Tuesday, 27 May 2003

More Deadlines

I’ve been granted a brief reprieve on my magnum opus distinguishing between the psychological and rational choice perspectives on the meaning of “political sophistication.” The good news is that means my dissertation chair (probably) won’t kill me. The bad news is more light bloggage for the next few days…

In the meantime, I will leave you with a few random thoughts, most of which will make no sense unless you’ve experienced the same things I have in the past week:

  • Vanderbilt may have the most screwed up political science department in the history of man.

  • I need more Canadians in my life.

  • Replacing Opryland with Opry Mills was a Good Thing™.

  • I don’t think Andrew Johnson sounded like Fred Thompson.

  • Greene County, Tennessee, may be the most beautiful place on earth.

  • Nothing beats sitting around a warm campfire eating S’mores with family.

Wednesday, 21 May 2003

Ping weblogs.com!

I agree wholeheartedly, 100% with James. Particularly if you’re one of the gazillion people on the blogroll at the right who isn’t listed at BlogMatrix, since that’s the only other way I’ll know to read your new posts. (I do read RSS feeds in Straw, but only at home; if you have one, please consider this your public notice to start using content:encoded so I don’t have to fool with launching my browser.)

Also, consider this your notice not to expect much, if any, bloggage for a while; I’m headed up to East Tennessee for a family reunion, and I still need to finish this dissertation chapter. So, at best, you may see a few snarky comments with attached links.

Monday, 19 May 2003

Missing the point

Ok, now this is just completely lame.


I’m supposed to have a chapter of my dissertation done in the next thirty hours. Don’t expect a lot of blogging between now and Tuesday night.

In the meantime, feel free to visit some of the newer entries on my blogroll. Or click on some of the pretty buttons.

Saturday, 17 May 2003

Stealable buttons

I’ve redesigned the right sidebar to use a bunch of buttons from Steal These Buttons (converted to PNGs). For now, the buttons I created that aren’t available from that site are available in a ZIP file here in PNG and GIF formats.

ORHA screwing the pooch?

Jonathan Foreman writes on the New York Post op-ed page about some serious problems in the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA). If it’s accurate—and the legion of “state-versus-defense” pissing match stories we’ve heard over the past two months that amounted to nothing and Foreman’s inability to correctly name the agency suggests it may not be—it’s a very troubling situation, one that Andrew Sullivan and others are right to be concerned about.

And if the eight-pointed star that Foreman is complaining about turns out to be the logo in the upper-left corner of this page, which is part of the Great Seal of the United States, I’ll be even less impressed with his account.

Well, I'm glad someone likes 251

The Imperialist Dog is the rare specimen that enjoyed his experience in research methods:

Of course, the vast majority of undergraduates hated the class and panned it (disclosure: I liked it and got an A-). They are apparently happy being spoonfed and unable to analyze data for themselves. Given the tendency to take the easiest possible path, the department will probably make the class an elective at some point, then abolish it entirely.

Everyone doesn’t need to know how to do multiple linear regression, but a knowledge of what terms mean (sampling, confidence interval, etc.) and how data may be manipulated would prevent some of the more egregious deceptions perpetrated by misusers of statistics.

One of the things I bumped into teaching the equivalent course here at the University of Mississippi is that a lot of the students didn’t seem to get the point of the statistical portion of the course (which may have been partially my fault, since it was my first time teaching the course). Understanding why we’d want to test hypotheses and talk about variances is perhaps more important than the actual algebra involved, but I’m not sure you can have a solid understanding of the former without comprehending at least some of the latter. (That’s not to say I know the formulas for most of these things off the top of my head; that’s why we have R and Stata, not to mention Greene and Kennedy.)

I firmly believe nobody should draw any conclusions from survey data unless they fully comprehend what the terms “margin of error” and “confidence interval” mean. Furthermore, anyone who ever uses the results of a “web poll” to decide or justify anything more important than the SportsCenter showcase highlight ought to be publicly executed.

Expanding the ACC

The Atlantic Coast Conference has officially decided to raid the Big East, adding Boston College, Miami, and Syracuse to the mix to create an SEC/Big 12-style “superleague” with a conference title game in football.

What does this mean for college football? It might put some pressure on the Pac-10 and Big Eleven Ten to add enough teams for a conference title game, a potentially problematic proposition for the Pac-10 due to geography and team quality (Boise State? Fresno State? UNLV? San Jose State?), but well within the abilities of the Big Ten (Pitt, Notre Dame, or Virginia Tech). It opens up the field a little for the BCS title game; with the rump Big East essentially demoted to mid-major status in football, no matter what conferences (C-USA, the MAC?) they try to raid in response, they’ll probably lose their automatic bid.

More importantly, it may prompt a more immediate shakeout in the lower end of Division I-A as the mid-majors react to the new alignment; new eligibility rules for I-A schools were likely to force some serious realignments in 2004 (principally in the Sunbelt and the 16-team MAC) anyway, but with the Big East probably fragmenting (with the basketball-only schools going their own way and the remaining schools likely to break up C-USA to get back to a reasonable size) there may be a knock-on effect as mid-major conferences like the MAC try to “move up” a notch and bring in up-and-coming programs like Southern Miss and USF. The coming two years should be very interesting both on and off the field.

Cavuto goes overboard on Krugman

Now, I’m not one who normally goes out on a limb to defend Paul Krugman. Heck, I’ve called him a snakeoil salesman in this weblog, so I’m hardly the world’s biggest fan. But I also think Eugene Volokh is right to disparage Neal Cavuto’s immature response to a drive-by insult at the end of Tuesday’s Krugman column in The New York Times.

I don’t disagree with Cavuto’s basic point—“Your World,” his daily Fox News show, has a designated commentary segment, and Cavuto’s comments were made during that segment, so he’s not under any obligation to be objective there, just as Krugman’s column’s presence on the op-ed page (and, some might argue, in the Times itself) relieves him of any obligation to be “fair and balanced” in that column. But I think Cavuto could have produced a more mature response. Similarly, I think Donald Luskin’s “Krugman Truth Squad” feature at his weblog and NRO would be far more effective if he limited the name-calling and stuck to the (frequent) instances where Krugman is clearly wrong or is distorting the truth to serve his left-wing agenda.

James Joyner agrees.

Thursday, 15 May 2003

Did the Drug Czar violate state and federal laws?

Radley Balko (of the excellent The Agitator) and I have been trading comments over whether ONDCP director (aka “Drug Czar”) John Walters violated state and federal laws by campaigning against Nevada’s drug legalization referendum last fall. In the course of the discussion, I dug up 21 USC 1703, which apparently gives the head of the ONDCP broad authority to oppose any efforts at legalization.

Anyway, the debate also raises some interesting broader questions about how much authority the federal executive branch has to meddle in state and local politics.

The drawbacks of proportional representation

Iain Murray had an interesting post yesterday discussing the results of a study that showed that relatively few members of the European Parliament (MEPs), who are elected via proportional representation, felt tied to their constituencies. While there are ways to circumvent this problem (lowering the district magnitude—the number of seats elected from a constituency—may help), there is a tradeoff: reducing the number of seats also reduces the proportionality of the system.

Overall, I think the most effective approach to PR is to combine it with single-member districts, using a relatively small number of proportionally-allocated seats to offset some of the bias in seat allocation caused by first-past-the-post elections, without undermining the link between representatives and their electors.

Matthew at A Fearful Symmetry has an interesting followup worth reading.

Wednesday, 14 May 2003

Fork insertion time approaches

New York Times executive editor Howell Raines says he won’t resign. I give him no more than ten days.

Via InstaPundit.

Mr. Pravda's back

The discipline’s favorite cynic has returned to H-POLMETH, this time with a brutal assault on the American Political Science Association’s new logo, which purportedly “is intended to represent APSA’s mission to bring together political scientists from all fields of inquiry, regions, and occupational endeavors within and outside academe in order to expand awareness and understanding of politics.” Exactly how three swooshes of orange is supposed to represent that escapes me entirely, but Mr. Pravda has seen through the layers of deception:

As I continue staring at the logo while uncorking my second bottle of wine, it all suddenly becomes clear. The point is obvious: there is no point. This design is intended to convey different ideas to different people. It is, in that sense, fundamentally democratic. Each of us can assign his or her own meaning to it. To the Quantoid, it can represent pure spatial logic. To the Perestroikan, it can signify the diversity of cultures and peoples. To the cynic, it can serve as a reminder of why it’s always a good idea to underreport your professional income when paying dues to the APSA.


Tuesday, 13 May 2003

At least the dominant party still has a goofy name

Geitner Simmons of Regions of Mind has an interesting post talking about a seismic shift in Minnesota politics, with the state GOP (er, the Independent Republicans) very much in ascendence.

Monday, 12 May 2003


I’ve avoided weighing in on the topic of filibusters, trying to clairfy my own thinking on the issue. Now, I personally don’t have any problem with filibusters per se; if recalcitrant legislators can’t filibuster, they’ll find some other way to gum up the process (see, for example, the members of the Texas General Assembly who have apparently fled the state to deny a quorum to the Republican majority). But I do think the cloture mechanism is slightly broken.

At present, Senate rules require a 3/5 supermajority (or 60 votes) to end a filibuster. I think this requirement substantially reduces the burden on the supporters of the filibuster, as they don’t even have to show up at the quorum call for the votes; if nothing else, a filibuster should require some minimal effort among the disaffected minority to support it, but the present rules aren’t structured that way.

What I’d do: tweak the Senate rules slightly, to require 2/5+1 to vote to continue debate upon a call for cloture, except when a unanimous consent agreement is in effect otherwise limiting the debate (this part allows for normal floor debate without gratuitous cloture votes). That would properly place the burden of sustaining the filibuster on its supporters, but not otherwise limit its use (unlike Bill Frist’s fundamentally silly “supermajority countdown” proposal).

Moving the Mac to ia32

Steven Den Beste has a lengthy exposition of why moving the Macintosh user base to an Intel (or AMD) CPU is exceedingly problematic. I think he’s mostly right, but I don’t know if software emulation of the PowerPC instruction set would be as slow as he suspects, at least from the user’s perspective: the most CPU-intensive task most Mac users seem to engage in is moving around their pretty OpenGL-rendered windows, and even my low-end 300 MHz G3 at work keeps up fairly well with OS X 10.2.

I don’t think reasonable-speed software emulation alone would prompt most users to switch; Apple would have to “add value” over a straight x86 box running XP Home. And, IMHO, the best way to add that value for the Mac userbase would be the ability to run Win32 applications natively—that is, to sell Apple’s x86 boxes as the universal end-user platform, able to run Windows, classic Mac OS, OS X, and Linux applications on one desktop.

Could Apple have such a project secretly in the works? I don’t know, but they’re essentially 3/4 of the way there already with the rootless native OS X X11 server (presumably you could run LinuxPPC code under Darwin-PPC/OS X with a thin emulation layer, and likewise for Linux/ia32 under Darwin-x86), and if a few dedicated hackers can produce WineX or CrossOver Office, I’d imagine Apple has the resources to do the same, perhaps building on the work of one of those projects.

Another question is the business model—does Apple stick with semi-proprietary hardware, or go back to licensing the operating system (perhaps with a boutique branded hardware line for the Alienware set and hardcore Mac fans, returning to the NeXTstep model)? I think the latter plan is more viable (mainly because I can’t see much value in building a semi-proprietary x86 box when you can get off-the-shelf hardware much cheaper), but the former avoids the very real problem of trying to directly compete with Microsoft on the desktop and losing the native Office port, although its value might be overrated with good binary emulation of Win32.

Sean Jordan has responded by email, noting that Apple is probably more likely to move to the new IBM PowerPC 970 CPU; despite Den Beste’s cynicism about the viability of the PPC 970, I do think that's the more likely option (although that may be the closet Motorola fanboy in me talking). However, it’s still fun to (continue to) speculate about the viability of an Intel (or, more likely, AMD) move, especially considering that OS X’s core (OpenStep) ran on Intel chips before it ran on the PowerPC. He also points to the consistently-excellent Ars Technica as a good source for watching what’s going on on the Apple CPU scene.

The Military Mentality

This exchange sounds awfully familiar:

The XO approaches me. “Have you heard about the incident?”

“What incident?”

“Good. You’re the Investigating Officer.”


More for the Sabato cluelessness file

Buried in a Commercial Appeal article on the likely impact of the black vote in the 2003 Mississippi governor’s race is a choice quote from my good pal Larry Sabato:

Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said he has a goal to get 20 percent of the black vote. To do that, Sabato said Barbour needs to reach out in two ways—substantively and symbolically.

“He has to find proposals that do not alienate his conservative base and yet have attraction for his [sic] African Americans. An example would be school vouchers,” Sabato said.

“The symbolic is to reach out and secure as many prominent endorsements from African Americans as possible.”

Yes, I’m sure vouchers are going to be a big vote-winner with Mississippi’s black voters, because the only reason why their kids aren’t enrolled at your local whites-only academy is because they can’t afford the tuition.

It seems to me this would be a case where the substantive proposal would undermine the symbolic. But then again, I’m not Larry Sabato; I just know something about the state I’m talking about, so I could be wrong.

Sunday, 11 May 2003

Similes for Sean-Paul

InstaPundit is now disavowing Pravda’s suggestion that he’s “The New York Times of the bloggers.”

May I humbly suggest that the mantle be passed to Sean-Paul?

Yes, I was in the mood for a cheap shot. So sue me.

Legislative black caucus head feels the heat for backing Pickering

Sid Salter writes in today’s Clarion-Ledger about the heat State Rep. Phillip West is taking from his fellow legislative black caucus members for daring to break with the party line on the Charles Pickering nomination. Salter draws a damning parallel between the state’s current civil rights establishment and the segregationists who attacked Pickering when he testified against Klan leaders in the 1960s:

Pickering’s courage, integrity and morality were questioned publicly by the radical fringe of white Mississippians — just as West’s courage, integrity and morality are now being questioned by the radical fringe of black Mississippians.

Why? Same reason.

Both West and Pickering had the courage to do and say what was right on a controversial topic.

The SCLC and Black Caucus ought to be ashamed of themselves for continuing to spread lies about Pickering’s record. If they don’t like his judicial philosophy, that’s what they should say, and leave the invented racism charges out of it.

I accidentally linked to the wrong opinion article before; however, it’s also worth reading.

Trek Clichés

Dan at Happy Fun Pundit has compiled a list of the ten things he hates most about Star Trek. Probably my favorite:

9. The Federation.

This organization creeps me out. A planet-wide government that runs everything, and that has abolished money. A veritable planetary DMV. Oh sure, it looks like a cool place when you’re rocketing around in a Federation Starship, but I wonder how the guy driving a Federation dump truck feels about it?

And everyone has to wear those spandex uniforms. Here’s an important fact: Most people, you don’t want to see them in spandex. You’d pay good money to not have to see them. If money hadn’t been abolished, that is. So you’re screwed.

Maybe this just reflects my fundamental bias as a political scientist, but I don’t think society can function without some medium of exchange (incidentally, this is an important thing that Babylon 5 gets right; if someone tells you poverty has been abolished in a given society, your BS detector should start screaming very loudly). In comments, HFP elaborates:

The whole Federation thing always bugged me. There’s no need for money any more? Does that mean there’s no scarcity? Can I have the Feds whip up my own starship for me? Or are there limits? If there are limits, who decides who gets what?

The political structure of Star Trek was silly. The portrayal of the future is totally unrealistic and flies in the face of what we know about human nature.

Of course, HFP is a Firefly fan too, which probably doesn’t hurt. (And before I get hatemail, I like Trek. But sheesh, clichés are clichés!)

Blair quotes Raines on Blair

ScrappleFace has a worldwide exclusive: New York Times editor Howell Raines’ reaction to the Jayson Blair plagiarism/story-invention scandal, as written by Blair himself.

Saturday, 10 May 2003

Foomatic-GUI 0.5.1

It’s here. Since the last post here about it, the package has also been accepted into Debian unstable.

I’ve also talked with Tomas Guemes about integrating Foomatic-GUI and his adaptation of Red Hat’s latest printtool to Debian and CUPS. I’m registering the foomatic-gui project at Savannah so we can work on further development together.

I did about three hours of hacking tonight to produce 0.5.1; the newest feature is the ability to set printer options, illustrated below:

Printer options dialog in Foomatic-GUI 0.5.1

Now on to subsume the rest of the functionality of CUPS' web interface and the OS X print manager app.

New stylesheet

In honor of today’s graduates, you can now choose a special red-and-blue themed stylesheet. It looks positively icky in IE6, and (for odd some reason) the background graphic doesn’t render in Opera 7. But it’s a fun little diversion for all six of you running decent browsers. :-)

Immigants catch an epidemic of false consciousness

D.C. Thornton passes on a link to a Washington Times article that suggests black leaders are lamenting their inability to recruit African immigrants. Money quote:

Many immigrants are not even aware of the “color line” that prevents minorities here from excelling, other panelists said in amazement.

May I humbly suggest that the “color line” hasn’t stopped these immigrants (by definition minorities) from succeeding. D.C.’s take is especially worth reading; just go and RTWT™.

Friday, 9 May 2003

Georgia's flag and southern politics

Samizdata is on a roll today, with posts on the evolution of Georgia’s state flag and the causes of the Civil War; both posts carry intelligent, rational discussions in the comments and are worth a read.

Rebs win, Rebs win!

It was a fun baseball game at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field tonight as your Ole Miss Rebels defeated the Florida Gators 2-0. Ace freshman pitcher Stephen Head (3–1, 0.94 ERA, team-leading 0.360 BA), slightly hobbled by a leg injury, played as designated hitter (DH) and also closed out the final two innings for his 11th save. Head and starter T.J. Beam (7–1, 2.34 ERA) combined for a three-hit shutout with six walks and no errors, despite Beam looking pretty wild early.

I was sorely tempted to start a “We Want Head” chant in the sixth, but somehow I didn’t think the double-entendre would go over well with the crowd (or at least with little Ricky Santorum).

Incidentally, I wonder if pitchers are allowed to serve as the DH in the American League. I suspect not (since I’ve never heard of it happening, although that may be because most pitchers live below the Mendoza line), but I could be wrong. A question for the baseball experts in the blogroll, I suppose.

Joy discovers Knoppix

Joy has found Knoppix. And the really cool thing is that it’s all made possible by the best Linux distribution. But I would say that…

Unnamed? Hmmph. In all seriousness, though, I can certainly empathize with the problems with icky printer support in potato (Debian 2.2), and apt-get over dialup does suck (all your bandwidth, at least). Thankfully, between CUPS and Foomatic (the Debian packages of which I maintain), things are getting much nicer on the printing front—I think that’s what Mandrake uses under the hood, too. (I’m not sure how much of that is included in Knoppix. I also don't know what’s currently in the Debian printing task; I guess I should check…)

Oh, and as Bostonians would say, Knoppix is wicked cool.

New Mozilla Xft Firebird

You know the drill; it’s here. This is the first day in a while the build hasn’t had completely broken bookmarks. It looks very spiffy with some of the new Gtk2 SVG-based themes.

Thursday, 8 May 2003

First toll motorway in Britain to open January 2004

TransportBlog links to a Daily Telegraph article on the “Midland Expressway,” also known as the “Birmingham Northern Relief Route,” a 27-mile (43 km) toll bypass of the M6 motorway in Birmingham. The initial car toll will be £2 (approximately $3.20/€2.80) one-way. While Britain does have a few toll bridges and tunnels, this will be the first toll highway in modern British history. More details on the project are at the project website, including a zoomable map of the route.

Commenters at TransportBlog also pass along this Guardian link.

Wednesday, 7 May 2003

Rome is Non-Specific Urethritis

Well, I TiVoed Jim Rome's new ESPN show, Rome Is Burning. By far the highlight of the show was Jim Lampley blaming ex-Alabama coach Mike Price’s misbehavior on the widespread availability of SpectraVision porn and Rome’s dumbfounded look in response. And it was cool to hear from Dennis Haysbert (24, Now And Again). But otherwise nothing on the show really grabbed me, and it all struck me as a big love-fest—at least, if you weren’t one of the old-news targets that Rome belatedly went after: Price, ex-Iowa State basketball coach Larry Eustachy, and the Cubs pitcher who dislikes gay people came in for bashing, none of whom strike me as particularly edgy targets. He did come out and basically say the NBA Draft was rigged, but that’s not exactly an “out-there” thesis either. Rome’s at his best when he’s spewing vitriol, but the once-a-week format doesn’t lend itself to vitriol—especially since I’ll have already heard it on ESPN Radio and PTI umpteen times.

My verdict: cut it to half an hour and it might be worthwhile. It beats the crap out of Around The Horn, but then again I’d rather watch Phil Donahue debate Rush Limbaugh than Max Kellerman and four sports journalists yelling at each other. So I’ll probably season-pass it but just watch the stuff that doesn’t look derivative, like the discussion segment.

Meanwhile, you can read Jim Rome’s ghostwriter’s take on the opening night for balance.

Tuesday, 6 May 2003

A/C-less blogging

Sorry for the light posting; I’ve been sitting around the house all day waiting for the A/C repair guy to show up. It’s muggy but thankfully not too hot today…

Now’s much better; the A/C's been running for two hours straight, and the house is back down to a sane level of humidity. The cause of the outage: a dead capacitor (I didn't ask the repair guy how many Farads the thing stored, but it was about the size of a soda can).

Monday, 5 May 2003


Eugene Volokh has his typical measured response to the Bill Bennett gambling affair. I guess the thing I don’t get in this whole “scandal” is why on earth, if you had $8 million to blow, you’d play slot machines, perhaps the worst expectation game in the casino, excluding keno. As a corollary, I think anyone playing more than 25¢ on slots is insane. (That this number corresponds to the highest denomination slot I’ve ever played is only a coincidence.)

Now, admittedly, I’m something of a blackjack afficianado (although I’d have to say my play is rusty as of late), which is almost always the best bet in the casino if you know what you’re doing and have a decent bankroll. But baccarat or craps would pay off better than the slots anywhere, and most places (although perhaps not Vegas) you’d be better off playing roulette or one of those silly new-fangled games. Plus, for the most part the slots bore the crap out of me; I simply can’t imagine how anyone could blow $8 million playing slots, as they’d probably keel over from sheer boredom. Crazy.

Happy Fun Pundit explains this much better than I did.

Canada's proven reserves surpass Iraq's

JerkSauce helpfully passes on word that Canada now has more proven oil reserves than Iraq.

To commemorate this event, I have an announcement for my friends at IndyMedia: the Straussian neoconservative cabal has a new slogan: 89-30 or bust!

Actually, I think we’ll just wait for the Albertans to secede. Much cheaper than sending a few H2’s with TOW launchers on top across the Montana frontier.

The euro = the end of the NHS?

Malcolm Hutty at Samizdata links to news today that Britain joining the euro may have a high price: it could spell the end of the country’s National Health Service, according to a report published by the European Central Bank; he views the news as a gift to the Conservative Party:

One can imagine the glee with which [Tory leader] Iain Duncan-Smith will seize upon this report: he will be able to simultaineously portray [Labour’s] Foundation Hospitals policy as unduly timid, with the full weight of the ECB as ‘independent experts‘, while also saying that the NHS is only ‘safe in Tory hands’ because of the government’s committment in principle to joining the Euro. After all the kerfuffle on IDS’ leadership in recent days, I shall be reserving my judgement on his capabilities to see whether he makes real capital out of this absolute gift from Europe.

This could be a major bombshell—and perhaps the death-knell for further British integration into the European Union.

Blogroll policy

Conrad thinks that Steven Den Beste’s philosophy of blogrolling post was a tad verbose, and promulgates the following personal policy:

Rule No. 1: There are no rules.

Rule No. 2: When in doubt, see Rule No. 1.

That’s more or less mine, although my regressive recipriocity gene (perhaps left over from my youthful flirtation with being a Democrat) suggests that blogrolling me will almost certainly lead to your being blogrolled. And it helps if you ping Weblogs.com when you update, because otherwise you’ll end up stuck at the bottom, coincidentally down near Steven Den Beste.

PoliBlog handicaps 2004

Steven Taylor at PoliBlog takes an early look at the 2004 presidential race. An interesting, but easily-overlooked, factor to note is that, due to the decennial reapportionment, if Bush wins the states he won in 2000, he’ll pick up seven extra electoral votes due to the continuing population shift to the Sun Belt states.

Canada gets Czared

Alec Saunders is upset that U.S. drug czar John Walters has been making veiled—in the sense that something stated blatantly can be called “veiled”—threats about Canadian plans to decriminalize possession of small quantities of marijuana. (I’m too kind to make jokes about this perhaps explaining Jean Chrétien’s behavior on the world stage, except I’d be more likely to blame it on crack cocaine.)

Over the past decade I’ve come to the conclusion that the drug czar post makes its occupants into complete imbeciles. It turned Bill Bennett into a compulsive gambler, Barry McCaffrey into a national joke, and John Walters into a lame ripoff of Marlon Brando in The Godfather. Now Canucks can join in the fun of ridiculing the office. It’s the drug czar’s world, we’re all just living in it…

On a related note, Dean Esmay wonders why America can’t have a rational debate on drug policy. Me too.

Sunday, 4 May 2003


The story that won’t go away in Mississippi is a flap over the Daily Mississippian’s “sex columnist,” Sumer Rose, who wrote a column last month about nooners. Apparently appalled to learn that college students have sex (who’d a-thunk it?), the Rev. Donald Wildmon’s Tupelo-based American Family Association (best known for its completely unsuccessful effort to get NYPD Blue taken off the air a decade ago) has been trying to spin the incident into a full-fledged brou-ha-ha, calling on Chancellor Khayat to censor the college newspaper, and generally being the self-promoting flim-flam artist that he is. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger’s Sid Salter today rightly slaps down Wildmon’s dopey self-promotion/fundraising campaign.

As The Door Revolves

The soap opera that is Alabama’s football program continues in earnest; James Joyner at Outside the Beltway reports that the Mike Price era at Bama is over, after exactly zero games. James links to a Ivan Maisel ESPN.com piece recommending that the Crimson Tide hire ex-Bama player Sylvester Croom, who apparently is currently an assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers.

No matter what happens, I still look forward to watching the Tide’s defeat at the hands of the Rebels on October 18.

Friday, 2 May 2003

I'm not a scientist

So says Jane Galt, anyway. Here’s what I posted in comments over there in response…

I’m afraid I’ll have to continue to disagree. Political science, like sociology and economics, is a science because it applies the scientific method (a.k.a. empiricism) to the study of politics.

The difference between political science and say physics isn’t so much the method as the measures; physicists have very good measures of the quantities they like to analyze (819,321 leptons here, 1.32121 angstroms there), while political scientists (and sociologists and psychologists and…) have to deal with things that are much harder to quantify. Economics does slightly better because (a) there’s a simplifying assumption that utility is money (which happens to work nicely for most people except monks and tree-huggers) and (b) money is very easy to quantify compared to “affect,” “ideology,” or “partisanship” (things that political scientists measure).

Now, there are people who study politics (and economic behavior and social groups) without the use of the scientific method. They aren’t scientists, and thankfully most of them have gotten it through their skulls that they aren’t and don’t pretend to be. (The question then is what do you do with the people who don’t study a social science using the scientific method, which becomes a thorny political issue.)

More broadly, I think you’re confusing generalizability with empiricism. Yes, sociologist X followed around a single drug dealer; yes Dick Fenno followed around Senator Y. But if enough sociologists follow around enough drug dealers we can test a theory about how drug dealers behave in general.

I’d find the whole discussion laughable if Jane (who usually I find rather thoughtful) weren’t so horribly misguided on what “science” is and isn’t.

Other reaction to Jane’s original post can be found at The Volokh Conspiracy, where Jacob Levy and Dan Drezner have comments. Also, I somehow forgot to link to Kieran Healy, who defends the honor of sociology.

Bush on the carrier

Glenn Reynolds has a brief commentary and round-up of links to reactions to Bush’s speech and carrier landing. I have to say when I heard about the carrier landing, the first image that popped into my head was Mike Dukakis’ head poking out of the top of a tank, but it seems to have come off fairly well.

As for the speech itself: as a matter of personal sanity I try to avoid listening to Bush speeches, mainly so I don’t get the irresistible urge to pull an Elvis on my TV.

Movin' on up (temporarily)

Dan Drezner passes on word that he’ll be guest-blogging at The Volokh Conspiracy this weekend. Congrats!

In perhaps-unrelated news, nobody has ever asked (or, for that matter, been asked; perhaps I can only blame myself) to guest-blog at Signifying Nothing.

Thursday, 1 May 2003

More on empiricism

I don’t have lots to post about today, but Jane Galt has a followup on yesterday’s piece that I’m in broad agreement with, as well as a more polite version of my Krugman snakeoil post.

Henry Farrell has more. Just to clarify: most of my work is in mass political behavior, including political psychology, and what you’d call “institutional behavior,” so I don’t do much with economic theory per se. It’s not so much that I have an aversion to the material as it is an issue of it not being particularly applicable, although my dissertation does revolve around a Downsian take on how voters use and process information (straddling the line between political psychology and rational choice theory).