University Professors Teach Too Much: Part II

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

In no way should college teachers be judged by what research they produce, if any. Lists of papers and books should be forbidden to appear on CVs used for promotion. Those who now spend most of their time teaching are forced to emit “scholarly” output, just like researchers. Most of this output is of little use, is redundant, or is of poor quality. The number of journals created just to publish this material continues to grow, which is a needlessly expensive situation for libraries. These facts are well known.

A high-ranking professor at a prestigious university once told me, in reference to what counts for promotion, that “I add up the number of papers a person has and then subtract two for every one that appears in Journal X.” We all know Journal X is where bad papers go to die a lonely death. Every field has multiple Journal Xs.

Requiring teachers to write papers is asking them to do what they are not good at. If they were good at it (and had the desire), they would be researchers and not teachers. Teachers are wasting time publishing an article in the South-by-Southwest Far East Asia Journal of Research: C when they could have been polishing a lecture, holding extra office hours, or in just plain reading. It is a waste because the paper will never be read by anybody except the one or two referees attached to the journal, and it fools the teacher into thinking he has been productive. It also fools the promotion committee (which obsessively counts papers) into thinking they are measuring the ability of the teacher to do his job.

Counting papers is like eating opium: it is an addiction everybody knows its wrong, but nobody can resist. It’s only a wonder academics don’t receive spam promising a “Proven method to grow your paper numbers. 7++ new citations! Make Deans scream in delight!!!”

Teacher evaluations should disappear forthwith. In their current form, they are useless or even harmful. The kid who has just completed (I do not say “passed” or “understood”) “Introduction to Sociology” is in no position to judge whether what he has been taught is useful, or even to tell us he has learned what he should have. His ignorance is why he is at college.

College students are not customers1 and should not be asked to fill out customer complaint forms, which are, as all know, mere reflections of the grade each student receives in the course: higher grades, better evaluations. These evaluations are thus nothing but indicators of how entertained students were in their twelve- to sixteen-week sojourn. This being both true and well known, teachers change their material to ensure better evaluations2. Where this has led us is obvious.

The lust for purely quantitative measures of performance should not be sated. It leads to over-certainty and blindness to non-quantitative aspects of ability. Unsolicited student commentary, peer evaluation, and other obvious indicators are sufficient to judge teacher quality.

It is easy to judge the mettle of researchers: money and quality of result. But even here, the rush towards quantitative measures should be resisted. It is difficult to bring in the bucks for projects that aren’t considered sexy or are foundational (where the payoff is miles away; compared to hot topics where a paper per month could be pumped out). However, these provisos being read, universities, on average, rate quality of research reasonably well.

The research institute arms of universities evolved this ability by not doing more than paying lip service to teaching quality. If they paid more, they would never let a graduate student within a mile of a classroom of freshmen. Nor would departments hire adjuncts to handle “overflow” based merely on the adjunct having the credential of “M.A./M.S.” or “PhD,” but having no particular expertise in the subject. And just what is “overflow”?

Incidentally, by “lip service” I mean the annual pantomime where an administrator slathers on bright red lipstick and tells the most outrageous lies about how important teaching is to the “mission” of the university. Nobody believes this because, of course, it is not true.

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

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1But see Part III.

2I am reminded of The Onion headline, “Teacher forced to sleep with student for better evaluation.”

If you are a professor or researcher, please email this article to a colleague or administrator.

University Professors Teach Too Much: Part I

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

We are asking our best university professors to spend too much time in the classroom. It would be better for all if these professors were not made to toil the five to seven-plus hours a week required to competently teach classes such as “Pre-college mathematics” and “Introduction to reading” to ill-prepared, largely unmotivated high school graduates.

What should they do instead? What they do best: figure things out, tell us what they have found, and train apprentices to carry on their work after they have gone.

Here is what everybody knows: the best researchers are often not the best teachers. Statistically, the relationship is negatively correlated. Prowess in the lab implies indexterity in the classroom. This is natural. An individual managing four graduate students, one post-doc, writing a new grant, revising an old one, and writing papers from the results of a third cannot devote adequate energy to preparing a Friday-morning quiz on “What is a paragraph?” to freshmen, of which a non-trivial fraction are hungover or otherwise sleep deprived. I am speaking “on average”, of the predominant reality, and therefore it would be a fallacy to counter with examples of exceptional researchers who are also brilliant teachers.

The difficulty with the spate of books and articles on the awfulness of higher education is that each picks one culprit that, once defeated, will release the system from its bonds. This assumes a linearity of ills. But this is not found in practice. There is not one problem, there are many, and each is related to the other in the same way tangled fishing lines lead to hooks. The best we can hope for is incremental, occasional improvement.

One increment is this: increase class buyouts and make them all or nothing. We all know people who boast they do not have to teach. The implication is that they have more time to do the real work to which they are best suited. Those who would devote themselves to productive, useful research—as defined by external grant agencies and companies—should not be forced into teaching, which eats valuable time. Let those who would run their professorships like businesses do so. This system has proven itself in producing lasting and valuable knowledge.

Universities should become bipartite: college and research institute under one banner. In practice, each would—and should—have little to do with the other, though they would share the same name and school colors. The college mandate is to teach all undergraduate courses and those graduate courses which are non-specialized. The people that man colleges should not be researchers—unless, as will be rare, somebody wants to cross the line and write a paper on a subject dear to them. The people that man research institutes should not be teachers—unless, as will be rare, somebody wants to cross the line for a temporary change of scenery. It would be best if some “universities” eschew all research (via attrition of workers) and become solely colleges. Other universities should separate from, or eliminate their college components, and become solely research institutes.

At first, this system is bound to produce jealousies. Teachers in colleges will look at their better paid brethren and sisthren in research institutes and feel envy. When reporters come calling for quotes about what the “Latest research shows…” they will do so at research institutes and not colleges. Teachers will ask, “Why do I have to teach five classes a semester when Joe just sits in his office writing grants?”

It will be in vain to explain that this compares apples to oranges. Teachers aren’t researchers, and researchers aren’t teachers. It will do little good to say, “Okay, if you want to do research, then do it. Spend your sabbatical writing a grant and change jobs.” One job is not inherently superior to another: they cannot be, because they are different things. Apples are only superior to oranges if you want to make pie. If anything, teaching is the more crucial position to society, though it is true that the wait for results is long.

To alleviate pain, we can employ a device businesses use: inflated titles. Just as all those who were stock boys are now “Associates”, teachers, dissatisfied with being called “Professor” when researchers share that label, could be called Exalted Expostulators, Level III. Even better, researchers should not be given the title of “Professor.” Just call them “Researchers” (and prefix this with “Associate” etc. to indicate rank).

The “PhD” should not be a requirement to teach. Nor should the lack of it, as William James admonished us over a century ago, be a bar to research. Having those letters are surely correlated with ability, but they are not especially predictive of it, particularly in teaching. It is ability that should be measured, not raw credentials. Having graduated college—but not having been apprenticed to a researcher—is the minimum necessary to teach. Researchers retired from active pursuit of papers and profits often make good teachers, though most of this improvement comes from the seasoning of years.

Overhead—that large percent that is tacked onto most grants but which is not given to researchers and instead disappears into the labyrinth of administration–in this system should be easier to track. Monies brought in by research institutes should remain on that side of the universities. Student tuition should likewise stay in colleges. Since these are separate organizations (though perhaps under one roof), their budgets should not be mixed. Success in one area does not imply success in the other. Good teachers should not finance poor research, nor should productive researchers be forced to pay for the existence of departments that have nothing to do with them.

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

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If you are a professor or researcher, please email this article to a colleague or administrator.

Dear English Rioter

Dear English Rioter,

I suppose it wasn’t hard to learn how to fill light bulbs with ammonia (nasty stuff). But how did you bring yourself to throw that first one into a policeman’s face? You knew it was going to cause pain, probably lasting injury, maybe even blindness. Yet you could, and did, still throw it.

Does the harm and misery that you caused bother you, even a little? I do not ask for effect, I really want to know. Do you think you should be punished for this attack on another man, or do you think you should escape responsibility? That, somehow, society owes it to you to let you maim and wound other people?

Your picture was in the paper. Your face was obscured by a mask, but I could see the rest of you. Expensive jeans, stylish tennis shoes (or is it “trainers”?), a nice warm jacket. I should have said, “stuffed into a warm jacket” because you appear well fed. You had a backpack and carried a cell phone, a convenient tool that let you keep in contact with your brother protesters.

It’s not clear what made you want to hurt another man, but if I read the sign you carried correctly, it’s because you worked yourself into a froth because some people have more money and possessions than you do. You have forgotten that nearly all of these people with more are much older than you, have been working their entire lives, and necessarily have more because of this. The proper comparison is with others—those who stayed at home and did not try to cause grief and misery—of your own age group and inexperience.

It’s also true that you yourself have enough to live comfortably; you are in no danger of starvation or exposure. And there’s that cell phone, what most people in the world would consider a luxury good. Who’s paying the bill for that, your parents? Though I didn’t see it (because it wasn’t in the paper), I imagine you are well equipped with a computer and other electronic trinkets.

It was said by many of the “protesters” who had broken into stores to steal and destroy what wasn’t theirs that they were angry that the Government was proposing, and had already implemented a small number of, “cutbacks.” The logic of the Government is simple: the State is running a deficit and hasn’t the money to pay for a lot of perquisites demanded by you and your brother protesters. Since the vault is empty, there is nothing to hand out. It’s the old story: you can’t give what you don’t have (unless you cheat or lie).

The Government proposes shaving a percentage of the money it gives to “quangos” (honestly, I’ll never master British English), which are “quasi-non-governmental organisations financed by the state and linked to the civil service.” Two of these quangos are the Youth Justice Board and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. As noble as these organizations undoubtedly are, and even though you can’t agree with the cutbacks, do you really think it was worth injuring another human being because the Youth Justice Board will see a slight, and probably temporary, diminution of funds?

I think the real reason you are incensed is because the Government is planning on asking people to pay more for their own college: not pay for all of it, but just “more”: and not a lot more, just a little. Many youth (even in my country) feel that the Government owes them this leisure time, that they should be given free education, merely because they exist.

You might have noticed that I have capitalized “Government”. I did this because you do. “Government”, to you, is a mythical paternalistic entity which is all powerful and capable of illimitable love and beneficence, but which has been (somehow) infected by a parasite (“Taken over by the rich”). You think that if these “rich” can be removed, the money and creature comforts that you feel are owed to you will be restored.

The people that man this Government, weak and anxious to avoid bloodshed, will probably accede to your petulance. And they will eventually come to believe as you do. All will cease to believe the government is made up of people, and will see it as something that exists for itself. The government will become The Government, as in “The Government needs to take care of its people.” History says that there will always be men ready to step in and assume the power so willingly given to them. By you.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Briggs

March Madness Tournament Analysis: Which Seed Has Best Chance Of Winning?

Most know what the structure of the March Madness basketball tournament looks like. I am not most; I had to look it up; what I don’t know about college basketball would fill volumes: nevertheless, I was able to discover this picture. 64 teams are seeded into one of four groups; these teams are paired and play knock-out games, the winner advancing to play the team that bested its opponent, and this continues until one team is left standing. March Madness Tournament Structure

This structure is similar to the First Things Tournament of Novels. There, individual novels paired off, the winners advancing to the next bracket, and so forth. The same structures are also used in playoffs in the major leagues.

There is undoubtedly much extant analysis on the statistical properties of these kinds of tournaments, but my knowledge of these results mirrors my acquaintance with basketball. However, we can say some interesting things with just a little effort. The simplest question is what effect seeding has on the chances of winning the tournament.

Suppose teams (or novels, or whatever) enter the tournament with fixed measures of ability, higher indicating the superior entity (team, novel, etc.). Then it is easy to see that the best team always wins its tournament. This is because no matter where team number 1 is seeded, that team always beats its opponent because its ability is always higher than any other team’s. Thus, if all entities had fixed strengths, then tournaments would be boring, the outcome known before they begin.

It is more likely that teams can be ranked on strength—say, their historical win percentage—and that weaker teams (based on this ranking) have a non-zero chance of beating stronger teams. Clearly, the higher the ranking the more likely it is the better team beats the weaker team. The closer in strength two teams are, the more any contest between them becomes a toss up, i.e. the closer the chance of winning nears 50%.

Teams must be seeded into the “brackets.” This can be done in many ways, but I chose two: random seeding, whereby each team regardless of strength is placed uniformly into the brackets; and by strength, whereby each team is initially matched with its next strongest competitor. That is, the team with the highest strength is initially matched against the team with the second highest strength, and so on.

Some measure of strength must be chosen; actually, all we need is a distance. If the distance, measured in terms of strength, between the best and worst teams is large, then we would expect the best team to have a better chance of winning the tournament than if this distance is small. I used three relative distances: 0.6, 0.4, and 0.2, indicating the strength of the worst team: strength is a number between 0 and 1; think of it like the historical win percentage; the best team always had a winning percent of 0.8.

Suppose a team with a strength of 0.8 faces a team with a strength of 0.4; then the chance the better team wins is

      (0.8 – 0.4) / 2 + 0.5 = 0.7

and so on for all match-ups.

Finally! If there were only 2 teams in the tournament and the distance was 0.6, the chance the best team wins is 80%. If there were 64 teams, and all were randomly seeded, then the chance that the top team wins the entire tournament is about 5% (see the solid black line with open circles).

Tournament Wins Random Seeding

As the distance between the best and worst teams decreases, so does the chance that the top teams takes it all, as we might expect. The top-rated team always has the best chance of winning among all other teams.

The dashed blue line is the “uniform strength line”, it is the chance any team wins if all teams are equally matched at the beginning. Thus, the distance between (say) the black line and the dashed blue indicates the lift superior strength imbues. (The lines are not straight because each point is based on a simulation of 5000 tournaments.)

The other dashed lines indicate the chance that the worst team in the tournament wins. It is also non-zero, but always well below the best team.

Next comes strength, or positioning seeding. The best team still has the highest chance of winning, but that chance is significantly diminished. Even the worst team now has hope. The (simple) lesson is that if the best teams face each other early, rich blood will be shed, leaving the more anaemic teams in a position to do serious damage.

Tournament Wins Strength Seeding

What to do next is best-worst seeding, where the best team is paired with the worse, the second best with the second worst, and so on. Presumably, the best team will have the top chances of winning tournaments like this. Just how much better a chance than with random seeding, I leave for you as an exercise. (R code for the two simulations above can be downloaded here. Try incorporating actual historical win rates.)

This post was inspired by long-time reader J Ferguson.

Religion May Become Extinct, Experts

In 1850 in the Netherlands nearly everybody was a Christian. A century later, three out of four said they still were. But if you believe mathematicians Daniel Abrams and Haley Yaple and physicist Richard Wiener, in just one more century, by 2050, only one in four souls in Ned’s Land will claim to be affiliated with that once great religion.

This diminution isn’t just in the Netherlands, but in Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, and Switzerland too. In all these places, survey data indicates a falling away. (Or, at least, a claimed falling away, survey data being what it is.)

The BBC reports that “Religion may become extinct” in these countries. The BBC is wrong.

The model is simple and only requires that there be at least one person who is unaffiliated. We also need for that fellow to have an affiliated friend ready to be converted. The affiliated soul must look at his pal and say, “It is to my utility that I switch from belief to unbelief.” That perceived “utility” is a measure of strength of attraction the affiliated soul has to his unaffiliated friend’s way of life.

The models assumes that “the attractiveness of a group increases with the number of members” and, as such, “attractiveness also increases with the perceived utility” of the unaffiliated group. These are all plausible assumptions: few like to be the lone man out, and most are joiners. When joiners see that more act a certain way, the stronger is the joiners’ compulsion to act similarly.

To demonstrate plausibility, one unaffiliated commenter to the BBC article says, “About time. Religion has always been nonsense. What a con on the human race.” The ignorance of that comment is not of interest; but the fact that it was said and its militancy is. It is just the sort of comment that will increase the perceived utility of affiliated sou to become unaffiliated.

The model is simple:

     dx/dt = c x (1 – x) (2 u – 1)

where x is the fraction of unaffiliated folk, c is a constant (about 0.2 they say), u (about 0.65) the utility, and t is time. Savvy readers will recognize a logistic growth function (homework: solve the differential equation). As such, given these constants and starting with an x0 > 0, then this equation will inexorably climb to xT = 1 at some time T (actually, almost 1). Hence the BBC’s mistaken prediction that religion will die out. A picture of model fits for four countries is shown; they are reasonable. Unaffiliated with Christianity model

Once all people are unaffiliated (at T), then this model says they will remain so for all time. This is a flaw, or at least a misapplication of the model. Because, of course, the model can be turned around and used to predict the growth of affiliated religious souls. Before there was Jesus there was Thor. Once upon a time, all believed in alternatives to Christianity, yet nearly all people (in Western nations) converted to that religion. In other words, if we start the model at x0 = 0, it will stay at xt = 0 for all t. Thus, this model must remain silent on how new groups are created.

The authors admit that the utility (u) might not be constant and could be a function of time; and they further investigate cliques of humanity such that all belong to one clique or another. The expanded model, however, paints the same picture: the unaffiliated win in the end.

But here is a flaw. The model is dichotomous when, of course, people have many belief systems vying for their attention. Because of the countries where the data arose, “affiliated” can only mean “Christian,” and, when asked, most would answer whether they actively practiced Christianity (e.g., by attending church).

It is true that many main-line Christian churches are losing members, and so the model, in the short term only, does a reasonable job of explaining (and forecasting) this falling off. But it is not true that the model predicts an increase in atheism or other irreligious behavior. Not being Christian does not mean being irreligious.

Neither does telling a pollster that you are an atheist mean you are not religious; it often, to Westerners, merely means “not Christian.” For example, many so-called atheists conspicuously hump yoga mats around city streets on their way to places like Aha Yoga in San Francisco. A place of, so their brochure assures, “spiritual impact” where you can “Calm your soul,” “Clear your mind,” and “to learn how to feel authentically.” That, my unaffiliated friend, is religion.

Thanks to reader Niccolo Machiavelli for bringing this article to our attention.

Do The Rich Pay Their Fair Share?

The answer depends on which country you live. In the United States, the rich not only pay their “fair” share, they pay more. Even stronger, wealthy American citizens pay more than the wealthy in any other country. The place to be, if you are rich and want to sock it away unimpeded by the tax man, is Poland.

Scott Hodge, at the Tax Foundation, put together testimony to the United States Senate’s Budget Committee, which featured a table from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (HT HotAir). This table attempts to show just how much the rich pay in taxes as a share of their wealth in each of 30 developed countries.

I say “attempts” because the data, which is “based on OECD income distribution questionnaire,” must have some amount of error to it. For one, this is data at the household and not individual level (it is easier to mislead with the former statistics). However, the general trend is probably correct (assuming the representatives of each country filling out the forms were not overtly lying, exaggerating, or otherwise dissembling).

Hodge put the data (from 2008) in tabular form, but it works better as a graphic:

Share of taxes the rich pay

The horizontal axis is the percent share the richest 10% in each country pay in taxes. The vertical axis is the percent “share of all market income earned by that group”: it is an estimate of how much the top 10% is really worth. It is obviously imperfect; but the hope is that it is roughly, “on average”, correct.

Now, if we define fair as the top 10% paying the same as their true worth, than the heavy dark line indicates fairness. For example, in the USA the top 10% pay 45.1% of all taxes, but their net worth (or market share) is just 33.5%. If taxes were fair (via this definition), the top 10% would only pay 33.5%.

The rich in Switzerland, Iceland, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Norway, Austria and Germany pay their fair share. I mean, they are close to the dark line. The rich in Poland pay less than their fair share.

There are three dotted lines labeled 10%, 20%, and 30%. Countries falling near these lines pay that much more than their fair share. For example, the rich in France pay 10% more than their fair share. The rich in America pay more than the rich in any other country. Here, they pay 35% more than their fair share.

Besides measurement error, a natural criticism is that the influence/benefit value of money is not linear. That is, it is possible to argue that a household that has a share of wealth of $1 million is more than 10 times more influential/has higher benefits than a household with a share of wealth of $100 thousand. Since the developed countries tend to lie on line different than the “fair” line, it appears most governments make an argument similar to this.

But even if this is true—even if the rich are better off than their share of taxes indicate—it is still true that rich citizens of the United States pay more than rich citizens anywhere else. I repeat: the rich pay more here than anywhere else. And not only more, but much more. This puts the frequent calls to “Make the rich pay their fair share!” on shaky ground.

Further, the burden is on those who make this cry to define exactly, precisely, definitely what they mean by fair.

Last April 15, we looked at what percent share of taxes the top 1% in America pay (we’ll do the same this year). The graph shows that the rich are steadily paying a larger and larger share of taxes in the USA (the data, from the IRS, goes to 2007).

Share of taxes top 1% pay in the USA

This picture shows the share of taxes the “poor” pay in taxes: it is correspondingly less and less each year. It is the case that—at least for income taxes—the bottom 40%-45% of earners pay nothing.

Share of taxes paid by poor in the USA

One definition of fairness is that everybody who is a citizen of a country (or every household), and who receives the benefits thereof, should pay something, even if that something is a pittance. If we use this definition of fairness, then the tax system in America is not fair.

Association Of Irritated Residents Defeats California Air Resources Board’s Global Warming Plan

There is strange news out of California. A San Francisco Superior Court judge has stayed the California Air Resources Board (ARB) plan to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs). Judge Ernest Goldsmith says that the ARB did not adequately consider public input for the plan. The ARB says it will spend a significant amount of taxpayers’ money to appeal Judge Goldsmith’s decision.

These decisions do not mean what you think they do.

California, in 2006, passed the Global Warming Solutions Act which mandated that the ARB prepare and implement a “Climate Change Scoping Plan” to regulate GHGs. Emission levels by 2020 were supposed to be reduced to 1990 levels (this is difficult, considering levels in 1990 were not directly nor comprehensively measured).

The Association Of Irritated Residents—and other groups like the California Communities Against Toxics, and the Society for Positive Action—did not like the ARB’s Scoping Plan, chiefly because the Association Of Irritated Residents et al. did not find their recommendations in the final version of the Scoping Plan. But the Irritated were also sour that the ARB was “excluding whole sectors of the economy from GHG emissions controls.” (All quotes are from Judge Goldsmith’s decision.)

In other words, these special interest citizens groups sued because they did not feel the ARB was going far enough. They want more regulation, not less.

Part of their complaint alleges—and I want you to follow me closely here—that the ARB was only going to mandate “the minimum amount of reductions required to achieve the goal [of reductions to 1990 levels], not the maximum reductions” possible. The Irritated wanted more than the minimum required reductions: they wanted the “maximum technologically feasible reductions.”

Again, the Irritated want more regulation, not less.

Another matter that irked the Irritated was the ARB was going to exclude companies and individuals in the agricultural sector from direct emissions reductions. The ARB reasoned that “reducing emissions from agriculture is problematic because it is a sector comprised of complex biological systems, diverse source types and a complex life cycle analysis.” Indeed, the “Governor’s Climate Action Team estimated that 82 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture involve biological processes associated with complex agro-ecosystems for which there is a substantial gap in scientific knowledge and existing data.”

Not to fear, though, because the ARB was still planning on zinging these companies and individuals, but through “alternative compliance mechanisms, market-based compliance mechanisms” or by using “potential monetary and nonmonetary incentives.”

“Not good enough!” say the Irritated. “Make ‘em cut like everybody else.” The perpetually Irritated want more regulation, not less.

At this point, if it hadn’t already, it becomes confusing. The Irritated, already irritated that the ARB was not going to directly enforce cuts on the agricultural sector, were again incensed that the ARB’s plan of not-enforcing-cuts “did not provide any evaluation of whether or not its decision not to mandate agricultural emissions reductions would disproportionately impact low-income communities…”

In other words, the Irritated imagined that by not enforcing direct cuts “low-income communities”—and not the agricultural entities themselves—would be “disproportionately impacted.” They do not say how; this belief appears axiomatic.

The Irritated do not want less regulation, they want more.

His Honor Judge Goldsmith agreed with the Irritated and, in effect, ruled that the ARB has to have another go at their Scoping Plan. I hasten to add that Judge Goldsmith’s ruling is based on certain technicalities about procedures, filing rules, and precedent. And the victory wasn’t complete for the Irritated: parts of the case went the ARB’s way. And with the ARB’s appeal and fine-tuning of it new rules, it is far from clear that the Irritated, though they took the day, will the war.

The Irritated have their hands full anyway. According to the site Justia.com, which tracks lawsuits, the Irritated are also suing the Fred Schakel Dairy Farm (over cow farts), the C&R Vanderham Dairy (same reason), Foster Farms (same), the EPA (a number of different reasons), and other groups who violated the Irritated’s sense of environmental righteousness.