Monday, 28 April 2003

Alternate careers

Well, if the whole law prof thing doesn’t work out for Eugene Volokh, he can always fall back on the lucrative career of being a local TV station’s consumer reporter. Next time on “Does It Work Blogday,” Eugene tests whether Tide Ultra with Bleach Alternative really gets your clothes whiter.

VodkaPundit on Abu Mazen

I tend to agree with Stephen Green’s take on the meaning of the appointment of Abu Mazen as Palestinian prime minister; on the one hand, there’s the concern that it’s all another Arafat shell game, but on the other it’s fairly clear that the intifada just ain’t working. The presence of over 200,000 U.S. personnel within a 400 mile radius of Ramallah may also have also had a strongly clarifying effect on the minds of the Palestinain Authority higher-ups—it probably doesn’t hurt that a lot of people have the (IMHO wrong) impression that there’s a cabal of bloodthirsty neocons in Washington just waiting for an excuse to wipe the PLO, Hezbollah, Hamas, and PIJ from the face of the earth.

I largely agree as well that the main problem isn’t so much the Palestinians as their enablers in the European Commission, most notably Chris “I used to be for the rule of law, but fuck it” Patten. If the EU can get its own house in order, I suspect the Palestinians, once faced with the full economic consequences of their leaders’ stupidity, will fall into line in short order.

Previously blogged here.

Why haven't they seceded already?

Ottawa’s ignoring one of Canada’s most important provinces, yet there’s not much of a succession movement there, at least not yet. More on Alberta’s perpetual screwing by Her Majesty’s Government is at Colby Cosh’s place, which links to this rather interesting article in The Hill Times (Roll Call à la Canadienne) by a Clinton-era diplomat from the U.S. to Canada. Here’s just a sampling:

From a U.S. perspective, one puzzles over the durability of Canadian unity in the West, and more specifically its attraction for Alberta. A Canadian political maxim has emphasized the patriotic commitment of Western Canadians to Canada, but it appears to be more based in residual sentiment of history than in 21st century logic. Just what is in it for Alberta? What does “Canada” supply that Alberta does not already have or could not supply for itself?

And how do Alberta’s elected leaders get treated by Ottawa?

In Ralph Klein, Ottawa has the most Canada-centric premier Alberta is ever likely to elect. And Ottawa treats him as if he is some inebriated oaf with oil-stained jeans.

The root of the problem?

As long as the Canadian political structure provides only for “rep by pop,” the West would have to have population levels equivalent to Ontario and Quebec to modify the current socio-economic agenda. If, as some Liberals have tongue-in-cheek suggested, Alberta should elect more Liberals, it would still be meaningless. Alberta’s delegation could be 100 per cent Liberals—and still its interests would take a back seat to those of Ontario and Quebec.

I suspect there’s a lesson in here for those Americans who want to abolish the Senate and get rid of the Electoral College. I’ll leave figuring that out as an exercise for the reader.

Good free advice

Jacob Levy at The Volokh Conspiracy has some excellent advice for those who don’t want the Supreme Court expanding the right of privacy. Quoth Jacob:

A note to those whose preferred-policy-position tracks Kurtz’s. If you’re worried about judicial slippery slopes, if you want to head off sweeping court decisions that accomplish too much and push too far, you should get out there and push for legislative repeal of the bad laws that invite such a judicial response. If Texas had repealed its sodomy statute, there’d be no Lawrence v Texas to be arguing about in the first place. Don’t merely passively “favor” such repeal, but do something about it—including arguing with your socially-more-conservative friends and allies about it. Some death penalty supporters have noticed this dynamic and have actively worked for important procedural reforms.

Of course, this wouldn’t be much help to guys like Rick Santorum who want to keep sodomy criminalized (and, despite some peoples’ efforts to wriggle some other meaning from his interview, Santorum fairly clearly stakes out a “sodomy ought to be illegal” position), but this point shouldn’t be lost the “moderates” who are running around defending him—like Kurtz and the other folks at NRO.

From the looks of things, the Alabama legislature doesn’t read The Volokh Conspiracy (link via How Appealing).

Time zone setting

The new configuration page allows you to set the preferred stylesheet for this blog (this option used to be further down the page); you can also set the time zone for the blog’s contents to be displayed in.

A few shortcuts for common time zones: Eastern, Mountain, Pacific, GMT/BST, and Iraq. (Central is deliberately omitted, since it’s the default for this blog; if you’re in Indiana or Arizona, you’ll have to go and find your timezone yourself…)

Indecision 2003: Sabato's take

I’ve already insulted Larry Sabato once in this blog, so why not do it again? Today he handicaps the Mississippi governor’s race for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger; let’s figure out what Larry thinks will happen:

... Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, said he expects Bush to swing through all three Southern states as he builds a coalition for his re-election bid next year.

Sabato said he expects Bush to rally support for Barbour.

Ok, so Bush is going to help Barbour, right?

But if the president actively campaigns for Barbour, it could also help energize the opposition, [Sabato] said. ... “I can also see Bush campaigning for Barbour generating a large black turnout for Musgrove because of the black community’s dislike of Bush,” Sabato said.

Maybe not. But Sabato doesn’t think this will matter much:

Although the race for governor has barely made it out of the gate, Sabato gives Barbour the edge because of Mississippi voters’ natural inclination to vote Republican and the state budget troubles haunting Musgrove.

Good points all. But…

Still, he doesn’t discount Musgrove. “He’s the incumbent governor. He worked hard to get there, and he’ll work hard to keep it,” Sabato said.

Ok. So how is Barbour’s campaign going to affect down-ticket races (like mine)?

Both [University of South Mississippi political scientist Joseph] Parker and Sabato said Mississippi voters have idiosyncrasies that make it difficult to say with certainty that statewide Republican candidates could ride Bush’s coattails.

Bush carried the state in the 2000 presidential election, but most of the statewide elected officials in Mississippi are Democrats.

So maybe Mississippi voters have split-level partisanship… but maybe they don’t:

“That’s left over from the old days,” Sabato said. “Most Southern states had that kind of schizophrenic voter behavior. They would vote Republican for president because Democrats were liberal. Democratic nominees on the state level were more moderate. That (behavior) is changing over time.”

Front page in the Clarion-Ledger. Absolutely no story. Another article for Sabato’s clippings file… but completely unenlightening otherwise.

I'm voting Slutpublican

Finally, my dream ticket has arrived… screw Bush and $RANDOM_DEMOCRAT.

More U.S. nukes?

Alec Saunders has a roundup of links about a purported effort to increase the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal (based on a story in the Australian).

Far be it from me to speak on administration policy. However, the Los Angeles Times report (that Alec also links to) almost buries another far more plausible explanation:

Energy Department officials vehemently denied that they are actually producing nuclear weapons and said they need the capability of producing plutonium parts to ensure the reliability of the existing stockpile of U.S. weapons, which is aging and may need new components.

By the time the new production facility is online—in 15 years—it is quite possible that considerable portions of the current nuclear deterrent force will be over 60 years old. Unlike Alec, I think it would be irresponsible for the government to have nuclear weapons that simply don’t work (or, worse, could accidentally detonate due to aging components), and I don’t think complete disarmament is a realistic alternative, particularly with both China and North Korea developing their arsenals and the likelihood of more nations going nuclear in the coming decade.

The Nonconnah-bahn

The Memphis Commercial Appeal takes a look at SPR 385, better known as Nonconnah Parkway or Bill Morris Parkway, in southeast Shelby County. Money quote:

“I call it the Bill Morris Super Speedway,” said Lt. Wayne Goudy, traffic commander for the Sheriff’s Department.

“When we go out there to write tickets, it’s not uncommon to get someone going over 100 mph.”

More on the Nonconnah here.


Tim Lambert has a Sunday update that links here. I agree with Tim that there were coding errors; however, as someone who’s worked with large CSTS data sets, it can be hard to get the coding right, particularly when you’re dealing with time-varying covariates (example: event X happened in 1991; do I change the dummy variable in 1991 or 1992?). One’s judgment of the maliciousness will probably depend on one’s overall assessment of Lott; I’m not going to go there.

The larger question: has Lott been discredited? I don’t know. Ayers and Donahue say yes, but the potential problems I identified with the econometrics apply both to them and Lott; without someone doing a proper analysis—dealing properly with missing data, justifying fixed effects (instead of using, for example, random effects or regional or state dummies), etc.—we just don’t know who is right. But again, someone who either (a) has tenure or (b) cares can do that—the topic’s too politicized for someone who doesn’t even have a Ph.D. yet, much less a job. I’ll just go with the default, Calvin Trillin response for now: it’s too soon to tell.

Tim Lambert has another post today arguing that there’s a systematic problem with Lott’s coding that favors his results; since I’ve not read Lott & Mustard (I have a copy of More Guns, Less Crime, but I never got past the first few pages and a skim of the tables due to other time constraints), I can’t speak to that, but it seems suspicious at first glance.

And, regretfully, picking and choosing one’s analyses is endemic to the social sciences; you present the models that work. Of course, if the model doesn’t work (at least in terms of the relationship you care about; who cares if the SOUTH dummy is significant or not), and you can’t fix it without doing fraudulent things with the data or the specification, then you’d better throw out your research or revise your hypotheses...