Tuesday, 6 July 2004

More lightning

In addition to damaging the copper pipe that feeds water to my icemaker, the lightning also took out one of the two inputs on the DirecTiVo in my bedroom, one output of the multiswitch on the dish, and (apparently) put my DSL modem in flakeout mode, where it loses sync once every 10–20 minutes.

The good news is I’m ditching the DSL and my current dish when I move to Jackson at the end of next week. The bad news is I was hoping to use the DirecTiVo in Jackson, but, since the primary input was the one that was fried, it’s not going to be a happy camper any more after the next time my power goes out. Now off to get a replacement pipe at Home Depot and some dinner…

Most boring comic ever?

According to this story at IOL, Japan’s defense ministry plans to release it’s annual white paper in manga (comic book) format.

"We'd like to be able to reach the younger generations, those in their 20s and 30s," a ministry spokesperson said.

“We hope the public reads the report so that we gain their understanding,” Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba was quoted by Kyodo news agency as telling a news conference after the white paper was released.

This might even be worse than slogging through the prose portions of Cerebus.

Signified Elsewhere

Yes, I’ve become enough of a blogging whore to do the “daily roundup” post. At least for today.

Civility and sludge

Dan Drezner ties together the twin themes of less-than-civil bloggers and bad comment hoodoo recently discussed in these parts.

One thing I will say, as a veteran of online fora in general (as an ex-MUD administrator and someone who’s been a part of Usenet since 1992), social problems rarely have good technical solutions. Technology can help—particularly when battling other forms of technology, like comment spam—but dealing with people and their idiosyncracies is a whole other beast.

As far as the negativity Dan has observed and been subjected to in academia, I have to say I’ve largely been spared it (although I will say I was deeply annoyed with the completely worthless one-line review I received for a manuscript once); I don’t know if that’s a function of one’s subdiscipline or perhaps just an example of my relative youth in things academic.

Update: More on this theme from Matt Stinson, who's strongly tempting me to join him in the media black hole that is mainland China.


Somehow, a lightning strike by my house a few minutes ago managed to burst the copper tubing between my wall and the ice maker in my fridge. Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.

Update: Things have also been deeply flaky with the DSL since the lightning strike. Grr…

Executive selection and executive competence

One thing I’ve been kicking around in my head lately while I’ve avoided working on my R&R is that there’s a qualitative difference between the chief executives chosen in presidential systems versus those from parliamentary regimes. In general, it seems (offhand) that parliamentary systems produce better leaders, but I’m not sure why.

Consider the United States. I can think of only one truly great president during the modern two-party era, and it’s Abraham Lincoln. And he’s only great because he won the Civil War. The rest seem to be a succession of mediocrities, a few of whom are “great” solely in relation to their presidential peers. FDR was better than Hoover, but he couldn’t hold a candle to Winston Churchill (though, I suppose, he was better than Neville Chamberlain). Reagan beat the crap out of everyone since Kennedy, but—let’s face it—he was a mediocrity compared to Margaret Thatcher. Bill Clinton or Tony Blair? No contest, Blair by a mile. Hell, John Major was better than 41 and 43 combined.

Lest we consider this a solely American phenomenon, let’s cross the pond and consider the succession of political hacks and nobodies that have led France as president since World War II. De Gaulle is only memorable because he was a jackass of the highest order. Mitterand? Chirac? Great leaders only in their own minds. Give me Willy Brandt, Helmut Kohl, or even Gerhard Schröder any day.

I don’t have a good reason why this should be the case. Maybe it the experience of herding cats as a legislative leader makes prime ministers and chancellors better national leaders than the CEO-like experience of being a governor (the most common path to power our presidential system). Then again, Chirac was a party leader in parliament for years, and the experience seems to have improved him little. So, perhaps it’s just “grass is greener” syndrome—something to ponder the next few months while these two mediocrities duke it out.

More for the Sabato file

James Joyner excerpts at length from the latest wisdom from on high produced by the great Oracle of our age, Dr. Larry Sabato, who James bylines (fairly appropriately) as “a TV talking head who sometimes teaches political science at UVA.”

I actually don’t really disagree with Sabato’s assessments (if North Carolina is in play, Bush is essentially fucked—by that point, any normal vote model tells you he’s already lost the swing states), but what’s with all this “we” crap, kemosabe?

Besides, I don’t think Edwards is on the Democratic ticket for regional considerations—he’s there because the base loves his stump abilities, which work just as well in Detroit as they do in Durham.

More intellectual honesty

Lest I be seen as too hard on Matt Yglesias, Pejman Yousefzadeh provides the counterpoint. Surely he must recall the 2000 presidential campaign, during which our current president had less command of the names of foreign leaders than my then one-year-old cousin did.

Intellectual honesty

Well, you’ve got to concede that at least Matthew Yglesias freely acknowledges his newfound status as a Democratic party hack:

Three, and most least importantly, I’d gone way out on a limb with the Gephardt-bashing and wasn’t looking forward to needing to defend him after all once he got the nomination.

Yes, heaven forbid that Yglesias actually not defend the indefensible. After all, there’s an election to be won, so who wants to be stuck with taking a stand on principle?

Update: Yglesias has updated his post to indicate he was joking on this point. I prefer to think of it as an inadvertently revealed preference, but since he went to Harvard and I didn’t, I shall give him the benefit of the doubt.

Sludge control

James Joyner echos my month-old hypothesis on weblog comments, writing in response to the decision to shut down comments at The Command Post:

Unfortunately, there seems to be a strange variation on the Gas Law with regard to blog comments: As blog readership expands, the quality of comments declines geometrically. When OTB had 500 readers a day, the vast majority of the comments—whether from people who agreed or disagreed with me—were quite good. With readership in the 5000–10,000 range, most comments are crap. Reading—let alone policing—the comments gets to be more trouble than it’s worth.

For my part, at least, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the lack of acrimony and vitriol since enabling comments here at Signifying Nothing, but—then again—our little corner of the blogosphere only attracts about 1/40th of James’ daily readership.

I can't handle this confusion

It appears that the Kerry Veepstakes will come to an end today. Will Collier is betting on Gephardt, both Dan Drezner (who thinks Edwards is the man) and Matt Yglesias think Gephardt would be a bad choice, and Robert Garcia Tagorda is, as they used to say, afk.

I really don’t care much either way (except that it’ll be a relief to go from the endless McCain speculation to the endless explanations of why the selectee is inferior to McCain), but I think the better choice—grudges and ego aside—is John Edwards. I suspect this election is largely going to revolve around motivating the base to turn out,* and Edwards is far better on the stump with Democratic constituencies than Gephardt—or, for that matter, Kerry—is. Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion that Dick Cheney would wipe the floor with Gephardt in the veep debate, while I think Edwards could hold his own.