Thursday, 30 September 2004

Say no to torture

Both Katherine R and Sebastian Holdsclaw of Obsidian Wings are rightly horrified that the so-called “9/11 commission bill” includes provisions that may lead to the institutionalization of the abuses that Maher Arar was subjected to by Syrian authorities, with the apparent complicity of both the United States and Canadian governments.

This isn’t a “Republican” or “Democrat” problem—most members of both parties are going to vote for this bill, because they want to look like they’re “doing something” about terrorism. But this is something that is simply unconscionable. Let your senators and representatives know that this is not how America is supposed to do things and is completely unacceptable.

There’s more on the bill in today’s Washington Post.


As others have mentioned, it appears that the Montréal Expos are headed to Washington. But, while I’m generally not in favor of Congress meddling in D.C.‘s business (and think some sort of resolution needs to be made to the district residents’ lack of congressional representation), I think I could make an exception for a law blocking the district government’s ill-conceived and completely unnecessary handout package for the team. You don’t have to believe me; believe AEI’s Scott Wallstein, or Cato’s Doug Bandow, to name just two experts, virtually all of whom have concluded that stadium subsidies don’t lead to worthwhile economic benefits—and, particularly in the case of D.C., divert resources that could be better spent on serious social ills.

Choosing not to be spun

Here’s one for the “credit where credit is due” department: New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney won’t be partaking of Spin Alley after the debate tomorrow night, a move applauded by Ryan Pitts of The Dead Parrot Society and Jay Rosen. I agree with both; in fact, I’d almost take it a step further. Ryan writes:

A debate like this is supposed to be about the candidates persuading the voters, each of whom needs to individually assess whose policies and attitudes they’d like to see for the next four years.

Ryan emphasizes the word voters, but I almost think the emphasis should be on the phrase individually assess. Spin, “news analysis,” and the like tend to get in the way of that process, rather than informing it. So my advice to voters would be to watch the debate, and then switch off your TV and not read the reports and op-eds about it the next few days. And, if you can’t spare the time, then reading the reports and op-eds (and blog posts!) is worthless anyway—the entire point of the debate process is to give unfiltered insights into the candidates, and putting an interlocutor between yourself and the candidates will distort the image.

In fairness to Ryan, he’s speaking from the journalist’s perspective—but choosing not to be spun is something the voter can do just as easily. Switching off Matthews or Hannity or Crossfire is just as important for the voter as Nagourney avoiding “spin alley” is for the reporter.

Wednesday, 29 September 2004

Cutting edge technology

James Joyner is amused that the DoD is testing the use of blimps for surveillance in Washington, something he believes was pioneered by the Goodyear Corporation several decades ago. I just wonder how much the toilet seats onboard cost.

Shady's back

Mr. Mike is apparently back in business at Half-Bakered and has a little project for his readers to help out with this fall. I think I speak on both my and Brock’s behalf in welcoming Mike back.

Tuesday, 28 September 2004


The only woman on Sex and the City I found even vaguely attractive turns out to be a lesbian. I guess I should just keep telling myself the attraction was due to her being the only redhead. (þ Electric Venom)

Update: Several correspondents have pointed out that they considered Kristin Davis (“the brunette”) attractive as well. I suppose she was above the Mendoza line.

On the road again

Jeff Quinton notes that the AA West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx may be headed to Greenville, South Carolina, as a result of their AA team being headed to the greater Jackson area (specifically, Pearl, just across the eponymous river from Jackson) and becoming the Mississippi Braves.

Incidentally, the Diamond Jaxx franchise started out as the Memphis Chicks, who hit the road after no new stadium was forthcoming in Memphis; the Bluff City came out ahead on the deal by luring the Cardinals into awarding a AAA franchise, the Memphis Redbirds, and building a privately-financed, state-of-the-art baseball stadium, AutoZone Park.


David Adesnik of OxBlog takes note of today’s David Brooks NYT column arguing—from the historical precedent of El Salvador—that even a flawed “partial” election in Iraq could nonetheless lead to more stability and put the country on the road to democracy. In particular, Adesnik disagrees with Phil Carter’s argument against such a “partial vote.”

One interesting historical example cited by none of the authors is the fact that federal elections were held, as scheduled, in the Union states during the American Civil War. If credible elections could be held in a country undergoing a massive internal rebellion 140 years ago, I don’t see a realistic impediment to a “partial” vote encompassing over 95% of Iraqis—if the number were in the range of 60%, I could see a credible argument against holding elections, but if we’re just talking about Fallujah and a couple of other areas in revolt, I don’t think that’s a meaningful impediment to legitimacy.

Monday, 27 September 2004

Exam writing for dummies

I’ve been trying to come up with a decent essay exam question for my constitutional law class tying Korematsu together with the whole debate over Michelle Malkin’s book. I tend to agree with the assessment that Malkin is incorrect, although I do it in the “fact-free” perspective that encourages me to trust experts like Eric Muller rather than from the perspective of actually having read the book.

The slippery bit to me is that—reading between the lines of Muller’s snarkiness and Malkin’s disingenuity—Malkin seems to argue that the indefinite detention of some Americans of Islamic faith would be legitimate, and that other forms of racial profiling targeted at all Muslim-Americans would be legitimate, but full-scale removal of Muslim-American populations wouldn’t, and I’m not sure Korematsu speaks to that. In my mind, though, Korematsu is bad law anyway, and I don’t think anyone other than Thomas and possibly Rehnquist would support reaffirming it today—Scalia, to judge from his partial dissent in Hamdi, would probably be viciously opposed.

Anyway, I’ve basically concluded the question is a bust and I’ll have to move on to ask something more fruitful about some other cases. Since I already have a Hamdi question I think Korematsu is no great loss—and a clever student or three will probably work it in without my asking, anyway.

You are not X, say Y

I’m beginning to be increasingly fascinated by a certain strand of argument in the blogosphere. It started with Andrew Sullivan’s thoroughly non-sensical attempts to argue that conservatism necessarily required support for gay marriage, detoured through lectures by non-Christians to Christians about the necessity of their support for a particular American political party, and may have reached its apogee with a series of posts at Crooked Timber (made, incidentally, by people who make no pretense of being libertarian) alleging that any libertarian who supports the war in Iraq isn’t a libertarian.

What I find utterly fascinating about the last is that it originates from the longstanding view from left-liberals that the “wrong” (read “pro-war”) libertarians—folks like Glenn Reynolds, Virginia Postrel, Colby Cosh, and the libertarian-leaning Samizdatans—have dominated the blogosphere at the expense of the “right” (read “anti-war”) libertarians like Julian Sanchez, Jim Henley, and (never explicitly stated, perhaps because he actually says nice things about capitalism) Radley Balko. My general view is that expressed by Guy Herbert:

I was under the impression that libertarianism is a political orientation (opposite: authoritarianism) rather than a coherent ideological position.

Granted, I think there are people (Objectivists, for example, or the Libertarian Party) who conceive of libertarianism as a “pure” ideology, untainted by concerns motivated by the real world, but I don’t think most self-identified libertarians are among them. Of course, when the primary goal of one’s posting on libertarianism isn’t to analyze that political orientation, but rather to delegitimize it, I can see why one would want to hold it up to higher standards of conformity than liberalism or conservatism would be subjected to.

The second Late Shift

The New York Times reports that Jay Leno will be replaced by Conan O’Brien on The Tonight Show. The bad news? We have to put up with five more years of Jay—Conan doesn’t take over until the end of Jay’s contract in 2009. (þ Jeff Jarvis)

Incidentally, the NYT article is written by Bill Carter, whose The Late Shift recounting the Johnny Carson succession struggle remains one of my favorite books on the TV business.

Update: James Joyner also reacts, wondering why NBC has made Jay a five-year lame duck. One suspects it was to ensure O’Brien didn’t jump ship.

Sunday, 26 September 2004

Third time's the charm

Amber Taylor is quite chagrined at the latest apparent incident of plagiarism among the faculty of Harvard Law School, this time apparently perpetrated by noted constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe.

She also has joined the growing number of young women eschewing most makeup, a trend I have noticed increasing in popularity among the undergraduate set. The always-hip Crescat Sententia is, as is typical, the nexus for discussion of this societal trend.

Persepolis 2

Back in November of last year, I reviewed Persepolis, an autobiographical comic of a young girl growing up during the Iranian revolution and the subsequent bloody war with Iraq. The story ended with Marjane Satrapi leaving to go to school in Austria.

Persepolis 2 picks up where the previous story left off, and tells the story of her four years as a student in Austria, and her return to Iran after the Iran-Iraq war is over.

Unfortunately, the Iran she returns to is not much better than the one she left. The war is no longer on, but the bearded Guardians of the Revolution are always keeping watch to protect their country from decadent Western influence.

Like the first volume, Persepolis 2 ends with Satrapi leaving Iran to live in Europe, this time for good.

The illness

Steven Taylor has comment on a complaint by a student at another college that a class cancellation was not announced via email. Steven writes:

I also find it amusing because as a professor who does use e-mail quite extensively (and yes, I do send it when I know I have to cancel, if at all possible), many of [my] students don’t always read it. Further, most of my colleagues don’t maintain mailing lists for their classes, so couldn’t send a mass e-mail if they wanted to do so.

I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the pervasiveness of e-mail at Millsaps, even if I could do without the idiosyncracies of Microsoft Outlook and its web interface. We have mailing lists for every class and—critically—the students have been acculturized into using and checking it. Of course, it helps that almost everyone lives on campus and virtually everyone who does has a computer in their room, if not one of their own.

Irony, thy name is Wheeler

Quote of the day, regarding a group of Mississippi Democrats who plan to endorse George W. Bush on Monday:

“Most of them are has-beens,’’ [Bill] Wheeler said of the Mississippi Democrats for Bush. “They are not your hard core Democrats. They are flip-floppers. They blow with the wind.’’

While Wheeler may be accurate in that regard (a point I made when a similar group endorsed Haley Barbour in 2003), I wonder if it’s all that wise for a Kerry campaign official to be using terms like “flip-floppers” in public.

Saturday Night Lights

The drawback of rooting for two football teams is that you get doubly-annoyed when they both lose on the same day. Ole Miss (1–3) somehow managed to lose to Wyoming, 37–32 in Laramie on Saturday afternoon, while Millsaps (1–2) lost to Belhaven, 26–10* on Saturday night.

The only good football news is that I won my second consecutive national title (in three years) playing as Michigan in Dynasty Mode of NCAA Football 2005, based largely on the obscene 19-game win streak I have going.

Friday, 24 September 2004

More personal stuff

Those of you with morbid curiosity about my academic career should read this comment. Other news: the books for my directed readings course finally showed up today, and I have been approved for $1200 of academic travel this year (so I guess that means I should put together a Midwest proposal in addition to the paper I’m presenting at SPSA in New Orleans). Now I need to go home and work on writing a couple of exams.

Thursday, 23 September 2004

The lady doth protest too much, methinks

Clayton Cramer enumerates the sexual practices that he finds "gross".

Wednesday, 22 September 2004

Out of bounds

As much as I dislike Michelle Malkin and her poisonous agenda*, I have to object to slinging ethnic slurs at her.

Even if he doesn’t recognize the sheer nastiness of such slurs, Vox Day should recognize how easy they make it to dismiss his criticisms of Malkin’s shoddy scholarship: “Day is just prejudiced against her because she’s Asian.”

And yes, it would be ironic for Malkin’s supporters to accuse Day of anti-Asian bigotry when they’re the ones defending the racist internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. But they’ll say it anyway, and it makes Day’s case that much weaker rhetorically.

Read this book

I read Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America (previously mentioned here) last night—and, for a book by political scientists, it’s both exceptionally well-written and probably accessible to a general college-educated audience. What may be the most compelling thing about the book is that even though I knew pretty much all the evidence that was outlined by the authors, I was still floored by the evidence Fiorina, Abrams, and Pope bring to bear.

The core arguments will be (hopefully) relatively familiar to readers of this weblog: while political elites are increasingly polarized, the populace as a whole isn’t (and, if anything, are tending to converge on issue positions over time); the “red state-blue state” dichotomy is false; and the appearance of mass polarization is due largely to the relatively stark choices faced by voters today.

For good measure, the authors throw in some spatial voting theory to show that the increasing role of moral issues in voting behavior are due to changes in the political positions of the candidates themselves (or at least perceptions of those positions) rather than changes in the electorate. And they attribute these problems largely to the “amateurization” of political parties, which (they argue) have become rallying points for “purists” at the expense of moderation and the Downsian pursuit of the median voter—a phenomenon anyone who’s witnessed the vitriol hurled at the likes of John McCain and Zell Miller by their “fellow partisans” will surely attest to. The authors also delve into the pathologies of local politics, which tend to be even more captive to the whims of narrow interests.

Fiorina (writing alone, perhaps to insulate his more junior co-authors from having to defend these propositions on the job market) has a three-pronged prescription that he argues would lessen elite polarization: an end to partisan gerrymanders, opening the primary process to wider participation (and abolishing the use of party caucuses), and increasing voter turnout.

It’s a quick read—I read it in 90 minutes, although to be fair it is largely material from my field, so it might take the non-expert two hours. All in all I strongly recommend it to any serious student of politics (including, by definition, our readership).

Tuesday, 21 September 2004

19th Amendment - Tool of the Antichrist

Via Eric Muller, I ended up at the blog of Vox Day, self-described “Christian libertarian,” who is currently taking a lot of heat from conservative defenders of the new Ann Coulter over his challenge to her shoddy scholarship in her book In Defense of Internment.

In a September 15 entry, I read this:

If we're very, very lucky, in another 40 years we'll hear songs by female pop stars demanding the limiting of suffrage to productive, property-owning men of a certain age. Of course, the depths to which we'll have to sink in order for most people to realize how disastrous universal "democracy" has been for the nation will probably be more than a little unpleasant, and the chances that the masses will turn towards a dictatorial demagogue instead are probably, oh, around 666 to 1, but it's still nice to contemplate a potential silver lining in the massive black cumulonimbus looming in our collective (and collectivist) future.

Maybe Vox Day should get together with Alec Rawls. If they could get past the question of the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, they'd have so much to discuss.

Just because you don't like what he says…

doesn’t mean he isn’t right.

And, no, I’m not just annoyed because Mr. Simmins belittles my profession…

Monday, 20 September 2004

WaPo on Musharraf

The Washington Post editorial board rightly castigates both Bush and Kerry for their failure to speak publically about the need for a real democratic transition in Pakistan; coupled with events in Russia and the (quite possibly invented-from-thin-air by Robert Novak) Iraq withdrawal trial balloon, it’s not been a great week for democracy.

Wasn't he on “Leave it to Beaver”?

Professor Bainbridge, Sebastian Holdsclaw, Kevin Drum, and Matt Yglesias all agree that gerrymandering sucks. No argument there. Now let’s see what actually can be done about it…

Oh dear lord

Words fail me:

Visitors to next month’s Mississippi State Fair may gawk at their reflections in the Fun House, witness the Mississippi State Championship Mule Pull or shake hands with the key suspect in the Klan’s 1964 killings of three civil rights workers.

Learned lawyer Richard Barrett, who heads the white supremacist organization known as the Nationalist Movement, said Edgar Ray Killen has agreed to make an appearance at his organization’s booth in the Agricultural Building. Barrett plans to gather signatures there in support of Killen, who is under investigation but has never faced state murder charges in the June 21, 1964, deaths of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

“He can possibly sign autographs and meet the crowd,” said Barrett, whose booth will be between those for the secretary of state’s office and the Mississippi Library Commission.

Fame (after a fashion)

Both Joshua of Sandbox and Lemuel have picked up my quip about John Kerry left in comments at Dan Drezner’s place a week or so ago:

On the other hand, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Kerry (accused of flip-flopping) doesn’t actually flip-flop; he just simultaneously occupies multiple policy positions with a variable probability density function over policy space. So he doesn’t flip-flop; he Heisenbergs. In other words, he wasn’t for the war before he was against it; he was for it while he was against it.

Glad y’all enjoyed it! However, it now appears that Jay Tea of Wizbang beat me to the analogy.


Brian J. Noggle is oddly intrigued by this Maxim photo shoot of Avril Lavigne. Mind you, compared to Michelle Branch she’s a prude…

Badnarik Q&A

Slashdot has posted its reader Q&A with Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik. Hilarity ensues.

CBS: “Misled”

Howard Kurtz reports that CBS is preparing to issue a statement that may (or may not) concede the documents are forgeries and may (or may not) apologize to the viewing public, the president, and/or Viacom shareholders for either (a) failing to properly vet the documents or (b) spending ten days stonewalling while all confidence the memos were real evaporated.

Meanwhile, Daniel Weiner advances a hypothesis about Memogate’s originsBaseball Crank) while Sean Hackbarth wonders why nobody’s asking questions about USA Today’s role in the affair.

Fear and loathing on the campaign trail

Commerical Appeal writer Bartholomew Sullivan does his best to put meat on the bones of claims that Republicans are planning an active campaign to “disenfranchise” black voters, but fails miserably, beginning with the subhead of his piece:

Paranoia strikes deep among black voters

“Paranoia” is defined as “a psychological disorder characterized by delusions of persecution or grandeur.” In other words, the Commercial Appeal is essentially accusing black voters of being collectively insane. But never fear: the CA is on the case to, er, ease those fears, perhaps. Sullivan goes on:

Although Bush-Cheney campaign officials say the perception is baseless and that efforts are under way to further diversify the GOP, the strictly nonpartisan vote-protection effort is aimed at thwarting tactics that are perceived to benefit Republicans by targeting black voters likely to vote for the Democratic ticket. [emphasis added]

Strictly nonpartisan? Of course, it’s led by the ACLU and NAACP, two groups known for their wide, bipartisan membership.

Mississippi, “for obvious historical reasons,” will have teams of poll watchers on the ground as one of 14 “Priority 1” states, said Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law public policy counsel Kim Alton. Arkansas and Missouri are also “Priority 1” concerns.

In other states, including lower-priority Tennessee, the coalition is asking people with voting concerns to report them at (866) OUR-VOTE – (866) 687–8683.

Nothing like “obvious historical reasons” to want to oversee a vote, though one would suspect that Tennessee might also have some of those “obvious historical reasons,” being a state that had Jim Crow and all.

[The efforts of these groups are] all in response to the perception that not-so-subtle efforts – and at least one overt plan – are under way to keep black voters, who traditionally vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates, from having their preferences counted.

After that passage, one wonders if the purpose of this effort is to dispel or foment paranoia. Sullivan does go out of his way to quote a few moderately sensible figures, but manages to close with this quotation:

Asked about any such [voter intimidation] efforts in the Mid-South, Eliott M. Mincberg, legal director of People for the American Way, said: “We’ve seen very little from there or anywhere else in terms of concrete signs of plans for voter suppression and intimidation. But that’s not unusual because these plans are designed to operate under cover until Election Day, when they’re sprung.”

One suspects these “plans” are about as concrete and likely to be made manifest as John Kerry’s “secret plan” to end the war in Iraq.

Sunday, 19 September 2004

Partisanship moves

The left half of the blogosphere is in a tizzy over suggestions that Gallup is “oversampling” Republicans—allegedly deliberately, apparently since these folks think Frank Gallup thinks it’s a smart idea to destroy his business to help a particular party win the election.

The “oversampling” could have two, rather more innocent, explanations:

  1. By random chance, Gallup may have gotten a sample that is more Republican than usual; the 95% margin of error for the poll given the sample size of 767 (for “likely voters”) is around ±3.5%—for “registered voters,” it’s around ±3.1%.
  2. Partisanship may have “moved” as a result of the campaign. While early empirical studies such as The American Voter posited that partisanship was causally prior to vote choice, more recent research suggests that citizens’ partisanship changes over the course of a political campaign—people who are inclined to vote for Bush tend to become more Republican, while people who are inclined to vote for Kerry tend to become more Democratic. Thus the incidence of partisanship in the electorate may have actually moved in a Republican direction.

I’d also suggest that the incidence of “independent” voters appears to be relatively inflated, and probably includes a large number of voters with fairly strong partisan leanings; it is socially desirable to self-identify as an “independent,” and thus the polls (not just Gallup—all of them) tend to show more independent voters than truly exist, as “true” independents make up less than 10% of the contemporary elected. The NES-style “branching” partisanship measure appears to conform more reliably to the actual incidence of partisanship and partisan behavior in the electorate.

Looking back at a month of gainful employment

Tuesday will mark my “one-month anniversary” as a professor, which—I suppose—is not much of a milestone, but it will do. Overall, I think things are going well and I’m starting to settle in, and everyone has been quite supportive thus far. There are a couple of outstanding concerns, however:

  • Is my teaching good enough? The “being thrown to the wolves” approach to teacher training that I experienced may have its virtues, but it wasn’t much preparation for the different sort of instruction that’s expected at a liberal arts college (the group dynamics of 15 relatively bright students aren’t close to those of 100 with wide variance), so I feel like I’m basically “muddling through” with a combination of lecturing and my vague recollection of graduate seminars.
  • Should I put some more focus on my research? The oblique advice I’ve gotten from my committee is that most potential employers want publications, even from newly-minted Ph.D.s; on the other hand, it appears that the administration here would rather I focus on teaching and departmental service, and I’d rather stay here than go elsewhere, ceteris paribus (of course, part of that isn’t really up to me). I suppose the correct answer here is “both.”

Anyway, we’ll see how things are going again next month.

Croom loss buried?

The interesting thing about Mississippi State’s Saturday loss to division I-AA Maine isn’t that it happened—it’s that I had to learn about it from the Clarion-Ledger. Surely ESPN, only two weeks out from its hagiographic profile of “history-making” Bulldogs coach Sylvester Croom, just was too busy during “College Gameday Final” to mention the upset and the Bulldogs’ fall below .500; after all, there were critical highlights to be shown from Florida Atlantic’s win over Middle Tennessee State.

Two down, six to go

Here’s a shocker: Britney Spears got hitched again. Good thing she’s started early, as it’s now virtually certain she can now eclipse Liz Taylor’s serial matrimony record—by the age of 30.

History prof, Gainesville (Fla.) GOP official scuffle

Ah, nothing like politics in the Sunshine StateTim Blair):

Politics in Gainesville turned rough and tumble Thursday night when, police say, a social behavior [sic] sciences instructor – a Democrat – punched the chairman of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee in the face. ...

[David] McCally is a part-time instructor in social and behavioral sciences at Santa Fe Community College who started in January, confirmed college spokesman Larry Keen. He will be “removed” from the classroom pending an administrative review on Monday, he said. [minor antecedent reference problem: is Keen being removed?]

A cursory Google search suggests that Dr. McCally, 55, is a history professor who’s lived the peripatetic life of a Ph.D. (see “Adjunct, Invisible”) at a variety of institutions in Florida, and is apparently the author of The Everglades: An Environmental History, which appears to have been received with some acclaim. Interestingly, he is not listed as a faculty member at SFCC, but is listed as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Florida and as having a Ph.D. from that institution.

Voting technology in 2004

Sunday’s New York Times has an interesting and balanced look at electronic voting in the November 2004 election, including a really cool zoomable map that shows what voting system is used in each county in the Lower 48. Particularly noteworthy is this passage on paper trails:

While it is too late in the game to make it possible to produce a paper record for each vote on every machine already deployed, Mr. Miller said that vendors would be willing to include that feature in the future if the market demanded it. Most of the major vendors have models that can supply a printed record, but in most cases, Mr. Miller said, election officials have not required it.

Paper receipts are not automatically required because no such universal guideline has ever existed. Mechanical lever machines, for instance, which have been in widespread use since the 1930’s – and will still be used by millions of voters this year – have never produced a paper record of each vote. And states have traditionally established their own definitions of what constitutes a ballot. [emphasis added]

Hinds County (home of Jackson) is apparently using WINvote touchscreens this fall. All I can say is that I do hope they’re using something a bit more secure than 64-bit WEP.

Free font tip

For those of you without Arial MS Unicode, the biohazard character (☣) is available under Linux using the “FreeSerif” font in the “freefont” package; in Debian, it’s called ttf-freefont. Mysteriously, the archives at Savannah for this font have disappeared, so the only way to get it may be by downloading the Debian binary or source packages.

Saturday, 18 September 2004

Despicable all around

Ole Miss–Vanderbilt

I made the decision last night not to bother going up to Oxford for the game—the idea of driving five hours and using $20 of gas to watch a three-hour game I could watch on TiVo-delay in the comfort of my apartment outweighed my desire to hang out in the Grove with past grad-school colleagues. As BigJim indicates, it didn’t start out all that well, but I think Ethan Flatt settled in and solidified himself as the starter, and the Rebels did pull out the win 26–23 in the first overtime (once Vanderbilt started actually playing like Vanderbilt normally does in the fourth quarter, instead of the halfway-decent play they showed in the first three). Micheal Spurlock probably didn’t help his cause by having a snap blow 20 yards past him in his only series under center.

The good news for the Rebels is that they next face Wyoming (in Laramie) and Arkansas State (at home), so there’s a reasonable chance they’ll be over .500 by the time SEC play starts up again. The bad news is that they’ll have to get one hell of a lot better to do much once the real teams start showing up on the schedule.

Update: More on this theme here.

Friday, 17 September 2004

International pricing

Lynne Kiesling notes that the British consumer goods price markup is a pretty standard practice—the “dollar sign becomes a pound sign” policy is, and has been, quite common over the years, even as the exchange rate has varied between near-parity and 2:1.

The fact that VAT is built into British prices, while state sales taxes are not incorporated in the “sticker” price in the U.S., accounts for 17.5% of the price differential—in the case of iTunes, about half of the difference between U.S. and British pricing, depending on the day’s exchange rate. Perhaps more interestingly, the remainder of the difference between U.S. and U.K. prices is about the same as the difference between British and Euro-zone pricing (which would also incorporate the quasi-standard European VAT rate), which seems to suggest that British adoption of the Euro would reduce consumer goods prices substantially, and thus significantly improve Britian’s GDP at purchasing power parity.

Osama: Dead or alive?

Fair and unbalanced epaulets

I get the odd feeling this Air Force lite-colonel is never going to live this one down.

Thursday, 16 September 2004

Islam in China

The BBC had an interesting story today on Islam in the Ningxia province, “the heartland of Islam in China.” Chinese Islam is, according to the story, more progressive than the variety found in the Middle East. There are even a few female imams.

Beijing's tight control over religious practice means Chinese Muslims have been isolated from trends sweeping through the rest of the Islamic world.

According to Dr Khaled Abou el Fadl from the University of California in Los Angeles, that means that ancient traditions like female jurists – which have been stamped out elsewhere – have been able to continue in China.

“The Wahhabi and Salafis have not been able to penetrate areas like China and establish their puritanical creed there,” said Dr Khaled Abou el Fadl.

Endorsement of the day

Kofi Annan: Not helping John Kerry

You’d think—or at least want to hope—those “foreign leaders” who want John Kerry to be elected in November would be politically smarter than Kofi Annan, who decided to sex up his complaint that the conflict in Iraq was “not in conformity” with U.N. resolutions today by calling it “illegal” in an interview with the BBC World Service. If, as unnamed Annan critics allegedly charge in the New York Times account, the U.N. secretary-general is “trying to influence politics in important member countries, notably the United States” (presumably to help Kerry), I think he is making a big mistake on two fronts:

  1. Kerry’s dubious claim that he can bring in allies that the Bush administration can’t is undermined by Annan’s statement. No country not in Iraq now will sign on to an “illegal” occupation and stabilization force. Of course, non-participants (most notably, the French) already severely undercut this claim when they stated they foresaw no circumstances under which they would participate, but this adds another nail to the coffin of Kerry’s Iraq policy (such that it is).

  2. Annan’s “cowboy talk” unnecessarily increases tension between the United States and the U.N., at a time when congressional goodwill toward the organization is cratered. Furthermore, since no responsible American government will ever concede that the Iraq invasion was “illegal” (a charge not even made by Howard Dean), it will further erode official U.S. support for the U.N.‘s pronouncements on the “legality” or “illegality” of actions and for the U.N. process in general.

Meanwhile, of course, the Security Council fiddles while Darfur burns; perhaps Annan’s attention should be more focused on bringing the U.N. together to stop the genocide in Sudan rather than rehashing past disputes.

How far we've fallen

Doug at writes:

Vandy at Ole Miss on Saturday, so keep your fingers crossed. I smell an upset brewing.

What’s truly scary is that the Rebels are 0–2 and still favored by a touchdown. (Mind you, even if I did bet on sports, I wouldn’t go within a mile of this one.)


Today’s free book in the mail: Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America by Mo Fiorina. It looks promising, is not obscenely overpriced, and might be a fun supplement for either Public Opinion or Intro in the spring.

Wednesday, 15 September 2004

Good and bad news

Up at Heretical Ideas: Ashcroft may be getting the boot in Bush’s second term—if there is a second term, as seems increasingly likely over the past week—and things seem to be going to hell in a handbasket in Iraq. On the latter, Alex Knapp says “the President won’t talk about it”; frankly, I’d rather he did something about it than talk about it, talk being cheap and all.

Philosophical ability not genetic

Prof. Eric Muller gets an email from Alec Rawls, son of the late philosopher John Rawls. Here’s the email:

It really is astounding that you can continue to grasp at straws in order to make scurrilous attacks. Are you ever going to vet one of your own charges for accuracy before you post it? You are such an incompetent asshole. Crawl back in your hole. Or let Michelle keep chopping your limbs off like Monty Python's Black Knight. Either way, moron. I presume you are taking comfort from all the brain dead bigots in law schools across the nation who don't want to know the truth about internment. You are their champion! Enjoy it, because amongst honest people, you are exposed as a complete fraud, now and forever.

Not only is Alec Rawls an utter jackass, he’s also a misogynist:

Faced with an invader, the combination of woman’s instinct to submit, and the tendency for her political thinking to revolve around the personal, can be a disastrous pairing for a nation that allows women to vote. The problem is even worse in Europe because European society has become thoroughly feminized. The European man no longer thinks like a man.

I wonder if Alec has been blogging under the pseudonym “Kim du Toit”?

Sadly, this apple fell pretty far from the tree.

FedEx Kinko's: When it absolutely, positively has to be forged overnight

The Washington Post reports that the Bush guard memos were faxed to CBS News from a Kinko’s location in Abilene, Texas, which just happens to be down the road from Bill Burkett’s home.

On the other hand, it’s possible that CBS producer Marla Mary Mapes (or some other person working on the story) faxed the documents to New York herself while in Abilene pursuing the story, and Burkett was uninvolved. So it’s hardly a smoking gun as to the source of the documents.

Also, the WaPo account quotes, on its jump page, a comment (attributed to Bill Burkett, although there’s no way to authenticate that it is genuine) from this comment thread at Steve Verdon’s weblog, Deinonychus antirrhopus. Interesting… (þ OTB)

Update: Via Jim Glass in comments at Tom Maguire’s place, WaPo writer Howie Kurtz has part of an interview with Rather:

"If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I'd like to break that story," Rather said in an interview last night. "Any time I'm wrong, I want to be right out front and say, 'Folks, this is what went wrong and how it went wrong.' "

Glass says “It's a little late for that, Dan.” Six days and counting, I think.


“60 Minutes II” doesn’t air in Jackson until 1:35 a.m. overnight (in its place was some sort of TV movie). What does my TiVo program guide say is on the show?

A hoax some consider responsible for helping launch the war in Iraq; actors Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker talk about their life and marriage.

Signifying Nothing has obtained a copy of the “hoax” originally scheduled to be presented before Rathergate started:

Forged letter from Saddam Hussein to his personal file.

It’s all so obvious now.

Update: Here’s a genuine image from the CBS website that apparently comes from the “picture worth a thousand words” department:

Dig deeper, indeed.

Of course, that’s Dan’s boot on the shovel.

New spin

As anticipated, CBS’s new defense is that the sentiments expressed in the memos are real, even if the documents themselves are forgeries.

In other words, the memos were real before they were fake.

Plus, I think CBS and Dan Rather might be upset that George W. Bush outsourced their camels.

RatherGate explained

Now it all makes sense:

I’ll bet that Dan Rather didn’t get to sleep with Jennifer Garner.

Life is rough like that sometimes…

It's like England, but in the Deep South

The local roundabout fetish is spreading

“Fake but accurate”

You can tell that things are going badly for the Democrats when the New York Times says the silver lining is that the forged memos are somehow “accurate” despite being, by any objective or sane standard, complete fabrications. I hate to break it to the Times, but this isn’t the Critical Studies department; this is the real world, where we have these neat concepts like “empiricism,” “evidence,” and “temporal order,” not to mention “Word didn’t exist in 1972.”

Such concepts do not appear to hold sway with anti-Bush smearmeister Bill Burkett (a Kerry and DNC fundraiser, not that the Times bothers to mention that in its article) or his attorney, mind you:

Asked what role Mr. Burkett had in raising questions about Mr. Bush’s military service, Mr. Van Os said: “If, hypothetically, Bill Burkett or anyone else, any other individual, had prepared or had typed on a word processor as some of the journalists are presuming, without much evidence, if someone in the year 2004 had prepared on a word processor replicas of documents that they believed had existed in 1972 or 1973 – which Bill Burkett has absolutely not done’’ – then, he continued, “what difference would it make?”

That’s right, kids, it’s acceptable to prepare forgeries of documents you think might have existed in the past, or perhaps even ought to have existed, like that B.A. summa cum laude from Stanford I “deserve” even though they rejected my application 11 years ago, all in the name of greater truth.

Update: Jane Galt has more on this theme:

So if I honestly believe that Bill Clinton had Vince Foster killed, and gave written orders to someone to do so, it's okay if I go ahead and type up a couple of memos to that effect and hand them to the press… and okay if the press runs with them.

The Rather Doctrine spreads . . . and my job just keeps getting easier. By next week, we're going to give up printing news entirely, and give our pages over to Tom Clancy.

Ecological idiocy

Sometimes when I read Andrew Sullivan I wonder what they actually teach in the political science department (I'm sorry, I mean “Kennedy School of Government”) at Harvard. This item provides yet another example:

BORN-AGAIN DIVORCE: A new survey finds that born-again Christians are just as likely to get divorced as everyone else; and, in some instances, seem to have a higher rate of divorce than others. Jesus, of course, was explicit in his condemnation of divorce (unlike homosexuality). A large majority of born-again Christians disagree. Just don’t call them cafeteria Christians. They have their focus on the real threat to marriage: those who have always been barred from marrying.

I do hope Sullivan is aware that born-again Christians (however defined; the survey linked by Sullivan uses a question format that probably would inflate the number of “born-agains” versus the normal approach of asking the respondents whether they consider themselves “born-again Christians”) come in many political stripes, and many of them (including probably a higher proportion of those who are divorced, who would tend to be more liberal) support same-sex marriage. But why let the facts get in the way of a good smear against Protestants?

Ironically, of course, those who tend to agree with Sullivan in his Quixotic crusade to restore covenant marriage as the law of the land are also the least likely to approve of same-sex marriage, Sullivan’s protestations that favoring gay marriage is actually a “true conservative” position notwithstanding.

Update: This page may help explain the title of this post.

Another Update: Conrad of The Gweilo Diaries also has quibbles with Sullivan’s fixations as of late.

Denial isn't just a building on West 57th Street

Colby Cosh nominates a post by Evan Kirchhoff, no Bush fan, as “Best Thing Written On The Subject” of RatherGate. I tend to agree; go read the whole thing, as it’s absolutely merciless throughout. Meanwhile, Susanna Cornett dismisses the idea of Republican dirty tricks, apparently the “out” CBS is going to use for this scandal, as being rather (pardon the pun) lame:

As for the Republicans engineering it… please! Doesn’t CBS realize how thoroughly pathetic and childish that makes them sound? First, it’s very clear that the documents wouldn’t pass serious scrutiny at any time, so even if the Republicans did engineer it, I don’t think even they would have assumed CBS would actually take them seriously! They would have credited CBS with more intelligence, which would have obviously been a flagrant error. Second, if the Republicans were to have engineered this, they would have done a much better job of it. Finally, and actually most importantly, despite the efforts of the MSM to convey the opposite impression, I don’t think the Republicans play that dirty (at least in that arena).

Evan Kirchhoff also has some free advice for his fellow Democrats:

I’ll let you in on a secret: until the recent memo fiesta, I was 100% certain that Bush was AWOL in some sense from something at some point in Texas, since I vaguely remember this going around once or twice before (insert typical rumor about alternative service with Captain J. Daniels, if you know what I mean). Thanks to the CBS/DNC revisitation of the issue, I have boringly learned that there was some kind of flex-time system that operated with an annual “points” scale, and apparently (as I understand this) if you look at Bush’s attendance points, they line up adequately. So now I’m apathetic about AWOL at both the regular and the meta-level.

Currently there are about 7 weeks remaining until the election. If you like, you can spend another two or three of them trying to reverse this conclusion, and if you dig hard enough you might discover that Bill Gates has a time machine he hasn’t previously disclosed to shareholders. But I really think you ought to consider the pure opportunity cost of that project, because with the month nearly half over, it’s starting to look like the entire campaign plan for September consisted of a handful of pseudo-kerned .doc files and Kitty Kelley’s Bush the Coke-Huffing Monkey.

While they’re at it, the DNC might also want to look into finding some campaign workers who actually know what John Kerry stands for. Now, granted, that’s perhaps difficult given Kerry’s own Heisenbergian tendencies, but at least some minor effort on that front would be nice.

Firefox 1.0 PR

I just downloaded Mozilla Firefox 1.0 PR, and like BigJim I’m liking the new Live Bookmarks feature immensely—it reminds me a bit of the approach David Janes took with BlogMatrix Jäger, but the Mozilla approach is significantly less featureful (for starters, I can’t see any way to go to the root URL specified by a feed, and it doesn’t keep track of what you’ve read in any way that I can tell; nor does there seem to be a way to add a RSS feed without a LINK element—so I can’t add the Chronicle of Higher Ed feeds). On the other hand, it’s integrated in the browser nicely, and you can put a folder of feeds in your Bookmarks Toolbar, and use the menu to surf posts seamlessly (so it doesn’t take up real estate when you’re reading), or you can open the “Live Bookmarks” in the sidebar. And it does have Atom support, which is nice. So, for now, I’ll give it 3 out of 5 stars.

In other changes, it looks like Gtk theming has changed slightly yet again, and apparently the “disappearing cookie” bug has been somewhat, but not totally, squished. And it does seem a little more zippy than 0.9.3 did on my Linux box (though that could just be due to the builds being i686 builds, as opposed to Debian policy-compliant i386 builds). So it seems like a worthwhile upgrade.

Tuesday, 14 September 2004


You know, I really think BigJim should get out of the way of this one.

Outsourcing your camel

Steven Jens is perplexed but fixated by some John Kerry campaign-trail humor. I’m reminded of Lewis Black’s riff on “The White Album” about things overheard at IHOP, all of which revolves around the following statement:

If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.

Be careful with that one; if you aren’t, your brain will do what happened to all those computers that Kirk was required to outwit between gratuitous fight scenes on the original series of Star Trek.

Monday, 13 September 2004

More Ironic Google Ads

Ed Brayton finds an amusingly ironic Google ad at the blog of my favorite anti-gay bigot.

Mr. Cramer has added a disclaimer to the top of his blog, so that no one will associate him with, you know, “those people.”

(Back in January, I blogged about another ironic Google ad.)

Shocked to see gambling in this establishment

Amy Zeigart writes that the Department of Homeland Security is little more than a giant pork-barrel scheme. Who on earth could have predicted that outcome? I’m shocked and appalled. (þ Dan Drezner)

Stupid Cuban Tricks

Gary Farber quite rightly points out a double-standard in the Bush administration’s treatment of terrorists who target a certain unfriendly country.

Oxford QB controversy

It’s official: there’s a QB controversy in Oxford. I think I’d give Spurlock the nod at least starting against perennial SEC punching bag Vanderbilt, but I don’t think I’d give him more than three drives to get his act together. I’m not sure Flatt is much of an upgrade, but he did manage to accomplish something against Alabama, which is more than Spurlock can say. (The question mark in all of this is blue-chip recruit Robert Lane out of Louisiana, currently #3 on the depth chart but poised to move up if this turns into a “rebuilding season” after the trip to Wyoming.)

One thing’s for sure: Rebel fans should get their EV1.COM Bowl tickets early!


Mister Hats is having a end-of-summer sale on their entire stock of straw hats, so I couldn't resist buying a new one.

Like my felt winter hat, this one is a Bailey. It has a thin leather band, which is rather unusual, and makes it more casual-looking than my Scala straw hat.

See below for a picture.


I could have sworn I linked Michael Totten last night. Grr… Michael Munger has thoughts in a similar vein today, although I think the more likely explanation (here comes Occam again) is that some deranged, historically clueless anti-Bush person produced the documents—and they’d have gone nowhere if 60 Minutes had done anything approaching due diligence. To believe that anyone planted the documents to discredit the AWOL charges (something that I find nearly impossible to believe could be done, given the other uncertainties in Bush’s records during the era anyway) requires the following assumptions on the part of the forger:

  • The person who gave the documents to CBS could never be traced back to the forger (i.e. Bush operatives).
  • Someone (CBS) would believe the documents were genuine at first glance, despite all the anachronistic features of the documents.
  • CBS would not consult any experts in document authenticity, or even if they did, the experts would be too stupid (or too in hock to CBS) to figure out the documents were anachronistic.
  • Other people, with fewer resources than CBS, would figure out the documents were fake.

The first three steps require some sort of Jedi mind control on the part of (presumably) Karl Rove, which is a completely idiotic belief on the basis of Lawrence’s Rule (if nothing else).

Anyway, I think the truth about Bush’s National Guard assignment—and the truth about a lot of things that go on in elite politics and in the South—is embodied in this statement by Virginia Postrel:

I also think that Bush got special treatment, probably without anyone having to ask for it. Given his family's connections and the way Texas operates like a small town, people would have looked out for him.

I made a similar point about Clinton during all of his scandals: he didn’t “suborn perjury” from his supporters—they’d have lied for him without his asking, or his (or anyone else’s) needing to ask. There are limits; this sort of thing wouldn’t happen if you killed someone in cold blood, for example,* but it’s a cornerstone of small-town dynamics that many fail to appreciate.

Found rap song

My wife recently bought an old Alphasmart Pro on eBay to use as a portable fiction writing tool. (It's much more durable than a laptop.)

Apparently this one belonged to a kid in junior high school, since it stored a dreadful “five paragraph essay” on the benefits of learning to swim, as well as this rap song:

Jumpin, Jumpin
Thou shall get your party on

Ladies leave your man at home
The club is full of ballers and there pockets full grown
And all you fellas leave your girl with her friends
Cuz this 11:30 and the club is jumpin jumpin

Though he say for he got a girl
Yeah its true your got a man
But the party ain’t gon stop
So let’s make it hot, hot

Last weekend you stayed at home alone and lonely
Couldn’t find your man he was chillin with his homies.
This weekend your going out
If he try to stop you your going out.
And your new outfit and your Fendi shoes.
You and your crew parlayin at the hottest spot tonite.

Your gonna find the fellas rollin in the Lexus.

“Thou shall get your party on.” That must have been on the tablet that Moses dropped.


Dean Esmay is right; anyone speculating in public over the identity of the “memo forger” without evidence is (a) an idiot and more importantly (b) doing the exact same crap CBS pulled in the first place—making charges based on stuff that could just be made up. Sheesh. (þ OTB)

Sunday, 12 September 2004

The patriotism canard

David Adesnik of OxBlog makes a rather curious statement in a parenthetical aside in his discussion of Dick Cheney’s charge that John Kerry isn’t serious about the War on Terror:

… Cheney did come perilously close to attacking John Kerry’s patriotism.

It strikes me that Cheney attacked (perhaps somewhat unfairly) John Kerry’s alleged position on the relative merits of the use of military force versus other techniques for dealing with al-Qaeda and other international terror organizations. That seems like an attack on Kerry’s competence, or his worldview, or (if you don’t believe the statement David quotes from Kerry) his sincerity—but I’m not sure at all that it’s an attack on Kerry’s patriotism. Indeed, this account of the January 29, 2004, debate among Democratic presidential hopefuls in Greenville, S.C., has Kerry stating, in response to a question from Tom Brokaw:

The war on terror is less-it is occasionally military, and it will be, and it will continue to be for a long time, and we will need the best trained and the most well equipped and the most capable military, such as we have today.

But it’s primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world, the very thing this administration is worst at. I will renew our alliances. I will rejoin the community of nations. I will build the kind of cooperative effort that we need in order to be able to win and, most importantly, the war on terror is also an engagement in the Middle East economically, socially, culturally, in a way that we haven’t embraced because otherwise we’re inviting the clash of civilizations, and I think this administration’s arrogant and ideological policy is taking America down a more dangerous path. I will make America safer than they are.

Is that statement congruent with Cheney’s (implied) charge that Kerry shares “the pre-9/11 mind-set, if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we are not really at war”? It’s certainly closer to that viewpoint than Kerry’s DNC speech.

Calling Cheney’s statement “un-American,” as John Edwards did, would be an attack on someone’s patriotism, as would hypothetical statements such as “John Kerry hates America,” “John Kerry wants the terrorists to win,” or “John Kerry materially aided the North Vietnamese regime against the United States in the early 1970s.” Of course, Cheney made none of these statements or expressed similar sentiments, so I’m a bit mystified as to how what he did say constitutes an attack on Kerry’s patriotism.

Speaking just for myself, I don’t question Kerry’s patriotism—I think he genuinely believes that the policies that he and his fellow Democrats espouse are the ones that are best for America—but I think there are legitimate questions to be raised about whether Kerry’s proposals for greater international cooperation are simply papering over pathological problems with the transatlantic alliance (incidentally, Stephen Bainbridge has penned an interesting take on the future role of the United States as the leader of the international system).

King of Mississippi

Two of the three “local” ads during half-time of the Giants-Eagles game here in Jackson featured Eli Manning (including a cringe-inducing ad for BankPlus that also had Archie in it).

Football in the time of cholera

My thoughts on the 0–2 performance of the Ole Miss Rebels (originally posted here):

I think Cutcliffe has a four-year contract that was renewed over the summer (the state government doesn’t permit contracts for more than four years). No idea what the buy-out is.

That said, Cut will have to really screw up—i.e. get nailed by the NCAA or not be bowl-eligible for two straight seasons—to be fired. Realistically, Ole Miss is a 7 or 8-win program on average, and he’s never done worse than seven wins. I can see the coordinator (Latina) getting the boot, or even a Tuberville-style mass slaughter of the coaching staff, but not during the season. Plus, I think the prestige bump from last year’s 10–3 season won’t translate on the field until 2005 when this year’s recruits are off the scout team.

Besides, who are you going to bring in to rebuild? Petrino has a better shot at a BCS bowl in Louisville (once they enter the Big East) than he would ever have in Oxford. More than likely you’d have to bring in someone for a first head-coaching job (cherry-pick someone off Saban’s staff at LSU, for example), and there’s no guarantee that will work better than Cutcliffe.

I think a lot of what we’re seeing is the result of Cutcliffe not playing Spurlock enough last season—I don’t think Spurlock saw a single snap in an SEC game until Saturday—and some of it is growing pains with working with what Spurlock’s strengths are. Flatt, who does a lot of the same stuff Manning did (not to mention having another half-foot on Spurlock), is actually a better fit in the playcalling “package.”

One thing’s for sure: Spurlock’s leash is pretty short by now, and if the Rebels aren’t pounding Vanderbilt by halftime this coming week, he may never see the field again in an Ole Miss uniform.

The last part is probably hyperbole, but if Spurlock can’t figure out how to settle down and complete passes in a game, he’s not going to be on the field much.

Saturday, 11 September 2004

The Torricelli Option

In comments at The Captain’s Quarters, “Judge Crater” writes:

There seems to be no amount of time that is too small (at least in New Jersey) to invoke the “Torricelli Option”.
With the RNC so late, Bush had problems as it was in Illinois. I can’t imagine trying to pull the “Torricelli Option” off in 50 states.

To effectively replace a presidential candidate, you don’t have to exercise the “Torricelli Option”; all that has to happen is the Democratic electors have to agree to support a single candidate when the Electoral College meets in December. A few electors might run foul of “faithless elector” laws if they supported someone other than Kerry, but (to my knowledge) nobody has ever been seriously punished for violating them—and, besides, the deed will have been done, as there’s no way to revoke the vote of a faithless elector.

Besides which, the odds of this happening are about zero; even if Kerry melts down due to blowback from Rathergate (a prospect that’s dubious at best, unless it turns out some higher-up in the campaign typed the memos himself), it’s hard to believe any Democrat consensus candidate could emerge other than Edwards, who’s already on record as lending credence to the memos.

Friday, 10 September 2004

Bias in academe

Steven Teles and Philip Klinkner have an interesting debate that’s worth a read on the proper role for ideology in the classroom: parts 1, 2, and 3 (so far). I tend to agree with Teles that the wrong approach is to follow the David Horowitz-style “anti-discrimination paradigm,” although I suspect Horowitz has adopted it not to truly encourage its use on matters of political and ideological diversity but to shame academics into abandoning its use on matters of racial and gender diversity.

Worst. Forgery. Ever?

Bruce Rolston notes that all four memos raising questions about George W. Bush’s service reproduce exactly in Microsoft Word (þ Colby Cosh). As he says, one could buy one memo looking exactly like a Word document on the basis of coincidence… but four? That seems pretty implausible to me, at least.

What about the Selectric Composer—could Killian have used it? That’s not very likely either. And, you too can be a handwriting expert for the day. (Both links to Jeff Harrell’s The Shape of Days.)

Update: Surely if CBS lies to its interview subjects they would’t also lie to the American people, would they? And surely CBS would tell us if the guy allegedly pressuring Killian had retired 18 months before the memo was allegedly written? Right? Bueller?


A senior CBS official, who asked not to be named because CBS managers did not want to go beyond their official statement, named one of the network's sources as retired Maj. Gen. Bobby W. Hodges, the immediate superior of the documents' alleged author, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian. He said a CBS reporter read the documents to Hodges over the phone and Hodges replied that "these are the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time."

"These documents represent what Killian not only was putting in memoranda, but was telling other people," the CBS News official said. "Journalistically, we've gone several extra miles."

The official said the network regarded Hodges's comments as "the trump card" on the question of authenticity, as he is a Republican who acknowledged that he did not want to hurt Bush. Hodges, who declined to grant an on-camera interview to CBS, did not respond to messages left on his home answering machine in Texas.

So the “trump card,” Hodges, didn’t actually verify the documents’ authenticity (and CBS went out of its way to tell him the memos were in Killian’s handwriting), and Staudt was apparently only able to influence the Guard in 1973 via telepathy.

I suppose the good news is they didn't rig anything to explode (yet). And it's not like 60 Minutes has a record of basing stories on fake memos or anything:

In 1999, "60 Minutes" apologized, as part of a legal settlement with a Customs Service official, for reporting on a memo that was later found to be fake."

Oh, scratch that one then.


Dean Esmay wants to know if John Kerry has sat down for an interview with a journalist (Jon Stewart doesn’t count) since August 8th. I’m sure he’d appreciate any leads.

I’m not sure that represents “ducking the press” so much as a recognition of the increasingly marginal role that political journalists have in campaigns; why sit down with Russert or Brokaw if you can talk without a filter on the stump (receiving national coverage) and let surrogates handle the spin and the bad PR?

More invites

Like James Joyner, I have some more GMail invites to give away. Email me ( for yours.

Elitism 3

I get this odd feeling that if I were a committed Christian I’d be offended by lectures from non-Christians about my beliefs and the implication that my religious faith compelled me to support a particular party’s policies. Jesus may not have favored private property (or, rather, said the path to salvation was not through having worldly possessions, which isn’t exactly the same thing—having stuff was essentially orthogonal to salvation, although coveting more stuff was a distraction from that path), but I don’t remember anything in the Gospels about God’s will requiring the establishment of European-style welfare states either.

Sentiments repeated

I think Alex Knapp has a winner:

I’ve got no dog in this fight. As I’ve said before, I don’t think Bush or Kerry would be qualified to make sure that I got my fries with my drive-thru order. I don’t know who I’m going to vote for, and honestly I don’t really care. (Given that last time I looked, Bush had a 18-point or so lead in my state, it doesn’t much matter, either.)

But I will say this: the Kerry campaign over the past six weeks or so has shown the potential to wreck the Democratic party. This is what happens when the rallying cry is “Anybody But Bush” (a sentiment that I sympathize with) without much concern as to whether you’re actually electing someone better than Bush. In the race to find someone “electable,” the Democrats ended up with someone who really isn’t. And if Kerry loses, I fear that the result might be a substantially weakened Democratic Party as infighting among groups takes hold. The resulting fallout might be a decade or two more of Republican dominance over the government. I don’t want that. I want two competitive parties constantly battling for dominance. I want divided government, and I want it all the time.

I think the fundamental problem the Democrats have is that “Anybody But Bush” isn’t anybody; it’s John Kerry, a man with no meaningful record in politics to speak of that is unconnected with Southeast Asia, and who can’t figure out what the hell he wants to do when he’s elected—or at least can’t communicate that plan to the public in any sense other than “I’m not going to do what Bush does,” which is fine for the 35% of voters who will support literally “anybody” but Bush but hasn’t done a darn thing to impress the rest.

Not that being the “Anybody But Kerry” candidate does much for Bush, mind you, but at least Bush has something approaching a record—even if a lot of it is a series of complete cock-ups. What Bush does have on his side is the credible fear that turning over the country to John Kerry is a vote for capitulation on virtually all fronts—Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, North Korea, Iran, and Kyoto—to the more learned views of our European “allies” (on which they bat 0–6 in terms of having the right ideas) and a recipe to cripple our economy with the sort of massive entitlement programs that have France and Germany circling the drain. All Kerry has going for him, from the libertarian-leaning conservative perspective, is the possibility that divided government might lead to more fiscal conservatism and a more socially liberal Supreme Court (although the latter institution seems to be at a pretty sane point already, if you ask me).

It’s not just Alex saying this, mind you; there’s more on the same theme from von of Obsidian Wings and Hei Lun of Begging to Differ.

King for a day

Henry Farrell is hosting an interesting discussion of this Gary King and Kosuke Imai piece in Perspectives on Politics (who knew that journal was worth reading?) on the Florida recount in 2000. My general viewpoint is that, as an academic exercise, examining the recount is interesting, but I’d rather see people try to fix the broken voting technology than engage in recriminations over the highly politicized process followed by both major parties during the recount.

Then again, I’m on record as saying I really don’t care that much about politics, so you’d probably expect such a reaction from me.


I think this whole “forged documents” thing is taking off.

Meanwhile, Occam’s Razor suggests that the theory that the documents might not be forged (discussed by Gary Farber) is unlikely. I find it difficult to believe that by coincidence, someone would produce a document with a 1973 typewriter that would look essentially identical to the output of the copy of Microsoft Word 2002 on my desk, down to the inter-letter spacing [not the kerning - Ed.], superscripting of the ordinal “th,” and margins, or that someone would go to the trouble of purchasing a non-standard typewriter ball for a military-issue typewriter (were these golfballs even in the GSA contract with IBM?) and install it just to write memos about a particular officer for filing—but switch back to the standard one for other correspondence. (But Gary is to be commended for at least taking the time to seriously think about this, something a lot of people haven’t done.)

I think Colby Cosh nails it in a sentence:

If the reports are accurate, CBS—estimated annual news budget: one squillion dollars—has been taken in by a fraud that, roughly speaking, anybody over the age of 30 in the industrialized world could have spotted.

Of course, I strongly suspect the people doing the real legwork on this story either (a) are like my students and don’t remember an era before ubiquitous computing or (b) are folks like Dan Rather who haven’t touched a typewriter in 30 years. Speaking of Dan, CBS News is saying we don’t need no—investigation. That stand, er, does not seem wise.

Biggest game ever

The Majors shut out the Mississippi College Choctaws last night, nine to nothing. It wasn’t an offensive showcase by any means, but the important thing was that it was football!

Thursday, 9 September 2004

George Bernard Shaw predicted this

David Janes passes along word that some folks in British Columbia are planning a monument commemorating draft dodgers. Now I’ve seen everything. David responds:

How about a counter-memorial for all black and poor kids who died in their place?

Au contraire. Such daring heroism as making the mad dash across the Ambassador Bridge in the dark of night or through the shadow of the Peace Arch in broad daylight is clearly worthy of commemoration; I mean, it was just like crossing the Berlin Wall.


Nick Troester was outed as a blogger by his department chair. That’s gotta hurt.

On the other hand, I guess blogging is no longer cool when department chairs start doing it…

Forge it real good

This post is by request from a reader. Never let it be said that Signifying Nothing is indifferent to its audience.

Interesting: it seems that at least some of the documents that are raising questions about George W. Bush’s service (or lack thereof) in the National Guard are forgeries (☣ Little Green Footballs).

Incidentally, I duplicated the experiment here with my copy of Word 2002 SP 3 at work, and also came up with an identically laid-out memo. (The date is indented four inches, if you want to try it yourself.) What may be most interesting about this experiment is not the typeface*—although the “smart ordinal” feature is something of a giveaway—but the default margins, which are 1.25 inches on each side in Word, a size that is relatively atypical.

Does this mean the whole story is fake? Probably not. But it does mean that Democratic operatives need to catch up in the forgery department to the French intelligence services.

More elitism

Matt Yglesias semi-defends Harvard from charges of elitism—albeit ones not made in this Gregg Easterbrook essay, which is based on research that concludes that (controlling for a variety of factors) people admitted to Harvard do no better than those who attend “lesser” schools, over the long term (þ Orin Kerr).

I think there is a minor caveat to mention here, however; Easterbrook writes:

Today an Ivy diploma reveals nothing about a person’s background, and favoritism in hiring and promotion is on the decline; most businesses would rather have a Lehigh graduate who performs at a high level than a Brown graduate who doesn’t.

I think that is true for businesses; however, I don’t think that’s true of academic institutions, at least to the same degree. Look at any college catalog or bulletin—for example this one*—and you’ll see the names of the institutions that faculty members received their degrees from (most will also include dates of degrees). So, clearly this is a selling point of the institution—they wouldn’t include this information if nobody cared about it (heck, when I was looking at colleges as a high school junior and senior, I cared about it)—and colleges that can list a lot of Ivy grads in the catalog will probably attract better students, with some minor exceptions. Which actually, in and of itself, might be an interesting empirical question to examine: do students whose colleges whose faculties have more Ivy grads do better in life, ceteris paribus?

Ivory towers

Hei Lun of Begging to Differ has an interesting rebuttal to claims from the left that most people should vote for the Democratic Party out of economic self-interest. His specific rebuttal is to Chris Bertram, but it applies equally to this, rather more blunt, Mark Kleiman postAlex Knapp). Of course, if you’re someone who rejects the idea that social issues are legitimate fodder for political debate (as opposed to simply being expressions of bigotry and hatred), I can see where you might assume that the economic issues are the only ones that matter.

Plus, this passage at the end of Hei Lun’s argument reminded me of this discussion of a Dahlia Lithwick column in the New York Times:

Lastly, the obvious point, which I guess isn’t obvious to Chris Bertram et al., is that calling people who don’t vote the way you want them to vote “stupid” isn’t the best way to persuade them to vote your way in future elections.

Luckily for the Times, and for the Crooked Timberites, I am reasonably confident that their academic discussion of the general stupidity of their less sophisticated brethren (in whose name, after all, they crusade for social justice and the like) will not filter down to the masses. You can only be insulted, after all, if you know you’re being insulted.

Wednesday, 8 September 2004

Two can play this game

Since Chip Taylor is doing it, I’ll do it too. Here’s where I work:

[Satellite image of Millsaps College]

My building is the greenish-grey one that looks like an upside-down M.

Sign of the apocalypse #6

Tuesday, 7 September 2004

Fordice dies

The Clarion-Ledger reports that Kirk Fordice, the governor of Mississippi from 1992 through 2000, died of complications from leukemia this morning in Jackson. Fordice was the first Republican governor of Mississippi since Reconstruction and the only governor in the state’s history to ever win a second consecutive term in office; he was also known for his fiscal conservatism and his often-adversarial relationship with the state legislature. Fordice was 70 years old.

Living down to one's reputation

Now, normally I’m above cheap shots, but John Kerry’s handling of his idiotic press release calling virtually everyone who spoke at the RNC a liar pretty much follows his reputation as the human weathervane.

Correction department

In this post, I erroneously asserted that Dan’s “blogger panel” at APSA was co-sponsored by the New Political Science program division; it was, in fact, co-sponsored by the Political Communication and Information Technology and Politics sections.

Signifying Nothing regrets the error and any confusion it may have caused. Thankfully, however, we were not sued by Lee Kuan Yew ($).

Monday, 6 September 2004

A laundry list is not a critique

Both James Joyner and Robert Garcia Tagorda take note of John Hinderaker’s post on a recent Kerry press release, which purports to expose “four days of lies” at the Republican National Convention. The only problem with the press release? It doesn’t actually present any rebuttals to the “lies” it catalogs, apparently on the mistaken impression that “X is lying because I say so” is a legitimate argument in a debate.

Meanwhile, One Fine Jay catches the Dems (in the same release) engaging in the sort of petty, vile anti-southern bigotry that helps explain why their support has essentially evaporated among native whites in the region.

Sunday, 5 September 2004

Back home in flyover country

The trip back home was nice and painless. Southwest may get a lot more of my business in the future. Now off to catch up on my TiVo viewing and get a sound night’s sleep in my own bed.

Church sign blogging

Seen on a church sign today in Fayette County:

I had to wonder — will that really increase their resale value?


You know, I don’t care to hear about France’s sex life, thank you very much, although I do think the “long pounding” was suffered by the other 49 states, not to mention the Iraqis, rather severely as well.

Dirty, filthy tricks and party cohesion

James Joyner and Steven Taylor ponder the cognitive dissonance (or perceptual screens) that allow partisans to think their party never resorts to “dirty tricks” while the other does so routinely. Helpfully, Steven Bainbridge produces an incomplete catalog of Democratic offenses, perhaps as evidence of both sides of this phenomenon.

Bainbridge’s post is in reaction to a post by Kevin Drum that argues liberals “still aren’t as dedicated to [their] cause as conservatives are to theirs.” Pondering this point over breakfast (about 50 feet east of where I’m sitting in the Palmer House), I concluded liberals (or, rather, Democrats) aren’t as committed as Republicans because the Democrats are more fractured into multiple interests who often have diametrically-opposed values on important dimensions—consider, for example, the strong religious faith of most African Americans versus the highly secularized, mostly-white “professional” left, or the divergent interests of organized labor (who favor a cartelized labor market) and the working (and non-working) poor. Obviously this isn’t an especially keen insight, but it may go some ways toward another explanation of why the DNC failed to rally support for Kerry/Edwards in the way the RNC did for Bush/Cheney.

More here.

September surprise

Equal-opportunity partisan wingnut hat on…

I think this report was clearly timed to distract voters from John Kerry’s self-immolation or his cunningly effective attack on the president. I blame George Soros or the neocon cabal.

Nuke the Hurricanes!

Apropos of Hurricane Frances: Why don’t we try to destroy tropical cyclones by nuking them?

Environmental and physical problems aside, I think Florida and Florida State fans could also get behind this plan.

Pondering the bounce

I’ll admit I was about the last person who would have predicted a large convention bounce for the incumbent—heck, I’m on record predicting a narrow Kerry victory, and that was largely predicated on Bush receiving about the same bounce (i.e. zero) that Kerry did due to a polarized electorate.

As Robert Garcia Tagorda notes this evening, the Democratic postmortem—and perhaps the recriminations—have begun. Robert argues that the DNC’s singleminded focus on Kerry’s military record as a qualification for office created the media frame for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to have an open line of attack on the challenger.

I suspect there may be a separate dynamic at work as well. All party conventions (aside, perhaps, from the Communists’) wrap themselves in the flag and try to emphasize their party’s “big tent” nature. Of course, these frames don’t work as well for some as for others; attempts to paint the Republicans as an open-minded party committed to diversity (however defined) result—often with some basis—in snickering and eye-rolling from anyone with a modicum of knowledge of American politics, while Democrats’ wrapping themselves in the flag leads many observers (including myself, in my more cynical moments) to ponder that many of the party’s adherents would rather burn the flag than use it as a cloak. Thus, parties also have to do something else at a convention to make it a worthwhile exercise.

The trouble for the Democrats is that essentially all they did at the convention was a “gung ho,” flag-waving exercise that nobody bought—the leftist base found it offensive, while a lot of other people found the whole exercise downright implausible. Contrast the Republicans, who—despite the cringe-inducing emphasis on the “big tent”—managed also to articulate a message on national security that is so effective against Kerry that the Democrats have had to resort to smearing Zell Miller as a racist (if, by “racist,” you mean “any politician who ever was elected to public office in a Southern state”—I can draw the same lines between many prominent “real” Democrats and bigots, but apparently Democrats don’t want to talk about the sheets in “their guys’” closets) and both Dick Cheney and George Bush as relapsed alcoholics.

Bypassing Clinton

My (newlywed) cousin Gordon emails the extended family:

I just caught on the online news that Bill Clinton has to have emergency, quadruple by-pass surgery, probably some week next time (seriously), and it occurred to me that that is probably the first thing my Uncle Pic [my maternal grandfather – Ed.] and a liberal Democrat will EVER have had in common!

I think Gordon may be right about that. In all seriousness, though, I join those offering my best wishes for Mr. Clinton’s speedy recovery; may he live to agitate my grandfather another day.

Saturday, 4 September 2004

My life as meat

Well, I managed to survive eight quasi-interviews with representatives of various institutions, not to mention a long, but most enjoyable, night last night at The Green Mill jazz club. Now I’m taking a bit of a break in my hotel room, listening to the Ole Miss-Memphis game on the Internet and pondering some late dinner plans.

Great taste, less comments

As Brock mentioned below, Matthew Yglesias has closed down his comment section (at least for now); Will Baude has predictably approved of this decision.

Some of our commenters suspect that Matt’s recent spat with Glenn Reynolds (in which Matt castigated Glenn for failing to appreciate the nuances of one of his posts when quoting from it) motivated the decision—for background on this, see Von’s post at Obsidian Wings.

Matthew Yglesias ditches comments

Matthew Yglesias turns off comments on his blog:

I'm sorry it's come to this, especially for folks who've been commenting on this site in a while, but I think the time has come to shut comments down, at least as a default option. We've become totally overwhelmed by trolls who come to write in the spirit of deliberate insult and misreading rather than fairminded debate, and the folks more "on my side" are just left responding in kind.
Will Baude has yet to say "I told you so."

Invasion of the blogger snatchers

Brad DeLong notes that Andrew Sullivan's commentary on Zell Miller's speech is "shriller than Paul Krugman ever was, or ever could be." Patrick Taylor explains:
While my evidence isn't good enough to be featured on a late-night "documentary" on the Sci-Fi Channel (or even the State of the Union), I think you'll agree that this is no time to be "reasonable" or "sensitive". Here is my evidence:

I propose that the Tarzissian space aliens from the planetary system of Bellatrix Orion have started abducting Pundits. I have reason to believe that Andy is just part of the first wave.

Fortunately, the Aliens lack a sophisticated understanding of our political mores so this fake Andy can be easily spotted, however some abductions aren’t so easily discovered:

“Solid” intelligence from “reliable” sources indicates that Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds was replaced almost two years ago by a cheap Casio synthesizer.

Heh. Er… I mean, “gee, that’s too bad.”

The Tarzissian space aliens have also snatched away Mike Hollihan, but have not replaced him. They must have realized that he was irreplacable.

Brad DeLong.)

Friday, 3 September 2004

Panel thoughts

I enjoyed the bloggers’ panel. Andrew Sullivan was rightfully castigated for his absence, but the remainder of the panel managed admirably in his stead. Ana Marie Cox did ably incorporate repeated sexual references into her comments, but somehow managed to omit references to butt sex, which I suppose was admirable self-restraint on her part.

On a more personal note, I enjoyed meeting (in person) panelists Henry Farrell (who, as it turns out, really sounds Irish in person—try reading his posts sometime with an Irish accent in your head for some amusement) and Laura McKenna, as well as audience members Russell Arben Fox and Stephen Karlson.

One surreal note: an audience member asked Ana Marie about the importance of fact-checking and the blogger’s responsibility for following up on their mistakes as they are more widely disseminated; unfortunately, it appears at this point that the mass media do no better—and perhaps worse—than bloggers in this regard (þ InstaPundit).

Update: Steve the Llama Butcher has a hysterical rundown of the proceedings, wherein the ghost of Woodrow Wilson, esteemed racist bigot and past president of the APSA, makes an extended appearance, although I didn't notice him or INDC Bill in the room (þ PoliBlog and Rusty Shackleford).

The politics of “The Power and Politics of Blogs”

At lunch with Dirk today, I mentioned a minor dilemma I’m facing.

Dan’s thoroughly excellent bloggers pannel is organized, in part, by the New Political Science section, a section whose aims are squarely at odds with my personal conception of what the scientific study of politics is all about, but that’s neither here nor there.* This is all hunky-dory and wonderful—except, allocation of panels at APSA is a zero-sum game, and the sums are determined by panel attendance. Showing up at a NPS panel, rather than the competing methods panel, will help NPS get more panels at APSA in 2005, probably at the expense of political methodology (who have already been marginalized down to 7 panels—total).

So, my attendance will be under protest, with absolutely no slight intended to the wonderful panelists, audience members, or Dan’s work coordinating the panel.

Also, I’m taking wagers on which panelist will first mention anal sex. The smart money would be on Ana Marie Cox, but there are others who might be called on to speak first and who might be tempted to raise the issue for discussion.

Wednesday, 1 September 2004

Is this a dagger I see before me?

Since the Canadian libertarian bloggers are doing it, it must be cool. I hereby endorse the emerging dagger (†) convention for attributing links stolen borrowed from other weblogs or sites, even if it may make people think the target of the link is dead or is subject to being changed to some other cool-looking character (such as þ or ☣, the latter being highly useful for linking to Atrios or LGF) in the future.

Malice versus stupidity

One suspects that if people were more willing to give out-partisans the benefit of the doubt, contemporary political discourse would be far less painful. So, here’s some free advice for partisans on both sides of the aisle:

Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by ignorance or stupidity.

(Sometimes attributed to Isaac Asimov; a variant is known as Hanlon’s Razor. I might add “poor memory” to the list.)

This particular post inspired by this and this, but equally applies to discussions of Kerry’s exact locations in Southeast Asia on particular dates during his service there, or other campaign “gotchas” you may wish to ponder.

On the other hand, sometimes you have to go with malice because nothing else fits the facts…

Update: Diebold scaremongering would be another example that fits firmly in the “ignorance or stupidity” category, by the way.

Almost making me regret not watching

I think Robert Garcia Tagorda’s reaction nails why Arnold Schwarzenegger is such an asset to the Republican Party—he’s the very embodiment of the positive side of the Republican agenda. And, if his words can make a few more Americans appreciate what they take for granted—that, even for all its faults, our country is the greatest society ever created in human history, a belief many of my leftist-inclined colleagues would dispute until the end of time (and, nonetheless, still be completely wrong about)—I think in the long run he’s delivered a far more important message than who to vote for in November.