Saturday, 31 January 2004


Will Baude points to this David Brooks column that elevates describing “big mo” to the status of high art. What strikes me most about the process is how completely endogenous it is—everything feeds back onto everything else, starting with the trigger of the otherwise-completely-meaningless behavior of several thousand Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa. In 12 days, John Kerry was translated from being a virtual also-ran to the likely Democratic presidential nominee largely due to the unanticipated behavior of said caucus-goers.

Could the momentum shift yet again? Probably not, with the Dean campaign imploding before our very eyes, Edwards fighting for traction in South Carolina, Lieberman in abject denial, and Clark scrambling for votes in Oklahoma. Kerry may yet fall victim to interneccine attacks, but his rivals’ campaigns may not persist long enough for them to be effective.

Presidential candidate encounters

Most people see presidential candidates at big rallies—my two experiences seeing Presidential fodder in the flesh were at a Clinton-Gore campaign stop in Ocala in 1992 and Harry Browne in Atlanta on Election Day in 2000. Other presidential candidates, however, are more low-key. Take Brian Noggle’s encounter with Michael Badnarik in the basement of a St. Louis pizza parlour, for example.

Badnarik sound familiar? Brock blogged his unusual views on prison rehabilitation below.


Dan Drezner wrote Friday:

Here’s my position—I’m genuinely unsure of who I’m going to vote for. More and more, Bush reminds me of Nixon. He’s not afraid to make the bold move in foreign policy. On domestic policy, Bush seems like he’ll say or do anything, so long as it advances his short-term political advantage. If Karl Rove thought imposing wage and price controls would win Pennsylvania and Michigan for Bush, you’d see an Executive Order within 24 hours. Andrew Sullivan and others have delivered this harangue, so I won’t repeat it.

If—a big if—the Democrats put forward a credible alternative, then I could very well pull the donkey lever.

I’m close to being in the same boat as Dan (well, besides that whole “having a tenure-track job” thing), but I’m probably more likely than he is to pull the Libertarian lever than the “donkey” one.† After listening and watching the Dems, my rough assessment is that either Lieberman or Edwards would make a decent president, Kerry would be borderline, and the rest might as well be LaRouche. If one of those clowns got the nomination, I’d probably feel compelled to vote for George W. Bush, since I really don’t want to convert to Islam and/or learn Arabic. Nothing against Muslims, but my wishy-washy beliefs suit me just fine and I don’t particularly feel like converting.

However, Edwards, Kerry or Lieberman appear sufficiently competent and—more importantly—will be more constrained in their desired profligacy by a Republican Congress than Bush has been; plus, I suspect O’Connor’s mood-swings would be somewhat more conservative with a Democrat in the White House.* While I doubt I’d be sufficiently inclined to vote for any of them, their presence on the ticket would be more than sufficient to demotivate any support I might otherwise have for Bush.

John Kerry: French non-Toast

Steven Taylor has your weekend edition of the Toast-O-Meter up and running, looking ahead to Tuesday’s seven-state primary.

Friday, 30 January 2004

Don't be cruel and unusual

Via Beth Plocharczyk at Crescat Sententia, I’m pleased to see that the Democratic and Republican parties don’t have a monopoly on nutjobs. From the campaign website of Michael Badnarik, who is campaigning for the Libertarian presidential nomination, we have a new idea about criminal justice:

Given the opportunity, Michael would like to change one aspect of prison life to increase the safety of the people guarding them. Instead of allowing them to lift weights and exercise several hours per day (making them violent AND powerful), Michael would require them to remain in bed all day for the first month, and twelve hours per day after that. This lack of activity would allow their muscles to atrophy, making them helpless couch potatoes incapable of inflicting very much violence on each other, the guards, or unsuspecting citizens should they manage to escape.

Elsewhere on the same page,

Michael Badnarik has studied the Constitution for twenty years, and has been teaching an eight-hour class on the subject for the last three years. All of his political positions are derived from the principle of individual rights, and are consistent with the Constitution. He would like to see strict enforcement of the Bill of Rights, and would establish a “zero tolerance policy” for all elected officials who violate the supreme law of the land.

Except for the Eighth Amendment, that is.

Holiday follies

Brock below ponders the Shelby County School Board’s renaming of its inter-semester break to “Christmas break.” According to the 2003–04 calendar, it was previously known as “Winter Break (Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s),” which strikes me as a rather unwieldy, albeit accurate, description. Amusingly enough, the 2004–05 calendar on the same website uses the same description, eschewing the revised, “non-PC” nomenclature.

(About a decade ago I wrote a column for the Ocala Star-Banner on this very topic; feel free to flex your Lexis-Nexis skills trying to find it… I’m certainly not going to rewrite it for this blog.)

Gilligan gone

USA Today reports that Andrew Gilligan has “sexed up” his resignation letter to the BBC into a plaintive declaration of his innocence. To borrow from John Kerry’s overused stump soundbite, “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

Incidentally, I’m guessing the over/under on Gilligan finding another job in “respectable” journalism is three weeks. As for the over/under on Paul Krugman conceding that state-owned broadcasters are no more impartial than their commercial counterparts—well, I have a bridge in Princeton to sell you.

Via Jane Galt and Jeff Jarvis.

Much ado about "Christmas"

The Shelby County School Board has thumbed its collective nose at non-Christians, changing the name of the winter break back to “Christmas break”. (The article does not say what it has been called in recent years.)

Quoth Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association:

[Dissenters] should get over it and be grateful we live in a free nation that tolerates different religious views and not in some Islamic country that forbids anything that is not Muslim.

And board member Joe Clayton, who sponsored the measure:

This is Christmas break. I get offended when I see that pushed to the background.

Maybe they could compromise and call it "Xmas vacation".

Well, at least they haven’t tried to remove the word “evolution” from the biology curriculum.

Pondering Cheney

Who, exactly, is Dick Cheney’s constituency in the Republican Party? Sauromon figures and “dark princes” don’t generally have much of a political following, and Cheney doesn’t seem to be an exception to the trend. He’s not a darling of the Christian right—John Ashcroft’s their man, and Cheney’s lesbian daughter would probably not endear him to the right either. Cheney has always struck me as more of the “policy wonkish” sort—a right-wing Al Gore without the passion, if such a thing is possible (or, for that matter, not a redundant description).

Which, of course, makes me wonder why the idea of replacing Cheney on the Bush ticket in 2004 seems to be going over like a lead balloon. Even though the potential replacements—Rudy Guiliani and Condi Rice are the names most often bandied about—aren’t exactly faves of the right either, I don’t see how they’re a step down from Cheney for the base. And anyone that thinks a Rick Santorum or Ashcroft-style cultural conservative is a smart addition to the ticket is borderline delusional.

Venom's End?

Kate, who’s been a recent victim of some serious crapflooding, is probably shutting down Electric Venom, barring a miracle. EV’s always been one of my favorite blogs, and I’m sure Kate would appreciate whatever help she can get in finding a new hosting provider.

Update: Panic attack over (well, for me at least). Phew!

Video-free debate

I listened to most of tonight’s South Carolina Democratic primary debate in the car today driving up from Oxford to Memphis; what struck me most about the debate, besides Tom Brokaw’s inexplicable and repeated references to the Muslim world as “the Nation of Islam,” was the degree to which the amount of applause a particular statement received was inversely proportional with its plausibility as a policy.

Some of this, perhaps, can be attributed to Al Sharpton’s delivery, but it seemed as if even Dennis Kucinich got a better reaction from the assembled crowd than any of the more mainstream alternatives when speaking. Extremist candidates are often popular with the base of course—witness, for example, Alan Keyes’ appeal to debate attendees in his runs that never translated into primary votes. But if the crowd was at all reflective of the S.C. electorate,* Howard Dean may have put away the “red meat” too early…

In policy terms, all I can say is: thank God none of these guys will have a friendly Congress if they win the presidency. Just call me a cognitive Madisonian I guess…

Update: According to Dr. Scott Huffmon, a friend who attended the debate, there was "a tiny, but vocal, group of Kucinich supporters who were seated close to [the] stage," which would help explain much of the applause for Kucinich. Apparently the crowd was asked to refrain from applause and other noisemaking during the debate (except when entering and leaving commercial breaks), but the Kucinich and Sharpton supporters weren't particularly compliant with the request.

Thursday, 29 January 2004

Alex Tabarrok on patents

Over at Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok summarizes his new paper on the disconnect between the economic theory of patents and the political reality of patent law. Prof. Tabarrok was kind enough to send me a pdf of the paper, in which he points out the absurdity, from an economic point of view, of rewarding “inventors” with 20-year monopolies on ideas of the kind that occur while taking a shower: ideas like’s infamous patent on “one-click purchasing.” He proposes a system in which the scope of the patent – its length or its breadth – would vary with the amount of sunk costs that go into the invention.

The best quote of the paper:

Edison famously that “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” A patent system should reward the ninety-nine percent perspiration, not the one percent inspiration.

Also noteworthy are studies he cites showing that “most innovations would occur without patents.” The notable exceptions – the chemical industry and the pharmaceutical industry, where firms do face major development costs.

(And the paper is accessible even to a non-economist like me. So if you have any interest at all in intellectual property law, get Prof. Tabarrok to send you a copy.)

String theorist lectures at Rhodes College

My alma mater is hosting a lecture on string theory by University of Maryland professor James Sylvester Gates, Jr., tomorrow evening at 7 pm.

It looks to be terrificly interesting. Unfortunately, I have tickets for Hedwig and the Angry Inch at TheatreWorks tommorow evening – which my wife will undoubtedly enjoy more than a physics lecture.

Dean’s implosion

Martin Devon has some tough questions for the so-called “Deaniacs” in his weblog, while Steven Taylor notes that Dean is essentially conceding the February 3rd primaries to Edwards and Kerry. I’ve long suspected that Howard Dean and Wes Clark are both “empty vessels” that gained much of their support based on voters’ projection of the attitudes they’d like their ideal candidate to have, rather than gaining much support on the part of their own articulated beliefs. Indeed, in Dean’s more candid moments, he’s practically admitted that he’s tailored his campaign to appeal to the “angry Democrat” base, rather than being committed to those beliefs from the start—witness his flip-flop on the merits of Bush presidency from prior to 2002 and afterwards, for example.*

Projection effects aren’t unique to these two campaigns, or even politics in general; it’s part of human psychology to assume that the people we like agree with us on political issues, and for us to want our friends and neighbors to share our beliefs. But trying to build a political movement around a candidate who is simply a target for projection is largely doomed to failure—the only modern president to win an election on such an empty platform is Eisenhower, whose historical status as a war hero is much less doubtful than Wes Clark’s and whose political skills effectively reached across the partisan divide.

The key question is whether or not Dean can recover. The conventional wisdom says “no,” and I suspect that’s right—particularly as long as Clark is around to divide the “mainstream strident anti-war candidate” vote and (more fatally) John Kerry continues to rack up primary wins. Kerry could credibly sweep next Tuesday, especially with the Jim Clyburn endorsement in South Carolina. The endorsement of Kerry from South Carolina’s only black congressman may tip the balance against John Edwards in the one state he clearly must win Tuesday, although Edwards probably also needs to win Virginia and Tennessee on February 10th to remain viable.

And, speaking only for myself, the sooner both Clark and Dean are gone from this campaign the better.

No, this isn’t the post I promised yesterday. Hopefully I’ll have something either tonight or tomorrow. But, regardless, we be jammin’ as they say…

Wednesday, 28 January 2004

For fans of the Miller Analogies Test

Dead Parrot Ryan has an apt analogy. And, you know, Joe Lieberman’s accent does sound vaguely Canadian...

Vegetarian dining at the Rendezvous?

Over at the Commercial Appeal, we learn that the Rendezvous has added vegetarian selections to its menu:

“Change is hard,” said owner John Vergos. “But we wanted to reach some of those groups who might not consider coming here because one or more of them didn’t eat meat.”

Well, sort of. Apparently vegetarians have two choices: red beans and rice, or a Greek salad.

It’ll take a better selection than that to get me to go to the Rendezvous. But I guess it’s a start.

Hiring standards for rebuilding Iraq

I’ve been deliberately avoiding posting anything about Iraq. I didn’t support the war, and in retrospect I still wouldn’t have, but I don’t really have anything terribly insightful to say, and frankly I find the topic rather tiresome. But one of the cover stories from today’s Wall Street Journal deserves more attention than it’s getting in the blogosphere. The headline:

How a 24-Year-Old Got a Job Rebuilding Iraq’s Stock Market

Choice quotes:

At Yale University, Jay Hallen majored in political science, rarely watched financial news, and didn’t follow the stock market. All of which made the 24-year-old an unlikely pick for the difficult task of rebuilding Iraq’s shuttered stock exchange. But Mr. Hallen was given the job immediately after arriving in Baghdad in September.

In early November, Mr. Hallen traveled to Baghdad’s Hamra Hotel for a lunch meeting with Luay Nafa Elias, who runs an investment company here. Mr. Elias says he was expecting to meet a middle-age man and therefore was astonished to see the baby-face Mr. Hallen sit down at the table and order a plate of Kabobs. “I had thought the Americans would send someone who was at least 50 years old, someone with gray hair,” says Mr. Elias.

As the lunch continued, Mr. Elias found himself impressed by Mr. Hallen’s confident tone and his repeated promises to quickly open a stock market that is the envy of the Arab world.

Mr. Elias’s faith in Mr. Hallen, however, began to evaporate when the market’s opening was delayed without explanation, first to the middle of this month, and then into February. “Maybe someone older and more experienced could have gotten this done on time,” Mr. Elias says.

That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the Coalition Provisional Authority's ability to turn Iraq into a stable democracy.

I wanna sex you up

The long-awaited Hutton Report emerged today in Britain, and it looks to be far more embarrassing for the BBC than it is for Tony Blair’s government. On a similar note, David Kay’s testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee today painted a picture of widespread intelligence failures, rather than a deliberate effort by the Bush administration to distort intelligence on Iraq.

Later today—after I get some work done on a consulting project I’m doing—I’ll have further thoughts on the nature of intelligence gathering and how it relates to, of all people, Howard Dean (among others).

Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Light blogging

I’ve been up in Memphis the past two days at the ass-end of a 56k dialup link, so I’ve been more of a punditry consumer than a punditry producer the past few days. Don’t expect that to change until late Wednesday… but, in the meantime, Steven Taylor has (virtually, at least) been all over New Hampshire, and ponders where things go from here.

My gut feeling is that John Kerry has a commanding but not insurmountable lead, while John Edwards is probably best positioned to catch him—if Howard Dean can’t win or even come close in his backyard, it’s hard to see him doing well elsewhere, whether we’re talking about the February 3rd primaries or the Michigan-Washington-Wisconsin trifecta that his campaign claims it’s positioning itself for. Wes Clark has largely failed to convert his military experience into a tangible asset on the trail—Kerry has the “people who respect heroes” vote cornered, and most military veterans have an innate distrust of generals, particularly ones who played politics in the service (a group Clark is apparently a member of, by most accounts); further, I don’t see Clark appealing to southerners so long as Edwards is still on the ticket. And I suspect Lieberman’s jet to Delaware tonight will divert to somewhere in Connecticut.

Of course, New Hampshire means nothing to either the Kucinich or Sharpton campaigns—two candidates who are in for the duration, and may be positioned to pick up some delegates down the stretch as voters in the late-voting states who want an alternative to the annointed winner (presumably Kerry) cast protest votes.

Also on the trail: James Joyner has a continuing roundup post. I’m flipping between MSNBC and Fox News here (with occasional forays to C-SPAN).

America's favorite generals

Peggy Noonan does a bit of Clark-bashing in today’s OpinionJournal. I wouldn’t bother following the link; it’s just the usual drivel I’ve come to expect from her. But one quote stood out as particularly laughable:

It is true that Americans respect and often support generals. But we like our generals like Eisenhower and Grant and George Marshall: We like them sober, adult and boring.

Grant? Sober?

(Yes, I know that historians disagree about the extent of Grant’s love affair with the bottle. But given the disagreement, “sober” is hardly the word that leaps to mind when describing him. And let’s not forget two other beloved American generals – Patton and McArthur – who can hardly be described as “boring.”)

Sunday, 25 January 2004

More Bourbon Blogging

Will Baude posts today on another way to ruin perfectly good bourbon.

And today I was watching the Xmas episode of Futurama on DVD. Fry has this fantastic quote:

Every Christmas my mom would get a fresh goose, for gooseburgers, and my dad would whip up his special eggnog out of bourbon and ice cubes.

Now that’s my kind of eggnog!

Snark Hunt: Brought to you by the makers of Tylenol 3

A heavily-medicated Kate has produced the latest edition of the Snark Hunt.

Continuing this evening’s meta-blogging theme, Signifying Nothing did not submit any material, as we didn’t have any snarky posts this week. We’re above that here at SN, you see.

By the way, I have to say that—in my personal experience—Tylenol 3 is one of the few sequels that’s better than the original.

Saturday, 24 January 2004

Samizdata Slickness

The folks over at Samizdata have debuted their new design, which I have to say is mighty impressive (kudos to the Dissident Frogman for the design and Jackie for the heads-up).

Incidentally, one of these decades, hopefully either Brock or I will develop some artistic talent to liven up the SN experience.

Toast: The Other White Meat™

Steven Taylor has the “eye of the storm” edition of the Toast-O-Meter up at PoliBlog. Classic line, in reference to Joe Lieberman:

Losing is: The defining characteristic of his campaign.

Go forth and read the spin—before it’s been spun.

Friday, 23 January 2004

DVDs and CSS

Will Baude has been inquiring about the DVD industry’s Content Scrambling System (CSS) and its associated region (or locale) coding system. Today he asks:

The question that then plagued me was why DVD-players went along with this system. It makes sense that DVD makers would like the ability to price discriminate in different markets, but wouldn’t Dell disk drives be worth more if they could play discs from all regions? Who gains from the limited switching?

DVD player manufacturers have to license the patents of the DVD Copy Control Association (as well as patents for other systems, like the Macrovision video copy protection scheme) in order for their players to legally play DVDs. The DVDCCA’s licensing provisions require manufacturers to implement the region locking scheme—thus, you can’t get a license to produce a DVD player if you don’t implement the scheme.

Now, some far-east manufacturers evade this requirement by conveniently “forgetting” to lock the DVD region settings of their players, or by leaving secret menus available to allow people to break the DVD region coding scheme. And, it is my understanding that unlicensed players based on the “DeCSS” code circumvent this region lock scheme completely, but I don’t own any DVDs from outside region 1 (USA/Canada), so I’ve never tested this for myself.*

Arguably, the whole system is illegal under WTO rules, which specifically prohibit schemes like region locking and rules against “reverse imports” that are designed to maintain regional price differentials. But given DVD manufacturers’ interests in maximizing their profits (particularly in often egregiously overpriced Region 2 markets like Great Britain) don’t expect this to change anytime soon.

More transcript follies

IMHO, $4/copy is a blatant ripoff for an official transcript, particularly when they’ll give you unofficial ones for 25¢ per page.

But at least I now have some proof I actually accomplished something the last five-and-a-half years:

Double-teaming Clayton Cramer

I don’t exactly want to turn this blog into CramerWatch, but this post struck me as being, well, a tad odd. He quotes at length from a Reuters piece on penis enlargement spam (no, really) and comes across this lovely tidbit:

At the heart of the problem, [NYU psychiatrist Virginia] Sadock said, is that since men don’t see many penises other than their own, they have little basis for comparison.

The exception, she said, is pornography, which gay men view more that straight men. And comparing one’s penis size to a porn star’s could lead even a well-endowed man to feel inadequate.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that New York’s gay community self-help arena has expanded beyond problems such as alcoholism and over eating to the affliction of a small penis.

“What is Small, Anyway,” is the working name of a support group in Greenwich Village, which acts as a safe haven for gay men who have small penises, or feel as though they do.

Participants complain about a gay community in which men brag about being bigger than they are and a country where big is king. Like at other support groups, most in this group are grateful just to be in a room together with people trying to confront the same problem.

A slim man with reddish hair told a recent meeting that he is made to feel he doesn’t measure up. “In our community the idea of what’s average (size) is very distorted,” he said.

Cramer’s response: “Of course, this wouldn’t be the only area in which the gay community is a bit distorted about what it considers important.”

Now, this strikes me as something of a weird reaction. For one thing, you’d expect gay men to have a more realistic idea about penis size—not less—since they, er, see more of them than straight men do. For another, I’m not entirely sure that gay men watch more porn than straight men do; now, it’s possible that more gay men watch porn than straight men, and it’s likely that the porn gay men prefer (which, of course, would be “gay porn”) has more penises in it, but I’m not convinced that once you pass the “selection function” (to borrow from Nobel laureate economist James Heckman, who I’m sure would love to know his name is in this conversation) that the count is markedly different in the universe of “porn viewers.”

Lastly, anyone who’s seen the god-awful ads for “Enzyte”—a product for “natural male enhancement” (i.e. a penis enlargement pill, distinct from e.g. Viagra and Levitra, which are erectile dysfunction pills)—would know that it’s being aggresively marketed to heterosexual males. Show me a straight guy and I’ll show you a straight guy who’s obsessed with the size of his penis. What I can’t fathom is that Cramer is apparently more obsessed with gay men than the size of his.

The job trail

Cool thing discovered recently: the Chronicle has RSS feeds of its job listings.

Not-so-cool thing discovered recently: the postal service needs a 46¢ stamp. I went through two books of 23¢ stamps in about ten minutes on Wednesday. So much for saving trips to the post office…

Wednesday, 21 January 2004

Slumming in the blogosphere

Visiting today some regions of blogspace I usually avoid, I found one of Clayton Cramer’s observations about racism:

In general, racism of any sort tends to be strongest among people that are at the bottom of the economic ladder—and need someone below them to look down upon. If you can’t take pride in anything that you have accomplished, you can at least take pride in your race!
I wonder how Clayton would explain vile anti-gay bigotry.

The Arar Saga Deepens

Obsidian Winger Katherine R has been all over the Maher Arar case for the past couple of weeks; today she notes Juliet O’Neill’s reporting on the case, which has landed Ms. O’Neill under investigation by Canadian authorities. This report reinforces my previous suspicion that the whole situation was orchestrated from Ottawa, with U.S. authorities playing an important role of being all-too-willing to go along in making the dirty work happen. It’s clear Ottawa couldn’t have deported Arar to Syria themselves without there being domestic hell to pay—so they got us to do it for them.

Bottom line: I’m with Katherine on this: there need to be investigations on both sides of the border.

What's a fiscal conservative to do?

Juan Non-Volokh complains that fiscal conservatives have nowhere to turn:

Last night’s State of the Union included the usual laundry list of costly new proposals, further cementing President Bush’s record as a profligate spender. Even with increased economic growth, pursuing these initiatives will further delay deficit reduction. Alas, fiscal conservatives don’t have anywhere else to turn, according to this study by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. To the contrary, based on their campaign platforms, NTUF found that every one of the contenders for the Democratic nomination would increase spending even more than it has grown under President Bush.

But the question should not be “what Bush will spend” vs. “what Democratic candidate D says he will spend“. The question should be “what Bush will spend” vs. “what Democratic candidate D will spend“. Any Democrat in the White House would have a powerful brake on his profligate spending plans that President Bush does not, viz. a Republican Congress. Andrew Sullivan has realized this, even if he can’t bring himself to support any of the Democratic candidates because of such important matters as endorsements by obnoxious jerks.

Of course, the worst federal spending (being not just wasteful but downright counter-productive), viz. farm subsidies, aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But aside from farm subsidies, a Democratic president would have a hard time finding enough common ground with a Republican Congress to pass any major new spending initiatives. And with the House gerrymandered into Repblican hands for the forseeable future, there’s not much danger of a Democratic Congress coming around and allowing a Democratic president to have his way with the Treasury.

In SOTU operation

I didn’t watch much of the State of the Union Address (still working on syllabi, natch), but I did catch the tail end of it, and I sort of half-watched Chris Matthews anchoring MSNBC’s “postgame report”—the most interesting bit of which was the Frank Luntz focus group, I thought, mainly because I think those dial things they use are cool. Yes, I’m weird.

A few random thoughts:

  • Do the dipshits who applauded when they heard the PATRIOT Act is expiring realize that they almost all voted for the bloody thing? That was probably the most lopsided vote since they passed the hideous, not to mention blatantly unconstitutional, Communications Decency Act in the mid-90s. (Incidentally, blatantly unconstitutional laws appear to have this interesting habit of getting lopsided votes in Congress; someone should research this scientifically.)
  • I like the $300m for post-prison rehabilitation programs. Of course, I’d rather we decriminalize drugs and save ourselves the money, but that’s just me.
  • I suspect the gay marriage thing was actually aimed at SCOTUS, or more specifically, Sandra Day O’Connor. Guess we’ll see if she was listening.
  • At least Bush didn’t let out that Dean “crow sqwak” noise at the end of his speech.
  • Speaking of Dean, I’m shocked he failed to include Mississippi in the list of states he promised to win (Olbermann had a map thingy of the list tonight, which was entertaining). Must not be any of them voters with Rebel flags on the back of their F-150s down here…

Anyway, cover letters to write then bedtime. Toodles!

By the way, James Joyner of OTB has all the reactions linked to one convenient post.

Them's fightin' words

Patrick Carver is a wee bit upset by the one-sided nature of USM’s upcoming speaker series. I think he called Andrew Sullivan a “liberal” somewhere in there, too, but I won’t swear to it.

Fun fun fun 'till Mozilla took the T-bird away

My transition to living with Mozilla Thunderbird as my email client is complete, now that I’ve discovered the bliss that Seth, er, I mean, is the Debian packaging of enigmail (and, for that matter, T-bird; for some reason, I didn’t think it was packaged until I started fooling around today). The anti-spam features are easier than futzing with Bogospam, the IMAP support with the dovecot server seems pretty robust, and it seems reasonably fast for my purposes.

Tuesday, 20 January 2004

Fun with syllabi

I’ve spent most of today writing syllabi for courses that I’ve never taught, and probably will never teach (most notoriously, a syllabus for southern politics—a great class, and one that I’d love to teach, but one that nobody will offer north of the Mason-Dixon line). And I’m not done yet… still got a few more to go.

How this exercise proves I could teach these classes is beyond me. Gotta love being on the job market…

Dollar-Powered Howard

The news out of Iowa can’t be good for Howard Dean. The pressure’s now on for a convincing Dean resurgence in New Hampshire, which will be hard, given both Wesley Clark’s full-time campaigning in the state and John Kerry’s surge in Iowa.

Why did Dean sputter in Iowa? The easiest conclusion to draw is that Dean’s attempt to tap a well of anger among Democrats has failed, at least in Iowa, because Democrats as a whole aren’t quite that angry. According to the New York Times‘ account, Dean was unable to capitalize on anti-war sentiment:

A survey of voters entering the caucus sites Monday suggested that what had been Dr. Dean’s central appeal — his opposition to the war in Iraq — did him little good on Monday night. Just 14 percent said the war in Iraq had shaped their final decision, even though 75 percent said they opposed the war.

Dr. Dean’s showing also raised questions about what had been one of the most intriguing elements of the Dean candidacy: that he had recruited thousands of first-time voters who could transform the nature of American presidential politics. Although half the voters on Monday were attending their first Iowa caucuses, 36 percent voted for Mr. Kerry, compared with 22 percent for Dr. Dean and 24 percent for Mr. Edwards.

The question is now: what about New Hampshire? Clearly, Clark, Dean and Kerry are poised for a fight, with John Edwards in much the position he was in Iowa—any finish above fourth place can be spun as a win, as the key state for his fortunes is South Carolina—a state in which Dean has no traction and where, as Columbia’s The State reports, Kerry now has to scramble to rebuild an organization he dismantled to focus on Iowa and New Hampshire.

Of course, every reporter and political wonk’s fantasy is a brokered convention—something that isn’t in the cards quite yet, given that not a single delegate has been allocated so far. But, nonetheless, Vincent Kennedy McDean might be well-advised to tone it down a notch or two—while politics, like pro wrestling, is a rough-and-tumble sport, in only the latter do the “heels” often win.

Monday, 19 January 2004

The Man

Radley Balko shows the faces of the people who will, in all likelihood, decide the Democratic nomination. Here’s a hint: they look like Howard Dean’s cabinet in Vermont did…

Tricky Dick Deux

Kevin Drum reckons the soft underbelly of the Bush presidency is Dick Cheney:

I’m going to stick with my suggestion that the Democrats could gain some traction by making Cheney a bigger issue in the campaign than vice presidents usually are. It would require a subtle touch, of course, but let’s face it: nobody likes an evil genius operating out of a hole. There ought to be something there we can take advantage of.

On the other hand, Unlearned Hand isn’t buying quite yet:

First of all, I think most Americans just won’t believe any claims that the Vice-President is exerting so much control. It goes against all conventional wisdom on vice-presidencies, and that’s a lot of inertia to overcome.

I’m not so sure about that; vice presidents have become more salient figures over the past 10–15 years than they used to be (see, e.g., Al Gore), although I’ll agree that the size of Cheney’s role is unprecedented. I’m rather inclined to think that vice presidents ought to have larger roles anyway, within the limitation that their primary job is to not die before the president does.

Cheney’s large role, in a lot of ways, is probably due to the relative inexperience of Bush in national politics. Interestingly, though, the “Ex-Governor – D.C. Insider” pattern has applied to every presidential ticket since Ford’s.

Second, it can easily be spun (perhaps correctly) into proof that Democrats know they can’t win by going after the President himself. Karl Rove could have a field day running ads that say “They are picking on the President’s staff because they don’t want to go head-to-head with George W. Bush.”

Well, it’s one thing to go after Andy Card and another to go after Cheney—the latter’s name, at least, is on the ballot. And I think there are legitimate issues that can be aired about Cheney’s role vis à vis Halliburton. I don’t know that I buy them necessarily (Cheney is hardly the first beltway insider to “descend from heaven” into a cushy job in the private sector, to borrow the Japanese coinage), but it’s a legitimate topic for discussion.

Third, I think Cheney’s presence is actually reassuring to a lot of people. To the extent that people do buy into the “Bush is dumb” rhetoric, many of them think having Cheney around makes for a perfect complement: Bush gives them the leadership and machismo that reassures a frightened nation, Cheney provides the organization and runs a lot of the policy analysis.

Perhaps that’s the case. On the other hand, I think the public perception of Cheney is that he’s on the verge of death—hardly a reassuring image. On balance, I tend to agree with Kevin and think Cheney’s a liability, at least on the image side.

Personally, though, I think Democrats could make much more hay with the Creepy Combo of John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge—at least with libertarian-minded voters like me who are deeply skeptical about Homeland Security’s smoke-and-mirrors operation and Ashcroft’s ties to the fundies and the CCC types. With a reasonably credible candidate at the front of the ticket (at this point, it’d have to be Edwards or possibly Kerry), that sort of message might sway my vote.

This is today’s OTB Traffic Jam entry.

Crime and punishment

You’ll be hard-pressed to find it in Daniel Davies’ account, but the case of Katharine Gun, a former British intelligence officer who has become something of the “Valerie Plame” of the anti-war movement on the other side of the pond, seems rather open-and-shut.

Gun, an admitted opponent of the war in Iraq, is charged with violating the Official Secrets Act by leaking a memo, apparently from the NSA, soliciting help from their British counterparts at GCHQ in conducting intelligence operations against several U.N. delegations—something which, to the best of my knowledge, is not illegal in either the United States or Britain. But, you know, she’s being made a “scapegoat” (i.e. being charged with a crime she’s almost certainly guilty of) because of the “embarrassment” to the government (i.e. she broke the fricking law).

Anyway, if you’re inclined to venerate criminal acts, you’ll probably enjoy this Bob Herbert op-ed which plays the martyr card to the hilt. If not, well… scroll down, there’s better stuff here to read.

Update: Jacob Levy also has an interesting take on Mr. Davies’ clarion call.

Marijuana, Cocaine, and Violent Crime

Tyler Cowen, noting that drastic fall in violent crime during the 90s may be partly explained by the fall in popularity of crack cocaine, speculates on the reasons that the cocaine business, unlike the marijuana business, is so associated with violent crime.

Is it more due to intrinsic properties of cocaine, such as its addictive nature, and its being a stimulant instead of a depressant? Or is it due to extrinsic features of the drug, such as its centralized production outside the U.S.?

Perhaps some light could be shed on the matter by comparison with the crystal methamphetamine business. I’m not an expert, but from what I’ve read it would seem that crystal meth shares a lot intrinsic properties (such as being a stimulant) with cocaine, but shares with marijuana extrinsic properties such as decentralized production.

If there’s a high rate of violence associated with the crystal meth business, we should look to the intrinsic properties of cocaine to explain the violence associated with the cocaine business, whereas if there is not, we should look to production factors to explain the difference between the cocaine and marijuana businesses.

Mississippi is number 1!

In public corruption, that is. Via Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution, we learn that the Corporate Crime Reporter has listed Mississippi as the most corrupt state in the country, closely followed by North Dakota and Louisiana.

As for the rest of the Mid-South, the full report reveals that Tennessee comes in at number 19, and Arkansas is way down on the list at number 42. Nebraska is apparently the least corrupt state in the nation.

Congratulations, Mississippi!

UPDATE: Damn, Chris beat me to the post by 24 minutes.

Delicious Irony

Keith Burgess-Jackson is upset with the banner ads that Ads By Google is serving up at the head of Animal Ethics.

Over the course of a couple of reloads, I’ve seen ads for “Jackson Hole Choice Meats,” “,” “Prime Beef,” “USDA Certified Steaks,” and “Kobe Beef from $29.99.”

It seems that Google’s keyword technology can tell what a site is about, but can’t tell you whether the site is for or against it.

Rather than letting it ruin his day, I think Keith should try to find the humor in it. After all, these companies are presumably paying by the impression, and they aren’t likely to get any sales from these ads.

We're Number One!

Tyler Cowen finds evidence that Mississippi is the most corrupt state in the Union. You don’t say…

The scary part: the figures don’t even include the non-quite-illegal-but-downright-unethical influence peddling that goes on in these parts, like ex-attorney general Mike Moore’s long campaign to enrich his law school buddies.


One thing many people elide, or perhaps just forget, when talking about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is that he was a minister—his faith, above all else, informed his actions. Rarely was that more clearly on display than in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, where he considers whether his leadership of protests against segregation in Birmingham was “extremist”:

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal …” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime—-the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.*

As Michael Totten today points out, there is no shortage of extremists today on either side of the political spectrum. They ought to give pause to reconsider what kinds of extremists they will be.

Update: Big Jim notes that it’s someone else’s holiday too down heah, as they say.

Clark ads hit Memphis

Among Democratic contenders for the nomination, Wes Clark has so far had the Memphis airwaves to himself—apparently in an effort to build momentum going into the February 10th open primary in Tennessee, which is only 3 weeks away from Tuesday. Is Clark planning a “Southern strategy” of his own? Or is this a misallocation of resources? Only time will tell, but if he does well in both New Hampshire and on February 3rd, he should be well-positioned for a win in Tennessee in the race against presumed front-runner Howard Dean.

Sunday, 18 January 2004

Name that blog!

Dan Drezner is seeking suggestions for a new name for his blog, as part of the commemoration of his millionth unique visit.

Now excuse me while I go into mourning due to today’s loss by the Colts…

Update: Several commenters like my suggestion of “Tenurable Activity.” If Dan doesn’t use it, you can bet your bippy I will—once I get a job, that is.

Movie night

I finally got around to watching Road to Perdition and Sunshine State last night (I rented them on Tuesday…).

Sam Mendes’ Road to Perdition was an incredibly well-made film, even though the plot was largely predictable (or, dare I say, archetypical). Amazing cinematography, wonderful music, and great acting all-around, particularly by Tom Hanks who was playing very much against type (at least at some levels).

I also enjoyed John Sayles’ Sunshine State, although at points it struck me as a remake of Lone Star with the serial numbers filed off—perhaps because this film, like Lone Star, is sort of a celebration of sociologist Mark Granovetter’s concept of weak ties—the idea being that you go into a community and explore the links among its members. Particularly notable were the performances by Edie Falco and James McDaniel.

Anyway, I recommend both films highly.

Peer pressure in Iowa

Steven Taylor observes that the latest poll numbers, which show both Kerry and Edwards with statistically-insignificant leads over Dean, are essentially meaningless; he’s still predicting a Dean victory.

Why the WUSA folded: the shorts weren't tight enough

Kate Malcolm reports on FIFA head-honcho Sepp Blatter’s diagnosis for the lack of popularity of womens’ soccer: the ladies are dressing too much like the men. Needless to say, such soccer luminaries as Brandi Chastain and Julie Foudy are not impressed by Blatter’s remarks.

On the other hand, as Tony Kornheiser has quite rightly pointed out, the signature moment of the 1999 Womens’ World Cup, when Ms. Chastain spontaneously removed her top on the field, led to a much of the media attention that womens’ soccer has received. Since then, U.S. womens’ soccer has been something of a media black hole. Absent some sort of continuing sex appeal—whether to men, in the personages of Chastain and Mia Hamm, among others, or lesbian women (following the path of the WNBA, perhaps)—womens’ soccer has generated little buzz in the world of sports, especially since Americans seem ill-inclined to even watch the mens’ version of the sport.

I think in the long term, though, soccer (mens’ and womens’) can succeed in America without the gimmicks. Like any sport, much of the excitement is generated not by the action on the field, but by the fans’ enthusiasm for it. It’s hard to duplicate that sort of excitement in half-empty venues designed for more popular sports. In the end, I suspect better players and more rabid fans will “sex up” the game far more than dressing the players in tight clothing—and I think that applies to both mens’ and womens’ soccer equally.

Update: Ryan of The Dead Parrots Society has additional thoughts on this topic. As he says, “It's a lot easier for principle to beat pragmatism when there isn't a lot of money at stake.”

Saturday, 17 January 2004

Last call for Toast in Iowa

Steven Taylor has posted the pre-Iowa edition of the Toast-O-Meter™. Also of interest: Jeff Quinton is keeping his eye on all things South Carolina.

Vegetarian fast food

David Bernstein writes that the best deal for vegetarian fast food is the Taco Bell bean burrito at 79 cents.

I haven’t set foot in a Taco Bell in several years, myself. But if you are fortunate enough to live in a city with a Back Yard Burgers franchise, I highly recommend their Gardenburger. BYB is a little more expensive than the usual fast food dreck, but this is definitely a case of getting what you pay for.

Job worries

One of the jobs I’m applying for next year is a post-doc in lovely State College, Pennsylvania.

“Where’s State College?” you may ask. Funnily enough, as Kevin of Wizbang! notes, at least one U.S. Airways Express pilot apparently has the same question…

Friday, 16 January 2004

Solomon Unpunished

Robert Prather thinks the best solution to the District of Columbia’s electoral quandry is something I’d call “electoral retrocession”: the district’s residents would be considered residents of Maryland for the purposes of electing senators and representatives.

I can see several potential problems with this arrangement:

  1. The residents of the District of Columbia would have no say in the redistricting process of Maryland.
  2. Although it’s likely Maryland would treat D.C. as a unified entity in creating a single-member district, there are nefarious reasons not to do so—for example, by attaching majority-white but still overwhelmingly Democratic Ward 3 to the Montgomery County suburbs to further dilute Republican voting strength in the Maryland suburbs.
  3. The amendment, as proposed, requires Maryland’s assent to become active. No other constitutional amendment has ever required the assent of a particular state to become effective. (The only reasonable explanation for this provision: Maryland might legitimately argue that its equal suffrage in the Senate is being deprived by the amendment.)
  4. Any state on the threshold of losing representation has an interest in not supporting the amendment.
  5. The Democratic Party’s interests are better served by whining about the lack of representation of D.C. than adding a single guaranteed-to-be-a-Democrat member of the House of Representatives—especially if the net effect is to reduce the number of guaranteed electoral votes for the Democratic presidential nominee by three.

The first two problems could be solved by making D.C. residents eligible to vote in senatorial contests in Maryland, and adjusting the amendment to allocate a single representative to D.C. exclusively (while having no effect on Maryland’s representation in the House). The House could expand its membership by one (from 435 to 436) by statute to solve the “threshold” issue. The last problem could be solved by giving the Democrats the “carrot” of retaining D.C.’s 3 electoral votes—which, combined with an extra House member, are probably more valuable to the Democrats than two senators they’re most unlikely to get any other way.

Also on the D.C. topic: the D.C. Board of Elections has released ward and precinct-level results for the non-binding D.C. primary. I’d imagine some political scientist who knows something about ecological inference might just be able to use the precinct-level data to predict Al Sharpton’s likely share of the African-American vote in other states, if he were bored enough.

This is today’s entry in the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Recess success for Pickering

As Will Baude (among others) notes, Charles Pickering got a recess appointment to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals today, bypassing the anticipated filibuster of his nomination by the Senate for now. While national Democrats have strongly opposed the nomination, he has attracted significant support from many Mississippi Democrats—who, unlike their national counterparts, usually need at least some support from moderate-to-conservative whites to stay in office.

Also, feel free to read my past Pickering posts.

Pondering Arar

Both David Janes and Pieter Dorsman have interesting posts on the case of Maher Arar, a citizen of Canada and Syria who was detained in New York on his way back to Canada from a trip to Tunisia. Arar was subsequently deported to Syria, jailed, and released, according to this CBC timeline. Katherine R, one of the bloggers at Obsidian Wings, has also been dissecting the story for a few days now (more here).

I honestly don’t know what to make of all of this. I have a sneaking suspicion that elements of the Canadian intelligence apparatus were trying to get the U.S. to do some of their dirty work for them, because the Canadian government would never let them get away with it on their own, but there’s also the distinct possibility that U.S. authorities were freelancing. It’s all deeply weird.

“Freeway” gaining ground in Tennessee?

It’s the equivalent of the “soda/pop/Coke” question for roadgeeks: what do you call a highway with fully-controlled access (i.e. a road like Germany’s autobahns, French autoroutes, British motorways, or American interstates), a freeway or an expressway ? The preferred engineering term is “freeway,” but “expressway” has quite an established tradition in many parts of the eastern U.S.—including much of the south. (Georgia is the only southern state that consistently refers to its freeways in public by that name, although “freeway” does seem to have gained some limited currency in Alabama as well.)

Yet “freeway” creep may be happening in Memphis. The Commercial Appeal‘s Tom Bailey Jr. uses the term in this Go weblog entry, and it’s used more often than “expressway” in the associated article in Friday’s CA.

Bailey also notes Dan McNichol’s visit to Memphis to view the Midtown interchange reconstruction. McNichol is the author of the 2003 book The Roads that Built America. McNichol’s book struck me, when I looked through it at Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago, as a more road-friendly but ultimately less engrossing take on the subject than Tom Lewis’ 1997 Divided Highways, which accompanied the PBS series of the same name.

Both books, alas, overlook the second great phase of freeway building that is now getting underway: not just the “Big Dig” style projects that will rectify the mistakes of the past, but also the grand plans like Interstate 69, Interstate 49, and Interstate 73/74, as well as the Trans Texas Corridor. These are the routes that will apply the lessons of Overton Park and the Vieux Carre without compromising the central goals of the Interstate system—improving mobility, bringing economic opportunity, and increasing safety.

Thursday, 15 January 2004

Placebo Laws

Alex Tabarrok has just had a co-authored paper published that uses a simulation-based approach (using simulated “placebo laws”) to help test whether the effects of certain types of dummy (binary) variables in a time-series are statistically significant. It seems like a fairly interesting approach, which I’ll have to bear in mind next time I do any time-series stuff (most of my data tends to be cross-sectional, however).

And, the substantive topic of Alex’s paper will no doubt be of interest to those who want to fight over John Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime.

None of the above?

Will Baude ponders the procedure of assigning students to discussion sections. My gut reaction is: “don’t have discussion sections”—none of the political science courses I ever took had them, and I’m not really all that sure they add much value for anyone involved in the process. I suppose they provide a way to get grad students some teaching experience to slap on the vita without having to give them the responsibility of teaching a real course and running the risk that their first outing will be an unmitigated disaster.

Such things do happen, mind you, but I’d rather grad students crash and burn during a lecture early in their careers rather than emerging from school with zero experience besides asking ten undergrads to discuss their feelings about Plato’s allegory of the cave*—and then crashing and burning repeatedly on their way to being unceremoniously canned at their third-year review.

By the way, my recommended procedure is to have the discussion sections listed separately in the schedule of classes (or, as a bookkeeping exercise, each lecture-discussion combo is considered a separate course even though the lectures all meet at the same place), so students sign up for them directly. This neatly avoids the issue of schedule conflicts since, if the scheduling program is doing its job, there won’t be any.

The proliferation of LEDs

Michael Jennings discusses the slow but steady progress of LEDs in replacing traditional incandescent lights. As he notes, they’ve become particularly common in traffic signals because they are brighter, last much longer, and have significantly lower power consumption than traditional lights.

Conventional lack-of-wisdom

Stephen Green ponders whether Howard Dean’s candidacy is stagnating in the face of surges from Wesley Clark (in New Hampshire, as he’s had the whole state to himself while the rest of the Dems pander to Iowans prior to next Tuesday’s essentially meaningless precinct caucuses) and John Edwards (who’s picking up endorsements and favorable media coverage in Iowa).

At this point, the narrative for Iowa is pretty much written:* Edwards surges to a surprisingly strong third-place finish, and Dick Gephardt fails to live up to expectations in his own back yard against Dean, effectively starting the “death bells” for Gephardt’s campaign—with the nails to the coffin coming when he finishes spectacularly poorly in New Hampshire.

So, what’s the New Hampshire narrative? Today’s polls still show Dean with a statistically-significant, but rapidly eroding, lead over Clark. If Dean and Clark finish within single digits of each other, Dean fails to live up to expectations—and has to hope that Clark, Edwards, and Gephardt divide the South Carolina electorate enough for Dean to finish #2 behind Edwards. If, on the other hand, Dean gets a double-digit win over Clark in New Hampshire, that’s probably enough to make him the designated frontrunner and tip the balance in the non-S.C. February 3rd primaries through favorable media.

Stay tuned, things are about to get interesting…

* Update: Ok, maybe not… where the heck did Kerry come from?

Wednesday, 14 January 2004

Playing with the normal vote

VodkaPundit Stephen Green plays with Excel’s mapping feature to draw some electoral college maps on the (not unreasonable) presumption that the relative strength of the Republicans and Democrats in each state is unchanged since 2000. Fun stuff.

This is what Deliberation Day would look like: hell

Marybeth links a Joel Klein piece on the fun and excitement that is the Iowa caucuses. Classic quotes:

To explain how it all works, Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver is going around the state holding practice caucuses. At his workshop last Tuesday at the library in Clive, a suburb seven miles west of Des Moines, about 50 people showed up, several of them young enough to be my parents. Most of these folks already knew how caucuses work and just wanted a refresher course. Clive needs to get itself a bowling alley.

As Culver, 37, a former history teacher, began with an hour-long PowerPoint presentation on the history of the caucus going back to 1846, a sign-language interpreter flashed signs — even though not a single person in the room was deaf. It hit me about 15 minutes into the speech that the sign-language guy must have realized no one there was deaf, but by that time it was too embarrassing to just stop. So he kept going, his bravery a further testimony to the lengths Iowans go through just to get David Broder to visit.

At least Bob Putnam would approve!

For the second hour, Culver had the audience stage a fake caucus. It turns out the Republican caucus is really simple. They pass around ballots, count them and go home to watch Everybody Loves Raymond while the Democrats are still reading their rules. I predict the state will eventually be 100% Republican.

Once all the candidates have at least 15%, a formula Culver describes as “needing a Ph.D. in math to understand” is used to determine how many delegates each candidate gets. The percentage of delegates each candidate gets is the number reported in the media. Then the media, for reasons that are unclear, pretend that has something to do with whom the country wants to be President.

Yes, this is exactly the sort of shit Ackerman and Fishkin want to foist on America. Thanks—but no thanks.

Tuesday, 13 January 2004


Kelley of suburban blight thinks the President’s plan to spend $1.5 Billion to encourage people to get and stay married is a waste of money, as does Amanda Butler of Crescat Sententia. On the other hand, Sully thinks it’s a great idea that nonetheless further proves the administration hates gay people (no, really, I’m not making that up, although it might be a slight exaggeration).

Me? I’m with Kelley and Amanda. Give me the $6 this idiotic program will cost me and every other American and I’ll decide to get married when I damn well please, thank you very much. I even promise not to marry Britney Spears (or Paris Hilton or Xtina) and annul the marriage 55 hours later.

No Rockets for Oil (or Bones)!

Lefty Joe Conason thinks Bush is going to the Moon and Mars for oil (hint: if you’re looking for hydrocarbons like methane, they’re probably in the outer solar system—they don’t call them “gas giants” for nothing). Righty Brendan Miniter thinks the Mars trip is a great way to solve osteoperosis. Conrad points out that both men are idiots.

Beltway tanker explosion

James Joyner, inquiring about the I-95 tanker explosion today, asks:

How one drives a tanker truck over a barrier from an overpass, I’ll never know.

It’s actually pretty simple. The tanker apparently hit the barrier on the overpass at excessive speed, which made it crash through the barrier of the flyover ramp from the I-895 Harbour Tunnel Thruway southbound to I-95 southbound and land on the northbound lanes of I-95 below. The concrete barriers on bridges and highways, like metal guard rails, are designed to deflect vehicles back onto the roadway to avoid catastrophic crashes like this, but there’s only so much force a static barrier can deflect.

Incidentally, similar accident in 1998 in Memphis, on the one-lane ramp that connects I-40 to the north side of the Memphis 40/240 loop, claimed eight lives, and is the impetus for rebuilding the I-240/40 Midtown interchange to move the 90° turn to ground level.

Of further interest:

  • Baltimore’s NBC4 has posted a collection of images from the crash.
  • Microsoft TerraServer has an aerial photo of the interchange; the ramp at the top is the one the tanker fell off. I-95 is the road running SW-NE, while I-895 leaves directly to the east.

O'Neill throwing himself into reverse

Since Ron Suskind’s alleged tell-all book has come out, Paul O’Neill, the ex-treasury secretary whose revelations the book is based on, has taken to the talk-show circuit in an attempt to disavow many of the more sensational quotes from the book.

Then again, maybe O’Neill’s just preemptively defending himself from the hit squad Kevin Drum thinks has been sent after him by Karl Rove.

Iowa and 15%

As I’ve noted before, there’s a Democratic delegate selection rule that requires 15% support in a congressional district for a candidate to receive delegates. However, as the Commissar notes, the caucus procedure isn’t exactly a single-ballot electoral situation, according to Carl Hulse of The New York Times:

The chairman of the caucus determines the “viability” threshold for groups backing each presidential candidates, which in most cases will be 15 percent of the number of people attending. Caucusgoers then have 30 minutes to divide into preference groups for the candidates. If some groups supporting candidates do not reach the 15 percent level, those people then have up to half an hour to realign with other campaigns.

At this stage, the pressure will be on the newly liberated caucusgoers to enlist with another candidate. In a deeper layer of strategy, some participants might even align with a candidate they are not that wild about to cut into the count of those who most threaten their first choice.

At the end of 30 minutes, the preference groups are counted again and the delegates are apportioned by multiplying the number in the preference group by the number of delegates up for grabs in a precinct, then dividing by the total attending the caucus. In cases of ties, delegates can be awarded by flipping a coin or drawing straws.

The Commissar expects this will lead to some strategic behavior, as groups of voters who might prefer other candidates may coalesce around a single “ABD” candidate to counter the Dean groundswell. Yet there are a couple of obstacles to such a process:

  1. This process only happens at caucus sites, rather than at a higher level of aggregation. Gephardt may get the nod at one location, Edwards at another, and Lieberman at a third.
  2. The caucuses only elect delegates to county conventions; as The Green Papers notes, the process for choosing congressional district and statewide delegates happens in late April, by which time the nomination will essentially be decided—and thus almost all of Iowa’s national convention delegates are likely to opt for the presumed nominee at that point, rather than following the caucus-goers’ preferences.

So, in the grand scheme of things: Iowa decides virtually nothing, and essentially is as important as today’s eminently forgettable D.C. non-binding primary, yet it’s been the center of media attention for two months. Great.

Now I know why I was going to complain

A few weeks ago, I promised a response to a Jonah Goldberg piece whining about ignorant voters. Now, as Brett Marston points out, Goldberg is advocating bringing back literacy tests on The Corner (just in case you needed another reason besides John Derbyshire not to send Bill Buckley any of your hard-earned cash). Quoth Goldberg, in typical cacophonous Corner fashion:

Hear, hear for Jon [Alder] on that score. But I’d go one better. I think it’s about time we toughened up the requirements for voting. Literacy tests, poll taxes and the like may have once been legitimately suspect because they were used to disciminate against blacks. But today, I simply see no principled reason we couldn’t apply some sort of test to everybody. Indeed, I would be more comfortable having newly naturlized immigrants decide the future of this country at the ballot box than leaving it up to, say, typical white 18-22 year-olds. I know that the immigrants can pass a civics test. I have no such confidence in the kids at my local malls.

Quoth Brett:

Democracy at the NRO. The poor and uneducated need not apply. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Since I know nobody’s going to read my dissertation to find out what I think of the elitist line of argument, let me simply state that:

  1. Citizens have no “civic duty” to be informed about politics.
  2. Citizens have no “civic duty” to vote.

Not only is it irrational for voters to learn about politics, it’s downright immoral to insist that people participate in the political process, especially since, for J. Random Jackass working at the meatpacking plant, the marginal difference between Howard Dean and George W. Bush is zero—no matter how much Dean and Bush try to tell him otherwise.

You want to know why people say they don’t know enough about particular candidates? It’s because we (political scientists, media types, and what have you) insist that it’s important that they know the minutae of Howard Dean’s foreign policy views or Wes Clark’s tax plan or Dennis Kucinich’s DSM-IV diagnosis. The dirty little secret of politics is people don’t make decisions based on that stuff—even if they do know it. Ultimately, it’s more about “who do I trust more,” “whose politics seem closest to mine,” and “do I prefer people who look like thumbs over people who resemble chimps” than “Bush is going to give me $32.65 more take-home pay a week than Dean.” Which is as it should be. There are enough of us warped political junkies as it is; let’s not add to the population.

Update: Brett Marston has more thoughts on this topic. Incidentally, if you—like Brett—“still want to read [my] dissertation,” it's all online here, along with pretty much everything I’ve written for conferences (or otherwise had my name slapped on).

Signifying Nothing: Proud Supporter of Howard Dean

Notice to any prospective employer who got here by Googling my name:

Transcript follies

It’s been nearly ten years since Memphis State University inexplicably became the University of Memphis, and it’s still causing problems. Case in point: my Ole Miss transcript, which (in addition to not having my degree posted on it yet, despite noting that I passed all my exams, completed by dissertation, and had it approved by my committee) claims I previously attended “The University of Tennessee Memphis,” an institution that doesn’t even exist: the Memphis campus of UT is properly styled The Universty of Tennessee Health Science Center, while the University of Memphis isn’t even part of the UT system for political reasons that make zero sense to me.

The young woman I discussed this problem with today at the registrar’s office did promise to change it—but the university’s new computer system (thank you, SAP) doesn’t know about the name change. End result: it’ll read “Memphis State University” on any future transcripts I receive. Someone, somewhere is smiling. That person is not me. I’m annoyed that I’m going to spend the rest of my life as a graduate of a university that requires me to include this sort of crap on my vita:

B.A., Political Science, The University of Memphis (formerly known as Memphis State University), 1998.

Lipstick lesbian chic

In addition to all the bloviating on the left and right over same-sex marriage (or “marital equality” as Chris Geidner of En Banc would have me call it—even though that sounds more like a call for the imposition of community property laws to me), the other excitement in the non-heterosexual world has, of late, been over lesbians.

Apropos of this topic, Matt Stinson ponders whether the “L” word stands for “lipstick” in title of the new Showtime series (which I guess would be in the opposite direction of Showtime’s other gay-themed series, “Queer As Folk”), while Conrad reveals that Russian duo TATU aren’t really lesbians, but they’re breaking up anyway.

Movin' on up

Signifying Nothing has recently joined the prestigious neighborhood known as Conrad’s blogroll. In addition to leading the sort of swinging lifestyle that I can but hope to emulate, Conrad is a fellow alumnus of the University of Mississippi.

More coherent thought later today, perhaps…

Monday, 12 January 2004

Riling up the Corner

Stephen Bainbridge has an eminently reasonable column on the pros and cons of Bush’s immigration proposal up at TechCentralStation; he also blogs the reaction from NRO’s Corner (a blog I generally find both too cacophonous and too conservative for my tastes). Speaking just for myself, any plan that has the potential to eventually eliminate the Soviet-style internal security checkpoints that have long been established in the southwest (and apparently have spread to northern border states as well) to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking would meet with my approval.

Sabine Herold

It started with Glenn Reynolds linking an interview with libertarian activist Sabine Herold, the spokeswoman for the French organization named «Liberté j‘écris ton nom».

Now, Jeff Jarvis inquires in passing:

I was going to ask whether it was wrong of me to note that this French libertarian is a babe.

What I want to ask is: are we all that sure she’s French? Mlle Herold, if the photos are anything to judge by, apparently is familiar with the use of a razor.

This is my entry in today’s Beltway Traffic Jam.

Waltzing before a disinterested audience

Jeff Jarvis semi-fisks a Pew study that (a) shows Americans don’t know much about politics and (b) assumes this actually matters. Money quote from Jeff:

The net result, Pew complains, is that the electorate is poorly informed. I’d say that at this stage in the election, the electorate doesn’t want to be informed. Unless you live in Iowa or New Hampshire, there’s no point in paying attention to half the candidates running now, right?

On the night of February 3rd, the primary process, for all intents and purposes, will be over, without 90% of the population of America being consulted. The Democratic candidates aren’t really “waltzing before a blind audience,” to steal a phrase; instead, they’re waltzing before a few audiences who get to decide which one gets to go to the national finals in November—with the rest of us stuck watching in the meantime, because nothing could possibly be more important than seeing a bunch of Democrats suck up to Iowans for weeks on end. I think voters are being much smarter than Pew thinks they are.

The Reivers

Michael of Southern Appeal notes this WaPo piece by Jonathan Yardley on William Faulkner’s last novel, The Reivers—probably my favorite of Faulkner’s, even though it’s not quite written at the level of, say, Absalom, Absalom! or The Sound and the Fury. Yardley’s assessment is spot-on:

“The Reivers” is written in prose at once distinctly Faulknerian yet entirely accessible. It provides a way to accustom oneself to Faulkner’s language without becoming immediately lost in it, as can happen to someone who wanders all innocence into “Absalom, Absalom!” or “The Bear.” It gives you an introduction to the genealogy of Yoknapatawpha without overwhelming you in its intricacies. It sets forth many of Faulkner’s most important themes in clear, persuasive ways. No, it is not among his masterworks, but it is a lovely book, funny and touching and Faulkner to the core.

Read the whole thing—the book and the review.

More CSU poll fallout

Jeff Jardine of the Modesto Bee opines on the apparently-bogus Scott Peterson survey conducted by Professor Stephen Schoenthaler of Cal State-Stanislaus.

Sacagawea Me!

One of Signifying Nothing’s first posts was advocacy for the $1 coin. Now, I see (via Justene and Dean) that Boviosity! is leading a challenge among bloggers to get more dollar coins into circulation. Sounds like a plan to me.

Update: Matt of it could be a lot better… is feeling contrarian on this one.

Holding the center again

Christie Todd Whitman argues on the New York Times op-ed page that the GOP needs to spend more time reaching out to moderate voters. (Hat tip: Martin Devon of Patio Pundit.)

Update: James Joyner isn’t buying.

Sunday, 11 January 2004

We don't make 'em like we used to

Steve Verdon notes the decline in several strategic sectors of the American economy has become acute over the past 100 years. This continuance of this tragedy must be averted at any cost.

Rule One: no falsifying data

Kevin of Wizbang links an AP article that indicates some kids at CSU-Stanislaus faked survey data that helped get Scott Peterson’s trial moved out of Modesto. The Modesto Bee has more coverage here and here, that suggests the survey was based on non-random samples, did not receive IRB approval before it was conducted, and lacked effective supervision—all of which are serious no-nos for valid research. (The Bee also has a copy of the questionnaire on its website.)

The whole situation is embarrassing—not just to CSU-Stanislaus, but to anyone who takes survey research seriously. And while there can be pedagogical value to having students work on surveys, particularly in public opinion classes, there’s no excuse for the apparent lack of supervision in this case.

Update: Eugene Volokh has more. To echo Eugene, however, I will say the lack of supervision and other problems in no way absolve the students who falsified data from responsibility for their corrupt behavior. If the allegations are true, everyone involved should be frogmarched in front of disciplinary committees—the students who faked data and the professor.

Saturday, 10 January 2004

Thumb enchanted evening

Some say George W. Bush looks like a chimpanzee. Now, Jeff Jarvis speculates that Howard Dean looks like a thumb. Sounds like a warped version of rock-paper-scissors to me…

Get rid of your Tunica card collection (maybe)

Marybeth passes on a link to a New Scientist article that indicates some casinos are planning to add RFID tags to their gaming chips in 2004. It seems like an effective way to combat fraud, but I’m not sure it’d do much good for rating players—chips change hands often, and you’d still need to tie the physical location of the player to the chips for it to be useful. I suppose you could do this by implanting an RFID tag in the player’s club card (and figuring out a way to measure proximity of chips to that card), or by having players insert their card into a reader at their seat at the table—which would work at blackjack, 3-card poker, or baccarat, but be problematic for craps or roulette where players normally stand.

HDTV DirecTiVo on the way

One more thing to add to the list for when I become rich and famous (hah!).

The center will not hold

Pieter Dorsman of Peaktalk wonders if the United States might be following the path of Canada and the Netherlands, with both the left and the right in those countries becoming disaffected with the centrists who held sway in the 1990s. Definitely a good read. (Digression follows…)

Friday, 9 January 2004

Career options

Who says an Ole Miss degree is a ticket to a dead-end career in the retail industry? Not Roosevelt Skerrit, a graduate of the University of Mississippi who is now prime minister of the Carribean island nation of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic). Skerrit, 31, received a B.A. in Psychology and English in 1997, and is a former lecturer at Dominica Community College. A little more info is in this AP account and this press release. Very cool.

Missing the point of the exercise

David Levy reports to Tyler Cowen on Brazil’s laughable implementation of its response to US-VISIT. What I don’t get is: if it’s an indignity for Brazilians (and virtually everyone else in the world who enters the United States) to be photographed by U.S. authorities, how on earth do they reconcile the fact that their own passports include photos?

I’m less convinced by the need for fingerprinting, but I suspect fingerprint matching algorithms are much more reliable than face matching ones, and it certainly seems worthwhile to verify that visa applicants are the same people who actually enter the country.

Toast, Bourbon Street style

Steven Taylor has the latest Toast-O-Meter update, live from N‘Orleans (I have to say that Steven’s far more dedicated to his craft than I would be in his stead). And who says political science is irrelevant?

At the Southern Political Science Association meeting this week, Merle Black, professor at Emory University, and expert on Southern Politics, stated that Dean had no chance of winning any of the South in the general election, indeed, assuming no radical events, that none of the Nine would be able to win the South, although Clark might could win Arkansas. The entire panel, all experts on Southern Politics, concurred.

According to the SPSA program, the panel included both Black brothers, Harold Stanley, Hastings Wyber, and Ron Weber, and was moderated by Robert Steed… for those of you keeping score at home.

Lost another loan to a discriminatory lender!

Something’s wrong with the latest ads—and it’s not the “I lost another loan to DiTech” guy, who—along with the Verizon “Can You Hear Me Now?”† doofus and the thankfully-retired “Dell dude” Steve—has rapidly worn out his welcome.

Link via Kate of Electric Venom.

Kate gets to play soccer mom

VK’s Jeep broke down today. The worst part? No, not the $40 cab ride because the tow truck driver wouldn’t let her ride with him (who’s ever heard of that?)... it’s this:

Oh, and did I mention that I’m driving a white minivan until I get my Jeep back? The pain. Oh, the pain.

Well, as someone who learned to drive in a Plymouth Voyager minivan and whose first car was a 1984 Chevrolet Celebrity station wagon… I can honestly say “I feel your pain.” (Karma has been kinder since, however.)

Update: John Jenkins’ first car was a 1986 Pontiac Grand Le Mans station wagon with faux wood paneling. I concede defeat in the crappy car rally (though I think the Grand Le Mans and Celebrity were basically the same body—but my station wagon, bought in 1992, didn’t have wood paneling; instead, it was blue). By the way, after I totalled the Celebrity in 1997, it was replaced with a blue 1989 Buick Regal coupe, which was sold in 2002.

The XM Nation

Rick Henderson got XM Satellite Radio for Christmas, and seems to be enjoying it. Even with my “mainstream” musical tastes, I prefer XM to the horrible spot load (radio jargon for number of commercials per hour) and lack of variety of mainstream radio—and judging from the number of satellite radio antennas I’m seeing in Oxford these days, I’m not alone.

Anyway, XM is going to neutralize one of the few advantages its rival Sirius has by removing commercials from 68 of its 70 music channels on February 1st (many of which were already commercial-free—the only “commercially impaired” channels are Viacom’s MTV Radio and VH-1 Radio); now that all of XM’s radio programming is in-house with the launch of Kiss-XM (replacing the incredibly-spot-infested Kiss-FM of Los Angeles), it’s a smart move, as ads really weren’t selling on the music channels. Also cool, if you live in a real city, is the launch of local traffic and weather starting in March. And, last but not least, MSNBC will be added to the dial, so you can get your daily dose of Olbermann or (ick) Imus. All very cool.

Not a paid endorsement—I just love my XM. No more fiddling with CDs or listening to Let Go a thousand times, over and over and over

Put away the guns, kids

As James Joyner notes, we’re now back to Bert on the homeland security scale. Except where we’re not. Clear? Good.

Incidentally, “yellow” is not to be confused with “Amber.” And that’s capital-A Amber, since it’s named after someone (like Code Adam), and has nothing to do with the color amber.

Update: Mike Hollihan has more on this theme.

Gay conservatism

Andrew Sullivan’s latest screed against the anti-same-sex marriage right contains this gem of reasoning:

[National Review]’s open-ended anyone-can-apply civil unions proposal would be the biggest assault on marriage since no-fault divorce.

That’s right—it’s Covenant marriages for everyone in Sully’s ideal world. Because we all know that it’s better to have people stuck in loveless relationships than to let them out of them.

The funny thing about Sullivan is that even though I agree with him on the merits (even though, as I’ve said before, I don’t buy at all that gay marriage will inherently have a “civilizing effect” on homosexual relationships), every time I read one of his gay marriage posts I find myself reconsidering my position. By this time next year, he may have turned me into a committed opponent at this rate…

God as my witness, I thought pork could fly

The libertarian/modcon reaction to George Bush’s “Mars shot” proposal has been generally negative , Dan Drezner, and Robert Garcia Tagorda for a sampling; the Crescat crew is conflicted, to say the least). And I largely agree—not so much because it’s an inefficient allocation of resources, although it is, but because the “pork” isn’t really a public good.

When Washington earmarks $X million dollars to build a highway in someone’s district, or grants funds for a flashy new federal courthouse somewhere, at least the pork has a public good quality: everyone benefits, or has the potential of benefitting, in a meaningful way. But the space program doesn’t create a public good; instead, it redistributes money from taxpayers to people with “Ph.D.” at the end of their names—Robin Hood in reverse—with only the vague promise that the public will see benefits. (Whatever benefits there are, however, will likely be patented, with the royalties devolving to the contractors—not the government to compensate for the “seed money” from the grants.)

The small upside in this is that at least we’re trying to help Dennis Kucinich find his way back home… who says Americans aren’t a generous people?

Not at the Southern

Due to a combination of disorganization, lack of interest, and tight finances, I’m not in New Orleans this weekend for the SPSA conference. Steven Taylor, however, is, as are (I presume) a number of friends of mine—and, judging by the emptiness of Deupree Hall this afternoon, all of the Americanists in our department are there too.

It’s nice to hear, at least, that SPSA has found a conference hotel with in-room high-speed Internet access (now, if only the Palmer House in Chicago had it…).

Thursday, 8 January 2004

Let's go to the video

Note to potential presidential candidates: don’t go on obscure Canadian political panel shows—your comments may return from the past to bite you in the ass.

Link via Matt Stinson.

Cussin' in the classroom

Will Baude is documenting Dan Drezner’s use of profanity in the classroom. I think I’ve used “pissed off” and variants of “shit” in lectures, but never anything stronger. On the other hand, I’m sure my students have used far worse terms in reference to me…

Litmus test? How about an IQ test?

Well, I have to give Howard Dean (or at least his M.D. program) some credit: at least he doesn’t think life begins at childbirth like his fellow Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark does (also see James Joyner ). Clark not only believes that life begins at childbirth—he thinks that was the Supreme Court’s holding in Roe v. Wade (which, er, it wasn’t—in fact, the court found that third-trimester abortions were almost never constitutionally protected, something often lost in the grand abortion debate). I’m about as pro-choice as they come, but I can’t go so far as to endorse borderline infanticide. Though, I have to say that scholars who buy the legalist model will love Clark’s endorsement of stare decisis as the sole legitimate approach to judicial decision-making.

I think Howard Dean’s advisors had the right idea by telling Dean to shut up for a while. Clark’s problem is that he can’t do the same, because his persona still isn’t well-defined enough.

Colon complaints

Kate Malcolm thinks colons are a scourge in academia. Anecdotal point: my vita lists twelve different works (my dissertation, a working paper that I plan to send out for review Monday, and ten conference papers). My dissertation’s title doesn’t contain a colon; the working paper does. Six of the conference papers have colons in their titles; two have a question mark that functions as a colon; and two lack colons completely.

Of the colon titles, though, only two fit the “witty title, sober subtitle” pattern: one was a co-authored piece that I didn’t pick the title for (which is one of the question-mark titles), and the other uses aliteration in the main title. The remainder contain colons because of allusions to other works (two pieces that are extensions or responses to published material), to set up the context that a theory is being tested in (e.g. “Impeaching the President: The Influence of Constituency Support on a Salient Issue,” where the substantive situation being analyzed isn’t the key focus, but it is the “hook” for the theories being tested), or because I wanted to downplay the authoritativeness of the work.

All that being said, colons are probably overused. Perhaps as full-text indexing of journal articles becomes more widely adopted, including the integration of the SSCI into other databases, colons will become less widespread.

Update: One of the co-authors I impugned above, fellow Ole Miss alum Scott Huffmon, writes:

Obviously, an exception should be made for those of us who feel it is both sport and imperative to come up with the most annoying paper titles. I actually had to harass Bobbi [our other co-author] into that title. I told her, “It may sound and look stupid, but I’m not submitting a title without a colon…it’s tradition.” John White and I decided we would try to put as many colons in titles as possible after a guy … wrote a conference paper titled (the post colon subtitle may be off, but the pithy pre-colon title is correct), “How Bubba Votes: The Voting Behavior of Southern White Males.”

I plan to continue my quest for the most annoying and stupid paper title possible by incorporating unneeded colons whenever possible. I stand defiant in the face of your punctuationist discrimination.

Viva la colon!!!

If this doesn’t prove academics have too much time on their hands, nothing will.

Pete Rose

I’m a bit late to the story of Pete Rose admitting he bet on baseball—a story that was actually supposed to be embargoed until his appearance on ABC’s Primetime Live, but no matter (earlier reactions include John Cole’s and Michele’s; everyone in my blogroll who has an RSS feed and had something to say about it is listed here) . I think Larry Ribstein’s reaction one of the more interesting, though I don’t think it gets to the heart of the problem with stated betting on baseball.

That Rose bet on games involving the Reds is the big “no-no” issue; if he’d simply bet on other teams, he’d have received a one year suspension. The key question is what is the harm to Baseball from Rose’s bets?—and, by Baseball, I mean the institution that everyone has been saying Rose sullied. Since nobody claims he actually bet against the Reds, it’s hard to charge him with throwing games; he may have had an extra incentive to win in games he wagered on, but that isn’t throwing a game, and unlike other sports baseball betting is normally on the “money line”—you pick straight-up, not against a point spread—so “point shaving” (or “running up the score“) isn’t an issue. (You can also bet other sports, like football, on the money line, but that isn’t very popular.) Rose’s interest as a bettor coincided with his unbiased interest as a manager.

Now, some have argued that because Rose didn’t bet on every single game, and that he apparently got inside information from other managers (including those in the AL—the Reds are an NL team, and before interleague play intelligence on AL teams was pretty useless for NL managers), his behavior is somehow corrupting to Baseball. Because Rose didn’t bet on all games involving the Reds, the argument is that bookies knew that the Reds were less likely to win the game. Even if that’s true, it’s hard to see how Baseball is harmed. The victim is whoever was on the losing side of the bets lodged by Rose’s bookies because of the informational advantage they had—unless Baseball was betting on games, they weren’t harmed at all. Similarly, Rose’s intelligence on other teams only harmed other bettors—not Baseball. And, ultimately, since virtually everyone who was involved was violating numerous state and federal laws against sports wagering—the harm was to people who were already engaging in illegal conduct. If a thief breaks into a drug dealer’s house and steals his TV, the thief’s criminal act doesn’t absolve the dealer for buying home electronics from the proceeds of his own illegal act.

Now, there are other reasonable arguments against Rose’s betting: that it potentially created the appearance of corruption: for example, that it placed him in a position where he might be able to throw games to have his gambling debts reduced. But there doesn’t seem to be evidence that Rose threw games—and, in general I find “appearance of corruption” arguments specious. You can also argue that Rose harmed Baseball as an institution by denying the allegations for 14 years and impugning the credibility of his accusers and other opponents, including then-NBC reporter Jim Gray (who now spends his time about as far up Kobe Bryant’s ass as Ahmad Rashad was up Michael Jordan’s). And Rose’s frequent appearances in Cooperstown, New York haven’t exactly endeared him to the MLB brass. But Rose’s betting, alone, apparently had no ill effects on Baseball.

Update: John Jenkins disagrees with my assessment, as does David Wright via email; both raise essentially the same point (I'll quote John’s post):

Rose's gambling on the Reds changed the way Rose managed games. Baseball has a 162-game season. When Rose had money riding on a game, he would obviously be managing to win that game at the expense of future games. Suppose Rose was clinging to a one-run game going into the ninth and his closer had pitched the last three days straight and his arm was sore. Rose might pitch the guy to win that game because he had money on it, and then cost the team 3 games over the next 2 weeks that they could have won if that pitcher could have rested that day.

I do agree that having money riding on the game might pervert Rose’s incentive structure—and my overlooking that fact may go to show you how much I really care about baseball as a game. On the other hand, Rose’s mediocrity as a manager is such that he might have made decisions that were weak over the long term anyway, even without the monetary incentive to do so.

Another update: Brian of Redbird Nation makes a compelling case for a shorter-than-lifetime ban for Pete Rose.

Hillary's Humor

Did Sen. Clinton get too much—or not enough—heat for her (badly delivered) joke in a fundraising speech that Mahatma Gandhi worked for two years at a St. Louis convenience store?

My gut feeling is that it was rather innocuous. But it does raise the interesting question of double standards: as Keith Olbermann asked David Brock (no relation to my co-blogger, Brock Sides) on Countdown this evening, what if it was Bill Frist, or another Republican without a “bigot paper trail,” who made the remark instead of Hillary Clinton? Brock evaded the specific hypothetical, but I think it would have fit into the “Republicans are bigoted” narrative—lending itself to the sort of wire or NYT story that says the comment, while minor, fits into a long line of statements by Republicans (Lott, Thurmond, Santorum…). By contrast, nobody’s story on Hillary’s comments is going to bring up Robert Byrd’s segregationist past or his more recent “N-word” episode.

That raises the larger question: that of whether the dominant narratives are biased. “Republicans are mean” is a pretty easy narrative to fit any story about Republicans into: the administration wants to “put arsenic in drinking water”; Republicans are “cutting benefits.” But there’s not really a “Democrats are mean” narrative: nobody left of NewsMax would write that “Democrats’ plans for higher trade barriers will impoverish the third world,” “the Clinton Administration’s plan to increase regulation of NOx particles will cost the economy $X billion per life saved,” or “Kyoto, if fully implemented, would only decrease global temperatures by 0.X degrees Celsius in 2100.”

I don’t really know the answer to that. And it’s possible Republicans benefit from other dominant narratives: a Republican who took Howard Dean’s position on the war might be ascribed more credibility. These media narratives may just be the long-term results of what John Petrocik calls “issue ownership”: efforts by the major parties to sieze the position held by the median voter on particular issues. It is possible that because Democrats “own” racial issues, they insulate themselves from attack for being insensitive on race, just as Republicans’ ownership of law-and-order issues can protect them from the “soft on crime” charge.

Meanwhile, Steven Taylor didn’t see how the joke might be construed as funny.

Wednesday, 7 January 2004

Missing mail

If you sent me any email between Monday night and Tuesday evening, roughly from midnight to 6:00 PM CST, and it was important (and/or you expected a reply), please send it again.


Another one bites the dust

Michelle Branch is the latest celebrity who I can’t take home to Mom, thanks to the friendly folks at Maxim (link probably not work-safe)—even under the massively hypothetical circumstance that I had a shot.

In other MB news, if you like her latest single “Breathe,” you can get seven different remixes of the song in addition to the album cut on an “EP” CD. Funny how the vinyl lingo still persists in the music industry…

Cutcliffe to Nebraska?

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that, despite rumors that Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe is on the shortlist in the latest iteration of the Nebraska head coaching search, Pete Boone hasn’t gotten any calls seeking permission to interview Cut. I rather think Cutcliffe—whose reputation is mostly as a quarterbacks and pro-style offense guru—is a poor fit for Nebraska and its option-oriented attack; then again, Cutcliffe is 3–2 against the Big 12 since coming to Ole Miss—with both losses (and one win) coming against Texas Tech, so he’d probably do OK in that conference, and Nebraska probably has much deeper pockets than Ole Miss does.

All that said, I can’t see Cutcliffe going to Nebraska—the scrutiny is just too intense in Lincoln, if the Solich firing is anything to judge by. By contrast, all Cut has to do in Oxford is have a winning SEC record next year (admittedly, not something I’d wager much money on, even with a favorable schedule); if he manages that, he’ll probably be elevated to the height of Johnny Vaught in the Ole Miss coaching pantheon.

Did someone forget to tell me it was Hitler Week?

First we have’s silliness; now, Matt Stinson and Dan Drezner rightly are among those who condemn Ralph Peters for his absurdly over-the-top, not to mention downright offensive, New York Post column that explicitly compares Howard Dean’s followers on the Internet with the Gestapo and brownshirts. It’s sure going to be a busy week for the PR wings of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the ADL

Tuesday, 6 January 2004

Vegas weddings and college education

Peter Northrop of Crescat Sententia considers whether or not Britney Spears would have benefitted from a college education. Of course, the snarker in me would speculate that Ms. Spears would have attended Louisiana State University, given her affinity for the institution, despite rumors that she is a fan of Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning—I’ll leave the rest of the joke to you.*

Snarkiness aside, I don’t think it is necessary or sufficient for people to have an undergraduate education, even though it would certainly be in my economic interest for more people to go to college (as it would increase the demand for political scientists), and I suspect much of the attitudinal maturity associated with college education has more to do with the experience of being “on one’s own” for four years than it does with the undergraduate curriculum.

Update: It turns out that Mr. Alexander attends Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, better known as “the place where I-12 and I-55 intersect.” Trivia point: SELU is part of the burgeoning “University of Louisiana” system,† but didn’t adopt the name (unlike UL-Lafayette and UL-Monroe).

Building a Mystery

The California Yankee has been keeping up with developments in the rather unusual Supreme Court case known as M. K. B. v. Warden, et al..

Link via VodkaPundit, who has two theories on why the case is being hidden from public view. Also see the New York Times account by Linda Greenhouse (linked by Ca. Yankee in another post).

MoveOut of MoveOn

Try as they might,’s webmasters seem to have trouble keeping “Bush=Hitler” videos off their website. Matthew Stinson thinks the organization is rapidly becoming the John Birch Society or Council of Conservative Citizens of the left, while One Fine Jay ponders whether or not is a “mainstream” Democratic organization.

Then again, we all know Bush is the worst Reichschancellor in history, so maybe they have a point…

Monday, 5 January 2004

Pre-hatched chickens

Andrew Sullivan’s return to the Daily Dish also marks a return to his cataloguing of conservatives who have shown the slightest bit of discomfort about a federal marriage amendment. Me, I’d wait until the test case for the federal Defense of Marriage Act—passed with Bill Clinton’s signature, no doubt because he expected it to be ruled unconstitutional (shades of Bush’s idiotic stance on McCain-Feingold)—makes it to the Supremes, because I’m pretty sure the second it dies 5–4 on equal protection grounds pretty much every conservative Sullivan counts as an ally on the FMA will suddenly rethink his or her position.

The truth is a three-edged sword

I sometimes wonder if Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post actually report news from the same country.

Clarkbot fodder

Like Martin Devon of Patio Pundit, I just wasted half an hour of my life in a hotel room watching Wesley Clark on MSNBC’s Hardball. Martin writes:

I’m listening to Wes Clark on Hardball… and he makes Howard Dean look good. Say what you will about but Dean but he says what he means and he means what he says. With Wes Clark you get the sense that he’s just making shit up. Right now he’s talking about how he would have caught Osama by now, and how he wouldn’t have gone into Iraq. As most of you know, Clark’s early pronouncements weren’t nearly so clear. I’m sorry—he just sounds like an opportunist.

I’ve never been a big Wes Clark fan, even back when I thought that he was a Republican. You know how Dems knock Joe Lieberman as “Bush-lite“? Clark is “Dean-lite.” I don’t see why Clark as any more electable than Dean. Clark has military experience, but that isn’t as good as Dean’s experience as a governor. And Clark is so darn whiny—fingernails on chalkboard.

I particularly enjoyed the moment where Clark, in response to a question from Matthews about what sanction would have been appropriate for Bill Clinton (who quite clearly committed perjury, even if there’s a legitimate argument, that I’m not unsympathetic to, that he never should have been in a situation where he would commit it), launched into a two-minute stump speech that was completely nonresponsive to the question.

Also amusing was Clark’s analysis of the policy formation process of the Bush administration, which seemed to be cribbed directly from a Paul Krugman column (although spiced up with numerous references to nebulous “sources” that Clark is apparently privy to). And I’d love to hear how Clark would have caught Osama bin Laden by now; something tells me he wouldn’t have been hanging out with the Special Ops guys doing the dirty work in the theatre, and the 4th Infantry isn’t interchangeable with the Green Berets—so even if most of the army were stateside instead of patrolling Iraq, I doubt it would make much difference.

Clark also kept going on about his foreign policy gravitas relative to that of George W. Bush; said gravitas was apparently based on (a) being in Europe when the Europeans were rolling their eyes at the Lewinsky scandal and (b) obeying the orders of his civilian masters who had gravitas of their own. I say “apparently,” because he assumed the audience would believe he had foreign policy gravitas on the basis of alleging it alone.

I have to agree with Martin—Clark is “Dean Lite.” Crank up the toaster oven on this guy…

Another reason to not have comments

James Joyner notes the existence of something called the “ClarkBot”, the author of which encourages Clark Dittoheads to engage in something called “rapid response.” No doubt Bush and Dean variants aren’t far behind…

More on McAuliffe's Monster

John Fund argues in his OpinionJournal Political Diary column today that James Carville and Terry McAuliffe created Howard Dean’s candidacy—a phenomenon already noted this week by The New York Times, as I discussed here. Then again, if you didn’t see it in the Times—which probably describes most Wall Street Journal readers—it’s new to you! Fund gets into the mechanics:

[Moving the Iowa and New Hampshire contests to January] meant holiday-distracted voters would have only a few weeks to pay attention to the actual race once the New Year’s bubbly wore off. That meant that for all of 2003, liberal party activists were in the driver’s seat when it came to deciding who would raise the most money and be anointed the front-runner in media coverage. That turned out to be Mr. Dean, who tapped into activist rage over the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and lingering anger over the disputed Florida recount in 2000.

But while “Bush loathing” is almost universal among Democratic partisans, it resonates with only about 20% of the electorate. Many of the people who don’t approve of Mr. Bush’s handling of his job are turned off by bitter attacks against him.

As something of a neo-institutionalist (despite my behaviorist credentials), the Fund-Nagourney thesis is pretty compelling. But I think the nature of the primary process in and of itself lets strong partisans set the tone for the general election campaign, even if they don’t always capture the nomination—consider the Buchanan insurgency against Bush 41 in 1992, which arguably helped kill Bush’s general election prospects. Even if we were talking about a traditional nominating schedule, Dean would be well-positioned to win, although the compressed schedule does make it less likely for the candidate who emerges from Iowa and New Hampshire to face a strong challenger when the campaign swings into the more populous—and arguably more typical—states.

Fundamentally, despite the “superdelegates” and other mechanisms implemented by the DNC to try to manipulate primary results to select electable nominees, a process that has only succeeded in a contested primary once since 1976, the Democrats have had a process that lends itself to capture by the strongest partisans since the McGovern Commission reforms in the early 1970s, which expanded the use of primaries by the Democrats, effects that were further enhanced by Jesse Jackson’s insistence on proportional delegate allocation after his relatively strong showing in the 1984 primaries didn’t translate into many delegates to the convention.

Link via Martin Devon, who has more on Howard Dean’s self-inflicted gaffes from an interview with Howard Fineman in this week’s Newsweek.

Clark's own Osama problem

Dan Drezner wonders why Wes Clark isn’t catching flak for apparently advocating in the pages of the New York Times Magazine an international tribunal to judge Osama bin Laden—even though Howard Dean’s equivocation about the same topic drew derision from a number of quarters. Dan offers the following hypotheses:

  1. What really attracted criticism of Dean was the equivocation about bin Laden’s guilt;
  2. Dean’s the frontrunner, ergo he gets more flak;
  3. Dean’s statement fits the dominant narrative of him being a foreign policy neophyte, while Clark’s statement does not fit the dominant narrative of him being a foreign policy professional—therefore, the latter quote gets overlooked.
  4. Whatever you think of Clark’s answer, it’s clear that he cares about the question, and thinks the answer has important foreign policy implications. Dean thought the question to be unimportant.
  5. It’s early in the news cycle.

The “dominant narrative” explanation seems to be the most compelling to me; however, Clark’s position is arguably consistent with the “foreign policy professional” narrative—I suspect there are civil servants at State who share Clark’s enthusiasm for an international tribunal to try bin Laden, as it fits the “terrorism as crime” schema for looking at the world. It’s also fair to say that the Des Moines Register Democratic debate—which Clark did not attend—probably fulfilled most peoples’ quota of “Democratic campaign news” for the day, thus burying the item. (Another explanation, that opinion leaders don’t pay that much attention to articles that appear in the NYT Magazine, as opposed to the main pages of the Grey Lady, is also potentially compelling.)

That being said, international tribunals are really only appropriate in circumstances where there is no existing judicial system that is competent to try the case. The case of bin Laden seems to me to be more consistent with that of the Libyan agents responsible for Lockerbie, who were tried under Scottish law because that was the jurisdiction in which the crime took place (the location of the trial was a political compromise to get Libya to extradite the agents responsible)—an international tribunal was inappropriate, as the Scottish judicial system is competent to try charges like murder and hijacking.

The larger question, I suppose, is whether bin Laden is properly seen as a “war criminal.” As bin Laden was not acting on behalf of a state actor (conspiracy theorizing about Saudi princes aside) in a zone of combat, I can’t see 9/11 as a “war crime” per se (it is a criminal act, and perhaps even an act of war—but my limited understanding of international law suggests that only states or state-like actors can commit acts of war); this would also suggest an international tribunal is inappropriate.

And we all know how painful THAT can be

The end of the world is nigh: the University of Southern California and Louisiana State University are splitting the Division I-A college football championship due to a split between the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls. Mark my words: the Homeland Security Alert System is about to be bumped up a notch…

Also of vague interest: I finished in the top 10th percentile of the Sonic BowlMania Challenge, correctly predicting the outcomes of 18 of the 28 bowl games through a mixture of luck and foolhardiness (including putting 26 points on the Ole Miss Rebels, which—if we were talking about money—would be a very stupid course of action usually).

Sunday, 4 January 2004

Reviewing the EasterBook

Virginia Postrel has reviewed Gregg Easterbrook’s new book for the New York Post, and came away rather unimpressed.

Compare and Contrast

Alex Knapp compares season 5 of Star Trek: The Next Generation with the same season of Deep Space Nine. I generally concur with Alex’s assessment that DS9 is the better series of the two—however, it’s the only Trek series I’ve never seen every episode of, so I’m looking forward to seeing the series when it comes to SpikeTV later this year (especially since the DVD sets of Trek are remarkably overpriced, even when compared to genre series like Stargate SG-1 and Babylon 5).

Libertarians and divorce

Chris Bertram of Crooked Timber is hosting an interesting discussion of libertarian principles on marriage and divorce that’s worth a read.

Debate follies

Jeremy Blachman of En Banc watched the Iowa Democratic debate today instead of having the good sense to watch the Packers–Seahawks game. I actually tried to watch a few minutes of it, but every time I switched it on I almost immediately felt like throwing something at the screen.

I’m not a huge fan of literacy tests, but I have make an exception: every candidate for public office should be required to present evidence of having taken—and passed—a course in economics at some point in their lives. Especially idiotic was one candidate’s pronouncement (I think it was Kerry’s) that free trade would be just dandy if every country was exactly the same; of course, if that were the case, you wouldn’t trade at all because nobody would have a comparative advantage.

Meanwhile, Steve Verdon examines another aspect of Democrats’ economic illiteracy—their obsession with outsourcing.

The neo-Thatcherites

Chip Taylor, who’s done a nice redesign on his blog over the past couple of days, comments on David Brooks’ latest NYT column that articulates a new organizing principle for the Republican Party:

For my money, the best organizing principle for Republicans centers on the word “reform.” Republicans can modernize the (mostly Democratic) accomplishments of the 20th century. That would mean entitlement reform, tax reform, more welfare reform, education reform, immigration reform, tort reform and on and on. In all these areas, Republicans can progressively promote change, while Democrats remain the churlish defenders of the status quo.

Now, I’ll grant that consolidation and reform can be an effective political strategy: successive British governments since 1979, from Maggie Thatcher through John Major to Tony Blair, have essentially followed a course of reforming the most counterproductive aspect of Britain’s immediate post-war policies without eliminating the essentials of the welfare state. Perhaps Republicans can follow a similar tack—although I’m unsure that playing “Democrats lite” will be popular enough with the party base over the long term. On the other hand, if the apparent Deaniac-Krugman alliance continues to pull the Democrats to the left, Republicans may get the political center all to themselves for a few years before the Dems regain their collective senses.

Another blow for the sanctity of marriage

Dear lord: as Kevin Aylward, Oliver Willis, and Lair Simon have noted, Britney Spears apparently got married on Saturday morning, to another 22-year-old named “Jason Allen Alexander” of Kentwood, La.—apparently unrelated to the KFC pitchman and former Seinfeld co-star. Quoth the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Rumors were flying late Saturday that the surprise wedding at the Little White Wedding Chapel on the Las Vegas Strip was in the process of being annulled.

Meanwhile, the Sidney Morning Herald pulls out the scare quotes normally reserved for such normative terms as “terrorist” to describe the happy event.

Geeking out

On TV at the moment on Turner Classic Movies is WarGames, one of my favorite movies from when I was a kid. And, somewhat apropos of Matthew’s discussion of such things, it features Ally Sheedy, my first actress crush.

Also noteworthy: the classic quotes:

Jennifer: [Falkner] wasn’t very old, was he?
David Lightman: Oh, he was pretty old, he was 41.
Jennifer: Wow, that is old.

and, on the “it flew over my head when I was seven” scale:

Malvin: I can’t believe it, Jim. That girl’s standing over there listening and you’re telling him about our back doors?

Then again, I suspect “back door” wasn’t quite in the vernacular in 1983.

Saturday, 3 January 2004

Book review

As I discussed here, I’ve been reading Black and Black’s The Rise of Southern Republicans, which is described by one blurb writer (Dick Fenno, I think) as the intellectual successor of V.O. Key, Jr.’s legendary Southern Politics in State and Nation. The Rise of Southern Republicans is both a descriptive account of, and an explanation for, what the Blacks term a “semi-realignment” wherein conservative southern whites largely realigned (permanently changed their party preferences) from the Democrats to Republicans, while moderate whites were dealigned from the Democrats (became more independent “swing” voters).

Suffice it to say that the Blacks’ book is generally quite excellent, and—like their other books—a must-read for anyone who wants to understand contemporary southern and American politics. That being said, there are a few noteworthy weaknesses:

  • The book almost exclusively focuses on elections to federal office (the House and Senate); there is little discussion of the continued persistence of majorities of Democrats in many southern state legislatures, despite realignment at the federal level, nor are gubernatorial politics discussed. Then again, the book is bulky enough as-is.
  • On occasion, I felt like I was being subjected to a “stat dump”: a long series of statistics from survey evidence about the attitudes and behavior of various subgroups of the electorate. This information would perhaps have been better presented graphically or in tabular form (Black and Black do make extensive use of figures to illustrate their points throughout; why these items weren’t presented that way as well is something of a mysery).
  • While some chapters discuss senatorial politics while others discuss elections to the House, the chamber being discussed isn’t clearly identified by the chapter names—as a result, you sometimes start reading a chapter and immediately think “hmm, isn’t this the same thing they were discussing in the last chapter?”

Still, these are all nitpicks. It’s definitely a worthwhile read, and—unlike most books by political scientists—it’s accessible to general readers.

Ford Theater

Robert Prather approvingly notes Radley Balko’s praise of Tennessee representative Harold Ford Jr. as one of his Libertarian Heroes of 2003. Quoth Balko:

Ford makes this list more for his rhetoric and his potential than his actual voting record. Ambitious and eloquent, he’s a fast-rising star in the Democratic Party. Ford has shown an admirable reluctance to wade into the partisan muck and mire. He’s a free thinker. His talking points aren’t dictated to him by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. He has flirted with support for school choice. He’s generally supportive of tax cuts. And there are rumors around Washington that he may eventually support one of several plans to give Americans ownership of their Social Security taxes. Ford is likely bound for the U.S. Senate, if not higher office. If his voting record ever aligns with his rhetoric, he could emerge as an important voice of reason in a party too consumed with class warfare and entitlement culture.

Ford is in the relatively unique position of being one of the first of the “new generation” of African-American political leaders—and the only Democrat among them to have learned the lesson of the previous generation, which is that amassing a left-wing record in the House in a majority-minority district will guarantee you a permanent seat, and maybe even some committee positions of note, but it absolutely kills any prospect of attaining higher office. Ford, instead, has built on his father’s organizational and constituency service strengths, but adopted a more moderate voting record than his fellow black caucus members—which not only has improved the security of his seat against potential Republican challengers, but also has positioned him to potentially gain broad support among moderate white voters in future statewide contests for either the senate or the governorship.

That isn’t to say that Ford has strong libertarian credentials—he certainly doesn’t—but rather that he’s become one of the south’s first black “yellow dog” Democrats who effectively combines liberal social positions with moderate-to-conservative economic policy views. In other words, he’s the sort of candidate the Democrats need to remain competitive in the south in the face of a relative decline of the black population that means Democrats will have to broaden their appeal beyond the rump group of whites that still identify with the party for economic reasons.

Also of note: Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution critiques Balko’s list for its exclusive attention to politicians.

Update: AlphaPatriot has more on this theme (thanks to Mike Hollihan of Half-Bakered for pointing the post out in an email).

Multiple identities in Thunderbird

I’ve been trying to make the transition to Mozilla Thunderbird as my primary email client. One annoyance: there didn’t seem to be any way to associate multiple email addresses with a single incoming email account. However, a quick Google search turned up the solution.

Friday, 2 January 2004


Steven Taylor has the latest link-filled Toast-O-Meter™ examining the prospects of the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, now fortified with an assessment of the vice-presidential prospects of the ABD candidates and a number of other Democrats.

In space, no one can hear me scream

John Holbo notes that not only did Hollywood commit the unpardonable sin of making the dreadful 3rd and 4th Alien movies, they’ve now added insult to injury by mixing Greek and Latin roots on the DVD boxed set.

Bourbon blogging

Forget this wine blogging fad. Will Baude is bourbon blogging. He recommends Jim Beam Black, and provides a Manhattan recipe.

I don’t know about this Manhattan business, since I drink mine on the rocks. But I’ll put in a plug for W. L. Weller Special Reserve. It’s an excellent buy at about $17 a bottle at Joe’s Liquor in Midtown Memphis. It goes well with a game of Settlers of Catan, which is how I spent New Year’s Eve.

Deliberating deliberation

From Legal Affairs: Lily Malcolm thinks Bruce Ackerman and James Fishkin’s latest idea, called Deliberation Day, “is a really stupid idea the likes of which only someone like Bruce Ackerman could dream up.” Political scientist Arthur “Skip” Lupia isn’t buying, and neither is Richard Posner.

Fishkin has been trying to sell this concept for the best part of a decade, starting with his work on promoting something he calls The Deliberative Poll™ (yes, the trademark is his). It’s attracted a lot of positive attention from certain goo-goo political scientists who’ve made a career out of spending a lot of their time fretting about the lack of civic competence of the public—and, in many scholars’ minds, this lack leads to all sorts of calumnious outcomes, not the least of which is the election of Republicans. The underlying theme of their work is summed up rather nicely by Posner:

I think that what motivates many deliberative democrats is not a love of democracy or a faith in the people, but a desire to change specific political outcomes, which they believe they could do through argument, if only anyone could be persuaded to listen, because they are masters of argumentation.

Anyway, for a window into my little corner of the political science universe, go read all three pieces.

The never-ending Plame controversy

Patio Pundit Martin Devon links a Michael Kinsley column that cuts to the heart of the Valerie Plame controversy: that if syphilocon columnist Robert Novak stopped protecting his alleged source, the story would be over and we could all go back to our own lives. Money graf:

The purpose of protecting the identity of leakers is to encourage future leaks. Leaks to journalists, and fear of leaks, can be an important restraint on misbehavior by powerful institutions and people. This serves the public interest. But there is no public interest in leaks that harm national security, or leaks that violate the law, or leaks intended to harm blameless individuals. There is no reason to want more of these kinds of leaks. So there is no reason to protect the identity of such bad-faith leakers.

Yes, but that wouldn’t be consistent with Novak’s personal interest in bringing down the faux-conservative apostates running the Bush administration, now would it?

Update: Juan Non-Volokh notes that we know less about what really went on than most pundits think, pointing to an account from today’s WaPo.

Also at Martin’s place: an amusing Slate column on faculty-student relationships by Laura Kipinis.

The customer is always right

Memo to Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, et al.: the first one of you to include the ability to search only for hotels with high-speed Internet access will get my business. Bonus: I’ll even pay your ridiculous booking fee at least once, instead of using your site to search and then booking directly with the chain’s site (my standard MO).

In lieu of this ability, I’m stuck either going through a satisficing exercise with the hotel chains that do offer high-speed access at their properties (like the consistently excellent Drury Inns), or at least the ability to search for it at individual locations (like the Hilton hotel family), or digging through hundreds of search results—something I don’t have the inclination to do, even if I do have the time at present.

Thursday, 1 January 2004

Why wine?

James Joyner jumps on the wine blogging craze. I won’t be jumping aboard, as I’m not much of a wine drinker; however, I will say that you can’t go wrong with Rosemount, a purveyor of fine, inexpensive Australian wines.

Nick LeShea jeered

This is unreal: Nick LeShea is being jeered by the crowd at the Orange Bowl halftime show. Granted, I completely agree with the sentiment—but still.

Congestion Charging out of the Budget Crunch

Steve Verdon discusses the possibility of congestion pricing making a difference in California’s budget woes and freeway congestion, and concludes that the benefits are likely to be far smaller than advocates suggest they will be.

BCS predictions

Here goes:

Rose Bowl: Michigan 31, USC 17.
Orange Bowl: Miami 24, FSU 21.
Fiesta Bowl: KSU 28, OSU 10. (Update: If Ell Roberson doesn’t play: OSU 17, KSU 10.)
Sugar Bowl: LSU 35, Oklahoma 24.

Bonus prediction:
Cotton Bowl: Ole Miss 41, Oklahoma State 28.

Front-loading the Democrats—right into the dumpster

Steven Taylor links a piece in today’s New York Times that looks at Terry McAuliffe’s plan to create a consensus nominee by front-loading the primary calendar. The plan looks likely to backfire by producing a presumptive nominee who is, according to writer Adam Nagourney, “bruised by the nominating fight and confronted with the challenge of uniting a deeply divided party.”

It doesn’t exactly help that many of the candidates’ strategies have, of late, focused on pitting Democratic factions against each other, with Clark’s recent attempts to play to African-Americans against Dean, Gephardt’s appeals to the unions, and Dean’s nonsensical—and continual—alienation of the party’s centrist and conservative elements.