new novel, which is a story of how we fixed things. Obviously there is a bit of a fairy tale in such a story. But you’ll like it a lot. Meanwhile, make sure your kids can read. By read, I mean that by the end of second grade they can read any word in the English language including “big words” like Constantinople and Timbuktu but also polyethylbichloridetoluene. If they can’t read that word – slowly and with difficulty and of course without understanding because there ain’t no such thing – they can’t read. “Reading at grade level” means illiterate. Make sure you understand that if you have children or grandchildren ‘reading at grade level.’ Go to www.readingtlc.com for more information.


Subject: Hundreds of thousands may lose Internet in July


I believe setting this network up in response to users back in November was a good idea, but it’s time to shut it down. The FBI is doing absolutely correct in shutting it down now as users need to be responsible for their own machines.

If you aren’t running a high quality Antivirus, get Microsoft Security Essentials, it’s free, updates automatically and is relatively unobtrusive: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/products/security-essentials

I’d also recommend downloading, installing and running Malwarebytes on a regular basis, the free version works fine: http://www.malwarebytes.org/products/malwarebytes_free

Tracy Walters, CISSP

There’s a flurry of mainstream radio show discussion of the DNS Changer Trojan (the subject of the letter above), enough so that it’s probably worth while for readers to check your systems. Those with properly updated Windows systems don’t have anything to worry about. Those with Mac systems may or may not have a problem, but if you aren’t careful you almost certainly will install an annoyance. There are a number of tools that will check your Mac for the DNS Changer, and they’re free and reliable; but they come with a confusing offer for a Mac Cleaner program that if you’re not careful will get you to download it. It’s not malware. It’s just annoying. It will find a ton of things that it will try to persuade you to do – all you have to do is pay them for their cleaner, which, as it happens, isn’t part of the scanning package.

And it will keep trying to scan, and stopping the scan isn’t easy. Eventually you can delete this thing and find a less annoying program that will scan for DNS Changer. Be careful who you get it from. There are, of course, places you can go for a virus scanner that will actually install the virus for you.

If you stay with major sources you won’t get the virus, but if you are not careful — remember you don’t have to do a general scan to find out if you have the DNS Changer, which you probably don’t have anyway — you can set yourself up for major annoyances, particularly if you’re using a Mac. I suppose there are as many annoyance traps for Windows users, too, but most people with Windows are used to finding ways periodically to scan their systems just in case something snuck in, and the Windows Live Security Essentials takes care of this thing anyway. Windows users get their annoyances in daily doses from Windows. Mac users don’t have so many of those, but because they tend to take security for granted, they don’t know just what’s coming when they do try to look into it.

Anyway, it’s good for your peace of mind to check for the DNS Changer infection, which used to be nearly ubiquitous before the scanners and fixers and updates got its measure.


I’m doing a column, and yes, it’s a bit late. But I’m getting there. We’ll cover the year, some trends, Alien Artifact my new computer with its really great Thermaltake case and power supplies, and I’ll review a bunch of books. And more.


I have a lot of mail, and I’ll try to get that up now.




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