Tuesday, 30 November 2004

Spontaneous order, distributed systems, God, etc.

Amazing how the blogosphere works. I started reading an interesting post on evolution at OTB and ended with a defense of comparative advantage by Paul Krugman that incorporates a prominent mention of natural selection. And I got there via a picture of Jane Galt (via Tyler Cowen), though it’s desperately unrevealing (it’s from behind, perverts).

The OTB post begins with a description of how “intelligent design” advocates are pushing that as an alternative to evolution. There’s no evidence for it—except for our lack of knowledge, or complete knowledge, on the universe’s origin—and it seems ridiculous to me when pushed as science. My own views are theistic, though there’s no evidence to support it other than our existence. It tells me nothing on how we got here. Evolution does.

Perhaps someone could explain why some people find evolution—and natural selection—so threatening? I don’t get it. Jesus taught us with parables; are opponents of evolution saying God couldn’t master allegory? Being a creator of the universe and all, I think He would have a handle on it, and His audience. Isn't it possible that God did know His audience and was explaining the origins of the universe in a way they could understand? It would have been more convenient if He had provided a seminar in physics and evolutionary biology, but I doubt His audience would have grasped it, lacking calculus and all. Evolution doesn’t preclude a creator, it only explains what we can observe. I’ll say it again: I don’t get it, there’s no threat here. I’ll leave it to Brock to argue with y’all over infinity.

As for Jane’s link to Krugman, it’s quite alarming, really. I’m so used to his hyperventilating over everything from Iraq to healthcare that I’m stunned when he seems reasonable. It’s a great article and worthy of a thorough read, which I’ll give it when exams are done.

Depressing news from South Asia

The government of Bangladesh has stopped women from taking part in a swimming competition after a radical Islamic group threatened to bring the district around Chandpur to a halt with protests.

And in Pakistan, a man has been sentenced to life in prison for blasphemy.

Are bloggers self-serving? why, yes we are!!

Blogger triumpalism at it’s finest.We made it to the dictionary!!:

A four-letter term that came to symbolize the difference between old and new media during this year’s presidential campaign tops U.S. dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster’s list of the 10 words of the year. Merriam-Webster Inc. said on Tuesday that blog, defined as “a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks,” was one of the most looked-up words on its Internet sites this year. Eight entries on the publisher’s top-10 list related to major news events, from the presidential election—represented by words such as incumbent and partisan—to natural phenomena such as hurricane and cicada.
See also, Jeralyn and James [unintended dictionary pun].

Golden Domers Ditch Ty

Mike Wilbon will be insufferable today… Notre Dame fired Ty Willingham (þ: Wizbang). I think most observers expected the Irish to retain Willingham through the duration of his contract, as was the case with previous hot-seat occupant Bob Davie.

Ridge Regression

The departure of Tom Ridge as Secretary of Homeland Security is imminent, according to various wire reports. At this rate, there may soon be nobody left in the administration for Democrats (or, for that matter, me) to complain about… (þ: OTB)

Update: It’s now official, according to the WaPo.

The reality-based community in football

Clarion-Ledger columnist Rick Cleveland argues that people attempting to get Ole Miss Coach David Cutcliffe fired are detached from reality. No word yet if Cleveland will be joining ShrillBlog as a contributor.

Update: Daily Mississippian columnist Steven Godfrey has more on this theme, as does ESPN.com columnist Pat Forde (who forgets that Ole Miss tied for the SEC West title last year, although LSU represented the division in the SEC championship game due to the divisional tiebreaker).

Monday, 29 November 2004

My life as a report writer

I’ve come to the conclusion I really don’t enjoy writing up cross-tabs, even when it’s research I conducted myself. I’d kill to be writing for an audience that could deal with logistic regression results…

Nonetheless, despite distractions (MNF on TiVo and the need for sleep chief among them) I will press on. Maybe I’ll have a paper full of exit poll results to share soon…

Raich pessimism

Will Baude notes a lot of pessimism around the court-watching sphere regarding Ashcroft v. Raich—mind you, much of it seems to be coming from quarters that are skeptical of the whole Lopez line of jurisprudence, without which I suspect this case would have simply received the standard 9–0 Ninth Circuit Smackdown (for some of this, er, conflicted viewpoint, see today's NYT editorial). He does make a semi-interesting statement worth exploring further:

[T]he somewhat confused coverage of the case does not look good for any hope of establishing a political vindication instead of a judicial one.

It seems to me that relatively few people in the public—or, for that matter, within political elites—actually conceive of Congress as lacking the plenary power to legislate as it sees fit in any sphere of activity (economic or otherwise), subject only to the limitations of the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments. The Lopez line is such a dramatic break from over fifty years of federal jurisprudence that I doubt many people can imagine that America got along, more-or-less fine (at least in the economic/police powers realm; I can’t say the same for the lack of enforcement of the 14th Amendment in terms of political rights), for 150 years without such a plenary congressional power, under the understanding that primary authority for such regulation rested in the states.

There are more thoughts on this topic from Brock, below, and James Joyner.

It's not their money to begin with...

…so how could they be angry over losing it? Apparently some universities have taken humbrage at the thought of losing federal funding if they refuse to let military recruiters on their campuses. Given that the federal government’s primary mission is defending the country, and that these universities are feeding at the federal trough, it seems only natural that the feds would require access for recruiting as a condition of getting the money.

The free speech argument is the lamest thing I’ve ever heard. No one is stopping them from speaking; they’re simply saying it might cost them federal funds if they don’t give the military access. They can say whatever they want, just not on the federal nickel.

A 1995 law, known as the Solomon Amendment, bars the federal government from disbursing money to colleges and universities that obstruct campus recruiting by the military. As amended and interpreted over the years, the law prohibits disbursements to all parts of a university, including its physics department and medical school, if any of its units, like its law school, make military recruiting even a little more difficult. Billions of dollars are at stake, and no university has been willing to defy the government. Indeed, several of the law schools that are members of the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, the group that sued to block the new law, have not been publicly identified.

Among the institutions willing to be named are the law schools of New York University and George Washington University. The law faculties of Stanford, Georgetown and several other law schools are also members of the group. E. Joshua Rosencranz, who represents the plaintiffs in the suit, said the reluctance of several of his law school clients to be identified publicly was driven by fear. “They don’t want retribution that is exacted behind closed doors by faceless bureaucrats and vindictive politicians,” Mr. Rosencranz said.

James has more.

Sunday, 28 November 2004

Filibustering judicial nominees

George Will has yet another column, this one in Newsweek, on the merits of the filibuster, even against judicial nominees:

The president should renominate all 10 appellate-court nominees who have been filibustered, and he should vow, like General Grant, to “fight it out on this line, if it takes all summer.” Norman Ornstein, a student of these things, says Senate Republicans could force Democrats to conduct the kind of filibuster Southern Democrats conducted against civil-rights legislation in the 1950s—talking around the clock, the obstructionists and their opponents sleeping on cots in the Capitol, the Senate paralyzed. There has never been such a spectacle in the era of C-Span and saturation journalism on cable 24 hours a day. Do Democrats want to make 2005 the year of living dangerously? Seventeen of their 44 seats are at risk in 2006—five of them in states Bush just carried.
Will has a good point about filibusters being designed for even an intense minority, which the Democrats certainly are these days. I’m still a bit skeptical since the constitution says the Senate must advise and consent, but mentions nothing about stopping floor votes or the judicial committee.

Even so, it’s something I could respect if the Republicans and President Bush would hold their feet to the fire and force an old-fashioned filibuster: make them sleep in the Senate chamber. Bring business to a halt and fight it out. I doubt the Republicans have the ‘nads to do so.

Memphis Blogger Bash

Eric Janssen of webraw is organizing a bloggers bash for Wednesday, December 1, downtown at Cafe Francisco. Cafe Francisco has a WAP, so if you want to, you can bring your laptop and liveblog it.

Len Cleavelin.)

Dept. of bad logos

Maybe it's just me, but I find the logo over at New Donkey a little bit scary.

New Donkey logo

Couldn't they make the donkey look a little friendlier?

Academic diversity

George Will has a good piece on the leftward tilt of academia:

Academics such as the next secretary of state still decorate Washington, but academia is less listened to than it was. It has marginalized itself, partly by political shrillness and silliness that have something to do with the parochialism produced by what George Orwell called “smelly little orthodoxies.”

Many campuses are intellectual versions of one-party nations—except such nations usually have the merit, such as it is, of candor about their ideological monopolies. In contrast, American campuses have more insistently proclaimed their commitment to diversity as they have become more intellectually monochrome.

They do indeed cultivate diversity—in race, skin color, ethnicity, sexual preference. In everything but thought.

I wonder if the increased leftward tilt of academia after the sixties helps explain the rise of think tanks such as Cato? Seems plausible.

Good Luck, Randy Barnett

I’m no big fan of Randy “Buy My Book” Barnett qua blogger, but after Lawrence Lessig, he’s my second favorite lawyer. I join Jim Lingren in wishing Mr. Barnett the best of luck Monday in oral argument before the Supreme Court in the case of Raich v. Ashcroft.

I’d love to see Raich win the case, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

Saturday, 27 November 2004

Golden Egg stays in Oxford

I just got back from Oxford after the 20–3 rout by the Rebels of Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. It was cold and dreary for almost the entire game, although thankfully the rain was never heavy. Freshman QB Robert Lane saw most of the action under center for the Rebels, and racked up over 200 yards of combined offense, leading the team in both rushing (97) and passing (108) yardage; Ethan Flatt saw limited action after throwing a pick on the first play from scrimmage, Micheal Spurlock didn’t see the any game time, and scout team QB Johnny Wickham came on for mop-up duty with less than two minutes left with a lot of the other seniors. If Lane can improve his passing, and if the coaching staff can give him some different option plays (like some double and triple options), I think he will be an effective starter for the next three years.

On the other side of the ball, a combination of somewhat-improved defense and Bulldog offensive ineptitude led to an embarrassing Mississippi State performance. Star RB Jerious Norwood was contained to 11 rushes for 24 yards, State passed for zero yards in the first half (and only made one first down before the halftime break), and QB Omarr Conner seemed to spend more time on the turf than in the pocket.

Speculation now abounds over the future of the coaching staff; a housecleaning at the coordinator positions seems almost certain, and it’s still possible Cutcliffe will get the axe, particularly if Pete Boone thinks he can upgrade to someone like UTEP’s Mike Price or Memphis’ Tommy West. Allegedly such things are to be discussed at a meeting between Boone and Cutcliffe on Monday.

Hoddy, Toddy, Blah, Blah

I guess congratulations are in order for my co-blogger, and host, Chris. He’s an Ole Miss alum and his team just whipped mine in the Egg Bowl. Even if State wins every Egg Bowl until I die there’s no way we’ll get a winning record against the evil ones.

On the bright side, Nebraska just finished its first losing season in 43 years.

Second link þ PoliBlog.

Friday, 26 November 2004

Deaths greatly exaggerated

Tim Sandefur has a reader who doubts the continuing existence of the Federated group of department stores. They seem to be very much alive and are apparently consolidating most of their brands, such as the Memphis-based Goldsmith’s chain, under the more famous Macy’s banner.

Flagging interest

Today’s Clarion-Ledger possibly engages in a bit of agenda setting by suggesting the state flag issue will return from the dead during the 2005 regular session. While I have to say I’m not particularly enamored of the existing state flag, and was one of those who voted to change it back in 2001 (even though the alternative wasn’t exactly the best state flag ever designed either), if anyone seriously thinks a change will stick they’re going to have to make a lot more of an effort than they did during the previous referendum campaign, which was generally spearheaded by a group of has-beens and never-wases.

Banana Guard

Why didn’t I think of this?

banana guard

Are you fed up with bringing bananas to work or school only to find them bruised and squashed? Our unique, patented device allows for the safe transport and storage of individual bananas letting you enjoy perfect bananas anytime, anywhere.

The Banana Guard was specially designed to fit the vast majority of bananas. Its other features include multiple small perforations to facilitate ventilation thereby preventing premature ripening and a sturdy locking mechanism to keep the Banana Guard closed. The Banana Guard is of course dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.

Boing Boing.)

We don't need no education

Well, maybe they do: they should have secured the royalties agreement in advance. I guess it was just a matter of time.

A group of former London state school children who sang on Pink Floyd’s 1979 classic “Another Brick In The Wall” have lodged a claim for unpaid royalties.

Twenty-three teenage pupils from Islington Green School secretly recorded vocals for the track, which became an anthem for children with the chorus “We don’t need no education.”

On hearing the song, the headmistress banned the pupils from appearing on television or video—leaving them no evidence and making it harder for them to claim royalties—and the local school authority described the lyrics as “scandalous.”

I grew up hearing the song and managed to learn to appreciate education. I’m even pursuing a doctorate. Which reminds me: total derivatives of implicit functions SUCK! They seep out of my head after a few hours and I have to revisit the damn things every two days.

The international criminal court

Jeralyn has a great discussion going on at her place regarding the ICC. I am almost inalterably opposed to it—it’s an abomination and an attempt to alter our form of government outside the amendment process—and here’s what I had to add:

My hostility to the ICC is pretty well known from a few weeks ago when we had a massive thread on the subject. I loath the idea and see it as inconsistent with self-government. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty good description of the UN itself.

One point we didn’t touch on: how could such a court ever be considered constitutional? Wouldn’t we be, in effect, creating a court higher than our own supreme court? Yeah, yeah, I know all about the “if your country fails to act” stuff attached to the ICC, but if the supreme court refuses to act that doesn’t mean they haven’t answered. They’ve answered and the answer is no.

Besides, there is only one punishement for a president carrying out his duties while in office: impeachment. He can still be prosecuted for violating laws we recognize, but does international law qualify? I doubt it.

It’s pretty much a non-issue anyway. There’s no way we’ll ever ratify that treaty and Congress has already passed the Invade The Hague Act to allow the President to use the military if they nab our soldiers or officials.

Good discussion if you’re interested.

Thursday, 25 November 2004

For once, Maureen Dowd may be right

She’s frequently wrong, sometimes embarrassing and even lies on occasion, but this time Dowd is right and The Professor has taken an unnecessary swipe at her:

Somebody tell me what quantity of explosive material they have found through these strip searches, because I’ve got a hunch it’s zero. How many billions are they wasting on this?

Maybe we’re not at the Philip K. Dick level of technology yet. But how about some positive profiling? If airport security can have a watch list for the bad guys, why can’t it develop a watch list for the good guys? Can’t there be a database of trustworthy American frequent travelers who are not going to secrete things in their bras? After all, no one is going to sneak anything in there without our knowledge. Can they at least get a screen?

I suspect her hunch is correct and all of the airport measures are reactive and largely ineffective.

True, there’s nothing in her column that’s original—the good guy list was proposed a couple of years ago when I was traveling all the time and actually cared—but it is being brought up at a good time (which is, all the time) and it does succinctly describe several current problems with airline security. It also describes security deficiencies elsewhere. I want to retain the credibility to criticize her in the future, so I’ll skip poking her on this one.

They don't know that we know, they know, we know.

There’s been a good deal of speculation around the blogosphere that North Korea is somehow on the ropes. I will be thrilled if this is actually the case, but, as in the title to this post, it’s hard to know what’s going on due to people’s motivation. Why would Mr. Kim order his own portraits removed? It’s counterintuitive, but he could be doing it to give a false impression of weakness or a false impression of instability. Perception matters in negotiations, as does perception of motive.

If the countries that are allied against North Korea re-enter the negotiations with too much self-confidence—an increased perception of success—they might act in ways that help make those expectations true. For instance, they might give in to previously failed strategies, like bribing the Norks to get rid of their nukes. It would give Mr. Kim a little breathing room at home by alleviating some starvation and would give us the hope that he might dismantle his nukes, in spite of his past behavior.

I’m really hoping that North Korea is near collapse—it would be a gift to the world and the North Korean people—but I won’t hold my breath. We’ve been at a standoff with them for more than 50 years; I don’t expect it to change soon. I’ll believe it when it happens.

The Ukraine situation

I’m afraid I don’t have any great expertise to offer in the realm of Ukranian politics, so I’ve not really had anything to say about the ongoing crisis there. That said, I tend to agree with Dan Drezner that the internal dynamics of Ukranian politics suggest that the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, is unlikely to succeed in his effort to get the (apparently fraudulent) poll results overturned.

I do note, however, that the world press seems to be taking concerns about this election much more seriously than concerns about the Hugo Chávez recall referendum—where similarly large gaps between exit poll results and the actual tallies appeared. I also regret that the combination of occasionally-incompetent election officials, opaque electronic voting equipment, and conspiracy-mongering by people who should know better have coincided to leave the U.S. in a weaker position to contest suspect elections elsewhere in the world.

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

Plush microbes

ThinkGeek is selling “infectiously cute” plush microbes. Collect them all! There’s flesh-eating streptococcus, ebola, mono, and my favorite, beer yeast.

Exit poll prelims

I’m now most of the way through (with some help from a few students) entering the data from our exit poll three weeks ago. Based on 632 respondents, there are a few things that jump out at me:

  • Never ask people if they consider themselves born-again Christians, because apparently they don’t understand that question. Ditto asking them to figure out if they are “Protestant.”
  • People who don’t have friends or family members who are gay were 2.5 times (!) more likely to vote for the same-sex marriage ban than those who do have gay friends or family members. This suggests that a compelling political strategy for gay people who support same-sex marriage is to come out.
  • Younger people were significantly less likely to support the amendment than other people. This suggests that (combined with the strategy above) all people who support same-sex marriage should wait for a lot of old people to die off.
  • Black voters are much more likely than white voters to believe Clarence Thomas is the chief justice of the United States.

There’s other fun stuff in the poll that I’ll get to once our last precinct is entered and the data is properly cleaned up.

By the way, if you need to enter a lot of data, I cannot say enough good things about EpiData. It’s very slick and the price is right.

Tuesday, 23 November 2004

I'm not sure which is more distressing...

that The Guardian sees the last election as a vote against the Enlightenment or that they think the Enlightenment’s a product of leftism.

And, on the other side of the pond, through Europe. We don’t have so many Christian fundamentalists any more. Compared with the American religious right, Rocco Buttiglione, the withdrawn Italian Catholic candidate for European commissioner, is a dangerous liberal. But we do have Islamic fundamentalists, in growing numbers. And, I would say, we have secular fundamentalists: people who believe that to live by the tenets of Islam, or other religions, is incompatible with what it is to be fully human, and want citizens to be educated and the state to legislate accordingly. While I have been in America, the possible consequences have been played out on the streets of prosperous, pacific, tolerant Holland, with the murder of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, and the counter-attack on an Islamic school. If America has its culture wars, its Kulturkampf, so do we. And ours could be bloodier.

So the expressions of European solidarity after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks ( “Nous sommes tous Américains” ) should acquire a new meaning and a new context after the November 2 2004 elections. Hands need to be joined across the sea in an old cause: the defence of the Enlightenment. We are all blue Americans now.

Their view of the left is entirely different than mine, though we do agree on the cause: defense of the Enlightenment, which includes a concept that America pioneered, religious liberty.

Political Theory Daily Review)

Impressive. most impressive. obi-wan has taught you well.

I read an article, which I received via Google News, about Gmail. When I finished reading I was surprised to find that it came from a high school paper in Maryland. Very well done.

Third party payers in medical care

Alex Tabarrok has an excellent post that explains the reason that the cost for most medical procedures skyrockets: third-party payers, including both government and private insurance.

Why the price decline in this market and not others?  Could it have something to do with the fact that laser eye surgery is not covered by insurance, not covered by Medicaid or Medicare, and not heavily regulated?  Laser eye surgery is one of the few health procedures sold in a free market with price advertising, competition and consumer driven purchases.  I’m seeing things more clearly already.
Makes sense to me and one of the reasons I’ve supported the idea of MSAs for so long. The more we marginalize third parties, the better off we will be. There are even some insurance companies that see the wisdom of this approach, such as Lumenos and Health Market. I hope they prosper in the coming years.

Cowher should stay for a very long time

I’ve been a Steelers fan since childhood and still follow them to this day, though not as intensely as in the past. That’s starting to change, especially now that the election is over.

By the mid-80s I was wishing that Chuck Noll would disappear from Pittsburgh. He did some really great things, including creating the best football team of the 1970s. He was a phenomenal coach; he just overstayed his welcome.

Bill Cowher, at an unbelievably young 47, is not even near his prime and has shown a good ability to adapt that Noll didn’t have. Once the Steelers hit the skids in the early 80s he was unable to change with the times. Cowher has already proven he can adapt and I hope to see him on the Steelers’ sidelines for a long time to come:

Cowher’s career seems certain to end where it began, in his home town, where he and his wife, Kaye, have raised their three daughters, but with a contract extension and a team on a roll, that day isn’t likely to come soon.

“I don’t ever want to lose my passion for the game,” he said. “I love competing on Sundays. The losses are still agonizing. That never changes. But I still enjoy doing the work every day. I feel blessed to be doing something I love to do. I’ve got a great balance in my life right now, and I’m too young to stop. Anyway, they tell me retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

For a competitor like Cowher, I doubt he could stand retirement.

Introductory metaphysics text

Two former professors of mine from the University of Rochester, Ted Sider and Earl Conee, are collaborating on an introductory metaphysics text, Riddles of Existence.

The introduction and two chapters, “Personal Identity over Time” and “Why Not Nothing?” are online.

Brian Weatherson.)

The weak dollar

I’ve been reading about the weak dollar for more than two years and yet we have somehow managed to avoid economic armageddon. In fact, what’s concerned me more is the weird insistence on the part of China to peg their currency to ours at a very low value. Over the short term it hurts us by making China’s imports cheap and destroying jobs. Over the long term it causes China to destabilize their banking system by trying to maintain the peg against the dollar as it drops.

As I understand it (monetary theory is not my bag, man) the process involves printing additional yuan (or renmimbi) and simultaneously issuing new debt to soak up the new currency. I’ve heard these referred to as “wash transactions” or something similar. The additional debt that China must issue becomes untenable and destabilizes their banking system. Asset prices collapse, bank failures abound (because many debts are tied to asset prices) and the country enters a deflationary spiral, not unlike Japan in the 1980s. A spiral they have yet to recover from fully.

China raised interest rates for the first time since 1995 or 1996 a few weeks ago, so I was still under the impression that we were seeing 1980s Japan play itself out, only this time with China. Now, though, Robert Samuelson (and many, many others) is harping on it and I generally trust his judgment:

First, the American economy has grown faster than other advanced economies. Since 1990 U.S. economic growth has averaged 3 percent annually, compared with 2 percent for the European Union and 1.7 percent for Japan. America’s higher growth sucks in imports; Europe’s and Japan’s slower growth hurts U.S. exports.

Second, the global demand for dollars props up its exchange rate, making U.S. exports more expensive and U.S. imports cheaper. Indeed, many countries, particularly in Asia, fix their currencies to keep their exports competitive in the U.S. market. Instead of allowing surplus dollars to be sold on foreign exchange markets—lowering the dollar’s value—government central banks in Japan, China and other Asian countries have purchased more than $1 trillion of U.S. Treasury securities. Private investors have also bought lots of U.S. stocks and bonds. All told, foreigners own about 13 percent of U.S. stocks, 24 percent of corporate bonds and 43 percent of U.S. Treasury securities.

Up to a point, this arrangement benefits everyone. The world gets needed dollars; Americans get more imports, from cars to clothes. But we may now have passed that point. Hazards may outweigh benefits. The world may be receiving more dollars than it wants. A sell-off could spill over into the stock and bond markets and cause a deep global recession. Here’s how.

Samuelson’s is only one scenario (click through to read it) and I am convinced that there are so many variables at play that no one can know for sure what will really happen. Even so, it’s worth considering. I wish China would break that damned peg in any case. They would benefit, as would we. Update: The Economist's Buttonwood column has a good explanation of why this is such a big issue. They don't address the downside for Asia, though, as I would expect. They pretty explicitly expect the dollar to lose its status as the world's reserve currency. That would be shocking, to say the least. The euro has been well managed since its inception -- very little inflation -- but it seems unlikely that the financial markets would turn to the currency of a declining power.

Monday, 22 November 2004

Fox gets the BCS

An interesting development in college football today as Fox Sports has won the bidding for the next BCS contract for 2007–10, including three of the four “plus one” title games. ABC retains its contract through 2014 for the Rose Bowl games, including the national title game in 2010 (to be played in Pasadena).

Is this a sign that Fox is planning to get serious about college football more generally? To date, Fox’s involvement in the sport has been limited to a schedule of second-tier Big XII and Pac-10 matchups on its cable outlets (along with some Division I-AA matchups) and broadcast rights to the Cotton Bowl. It’s likely that at least one major conference, like the Pac-10, would be interested in a national Saturday afternoon slot to compete with the SEC-CBS contract—thus avoiding the limited 3:30 coverage associated with ABC’s programming. Plus, Fox would be hard-pressed to come up with an exclusive announce team that works four days a year, suggesting that regular season college football on Fox is coming sooner rather than later.

Reclaiming Liberalism

Throughout the anglosphere the word “liberal” has been used scornfully for the past few decades and, interestingly, it’s used the same way in Europe, though for a different reason. We all know that it’s used as a proxy term for socialist, panty-waist, etc. in the U.S. However, in the rest of the world the left uses it in its original meaning as a term of scorn; globalization (capitalism) is known as neoliberalism and has been known to spark riots from time to time.

The Economist ($) proposes that we reclaim the term to describe proponents of freedom. I concur:
“Liberal” is a term of contempt in much of Europe as well—even though, strangely enough, it usually denotes the opposite tendency. Rather than being keen on taxes and public spending, European liberals are often derided (notably in France) for seeking minimal government—in fact, for denying that government has any useful role at all, aside from pruning vital regulation and subverting the norms of decency that impede the poor from being ground down. Thus, in continental Europe, as in the United States, liberalism is also regarded as a perversion, a pathology: there is consistency in that respect, even though the sickness takes such different forms. And again, in its most extreme expression, it tests the boundaries of tolerance. Worse than ordinary liberals are Europe's neoliberals: market-worshipping, nihilistic sociopaths to a man. Many are said to believe that “there is no such thing as society.”

Yet there ought to be a word—not to mention, here and there, a political party—to stand for what liberalism used to mean. The idea, with its roots in English and Scottish political philosophy of the 18th century, speaks up for individual rights and freedoms, and challenges over-mighty government and other forms of power. In that sense, traditional English liberalism favoured small government—but, crucially, it viewed a government’s efforts to legislate religion and personal morality as sceptically as it regarded the attempt to regulate trade (the favoured economic intervention of the age). This, in our view, remains a very appealing, as well as internally consistent, kind of scepticism.

Indeed. The Europeans are using the word correctly and they despise it nonetheless(it makes sense, since they despise political, and especially, economic freedom). Since the U.S. is the current exemplar of capitalism and is despised anyway, we might as well get our terminology straight. Liberalism, anyone?

Moral hazard and negative liberty

Will Wilkinson has a great post on negative liberty and the welfare state that I largely agree with:

However, I think that among the best argument for robust negative or liberty rights, i.e., for institutionalized constraints on coercion, is that a reliable system of negative rights over time creates more abilities, opens more paths of feasible possibility for individual lives, than most alternative systems of rights. Like Friedman and Hayek, I’m in favor of a modest and well-designed social safety net. However, political systems built around positive rights tend toward sclerosis, thereby reducing rates of economic growth, and a high rate of economic growth, along with (negative) liberty and stability, is part of the trinity of primary political goods (says me). Furthermore, a system of positive rights, conceived as a system of guarantees, is often self-defeating, because it cannot overcome systemic moral hazard problems that, independently of growth problems, turn out foreclose many of the possibilities for life that the system of guarantees was meant to open.
Read the whole post, including the comments regarding moral hazard (when an agent takes on risk knowing that it will be covered by a principal other than himself); points that I agree with, though I wouldn’t endorse the notion of “positive freedom” as Will has done. We do have some responsibility for our fellows, though I don’t think it reaches the status of rights.

I’m now listeneing to AC/DC. Not exactly 80s, but still good.

Metablogging, Getting Back Into It, And So Forth

To begin with, thanks to Chris for inviting me along as a co-blogger. We share a lot of the same points of view, though I’m more of a statist than him, I suppose.

I’m still in school and time is scarce, but I’m going to try this group blog thing and see how it works. I think it’ll be fine and certainly beats maintaining a site of my own.

One of the things I’ve missed the most about blogging is seeing things of interest and not being able to tell people about it. Take, for instance, this post over at Volokh. I read that yesterday—follow the links, it’s a parody of a leftist / humanist denial of objective reality (it’s from academia, of course)—and was dying to blog about it.

Well, enough nostalgia. Thanks to Jeff for the early link and to James Joyner for the kind words of encouragement.

Speaking of Jeff Goldstein, I’m listening to Journey right now. How 80s am I? Ok, so I wasn’t done with the nostalgia…

Amend for that guy

Is amending the constitution to permit naturalized citizens to run for president gathering momentum? Both Kriston of Begging to Differ and Robert Tagorda take note of the group Amend for Arnold and Jen (referring to the governors of California and Michigan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jennifer Granholm, respectively), spotlighted in today’s New York Times by William Safire.

Interestingly, three proposed constitutional amendments have been introduced during the 108th Congress to do just that:

  • U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder of Arizona Arkansas (and 6 co-sponsors) introduced H.J.Res 59, which would provide that “[a] person who has been a citizen of the United States for at least 35 years and who has been a resident within the United States for at least 14 years shall be eligible to hold the office of President or Vice President.”
  • U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California introduced H.J.Res 104, which would provide that “[a] person who is a citizen of the United States, who has been a citizen of the United States for at least 20 years, and who is otherwise eligible to hold the Office of the President, is not ineligible to hold that Office by reason of not being a native born citizen of the United States.”
  • U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah introduced S.J. Res 15, which would provide that “[a] person who is a citizen of the United States, who has been for 20 years a citizen of the United States, and who is otherwise eligible to the Office of President, is not ineligible to that Office by reason of not being a native born citizen of the United States” and include a seven-year limit on the ratification period. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the proposed amendment last month.

As a matter of general principle (leaving aside the merits of Schwarzenegger and/or Granholm candidacies, which seem to me to be rather tangential) I think any of these proposed amendments would be sound, and I hope Congress will seriously consider passing such an amendment in the coming months.

Isn't that special

The more I read about the state legislature’s shenanigans, the more I am compelled to conclude that referring to extraordinary sessions of that body as “special” seems oddly appropriate.

The Cut deathwatch begins

Ole Miss AD Pete Boone isn’t even bothering with the fake “we’re 100% behind Coach Cutcliffe” spiel, according to Sunday’s Clarion-Ledger:

“Obviously, this season has been disappointing, but the important thing is for Coach Cutcliffe and I to get together soon after the final game and… not only to look at the season but also the program,” Boone said prior to Saturday’s Ole Miss-LSU game. “And then make whatever adjustments need to be made, whether it’s policy issues or procedure issues or human resource (staffing) issues.”

Mind you, I continue to believe, absent a large suitcase full of unmarked bills being delivered to Steve Spurrier from Dickie Scruggs, that Cutcliffe’s job is safe through next fall, simply because there’s nobody obviously better on the market who the Rebs have a shot at—while it’d be entertaining to see Mike Price get the job after his comeback at UTEP, the Rebel alumni are even less likely to be forgiving of Price’s alleged indiscretions than Bama’s were. Expect nothing more than some house-cleaning at the offensive and defensive coordinator slots and an “Independence Bowl or else” edict from Boone’s office.

The only color that matters is maroon

I’m pleased to announce that Robert Prather, formerly blogging at Insults Unpunished, has agreed to join Signifying Nothing as a co-blogger; I’ll leave any further introductions to him. Robert’s posts will be this color. Welcome aboard!

Sunday, 21 November 2004

Restaurant review

Will Baude is taking issue with a favorable review by Pejman Yousefzadeh of Heaven on Seven, a restaurant I had a somewhat-decent lunch at with Dirk Eddelbüttel during my last visit to Chicago after our plans to eat at the restaurant in Millenium Park fell through.

I generally agree that the restaurant only provides a facsimilie of proper soul food, but given that travel to Mr. Baude’s preferred restaurants in the UofC area would not fit in the timeframe of Loop-area office workers (or academic conference attendees desperately attempting to arrange job interviews), sometimes the substitute is preferable just because the only viable alternative is starvation.

TV sci-fi renaissance?

Is TV sci-fi back? PoliBlog’s Steven Taylor takes note of the recent improvements in Enterprise (or is it Star Trek: Enterprise?), Stargate Atlantis has had a fairly impressive first half-season, and I hear, since I wouldn’t want to go against the wishes of creator Ron Moore and use BitTorrent to download any episodes before the scheduled January U.S. debut, that the new Battlestar Galactica series is the most kick-ass TV sci-fi since Firefly.


Congratulations to Dan Drezner on finishing the draft of his second book. Now I feel strangely unproductive…

Friday, 19 November 2004

Old email going away

If you have a olemiss.edu address for me, it is going away in a few days. Update your address books accordingly.

More Diebold scaremongering

Kieran at Crooked Timber is the latest to point to a UC-Berkeley study that represents the new Great Kerry-Really-Won Hope for the left; there’s apparent county-level evidence that Florida counties that used electronic voting had a greater increase in Bush support from 2000 than counties that used optical-mark scanning. Rick Hasen has dug up some skeptical responses from voting experts, while Patrick Ruffini notes the bivariate relationship counters the authors’ thesis.

Of course, Diebold and the other e-voting manufacturers could have forestalled all of this silliness from the start by including a paper trail in their equipment.

Update: Andrew Gelman says only two counties are driving the results: the adjacent Southeast Florida counties of Palm Beach and Broward, both of which have relatively large Jewish populations (and thus might have been disproportionately more likely to vote Democratic in 2000 for the Gore-Lieberman ticket than for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards ticket).

Miami of Mississippi

If there is such a thing as a “reality-based community,” Ole Miss AD Pete Boone isn’t part of it:

Ole Miss has taken a few beatings on and off the football field in recent months, but the program is not spiraling out of control, athletic director Pete Boone said Thursday.

“There have been some problems, and while these things have come in bunches (lately), I don’t think this is indicative at all of our overall program,” Boone said.

At issue is a record of off-the-field problems over the past couple of years that might even make Miami’s AD blush:

Since June of 2003, Ole Miss has had at least five players arrested (at least four on felony charges), has placed at least seven players on suspension for disciplinary reasons and has dismissed at least four members from the team.

Coupled with the Rebs’ on-the-field problems, it seems that David Cutcliffe’s leash is getting a lot shorter lately.

Thursday, 18 November 2004

The mind of the undecided voter

Christopher Hayes has an interesting article at The New Republic on undecided voters whom he spoke to in Wisconsin, while campaigning for Kerry during the final seven weeks before the election. His anecdata range from the funny
One man told me he voted for Bush in 2000 because he thought that with Cheney, an oilman, on the ticket, the administration would finally be able to make us independent from foreign oil. A colleague spoke to a voter who had been a big Howard Dean fan, but had switched to supporting Bush after Dean lost the nomination. After half an hour in the man's house, she still couldn't make sense of his decision. Then there was the woman who called our office a few weeks before the election to tell us that though she had signed up to volunteer for Kerry she had now decided to back Bush. Why? Because the president supported stem cell research.
to the truly sad
I had one conversation with an undecided, sixtyish, white voter whose wife was voting for Kerry. When I mentioned the "mess in Iraq" he lit up. "We should have gone through Iraq like shit through tinfoil," he said, leaning hard on the railing of his porch. As I tried to make sense of the mental image this evoked, he continued: "I mean we should have dominated the place; that's the only thing these people understand. ... Teaching democracy to Arabs is like teaching the alphabet to rats."
to the insightful
Undecided voters, as everyone knows, have a deep skepticism about the ability of politicians to keep their promises and solve problems. So the staggering incompetence and irresponsibility of the Bush administration and the demonstrably poor state of world affairs seemed to serve not as indictments of Bush in particular, but rather of politicians in general. Kerry, by mere dint of being on the ballot, was somehow tainted by Bush's failures as badly as Bush was.


Google Scholar debuts

Google has unveiled a new toy of interest to academics: a search engine that exclusively tracks scholarly articles. It’s not perfect, and it may not quite put the print journals out of business, but I suspect it’s another nail in their coffins (þ: Ars Technica).

Wednesday, 17 November 2004

Belaying DeLay

Both Stephen “Screw the big tent now we’ve won” Bainbridge and Begging To Differ’s in-house Atrios-substitute Kriston agree that the House GOP shouldn’t have changed the rules to allow Tom DeLay to stay majority leader (#2 in the House) if he’s indicted by a Texas grand jury. And there’s more agreement from James Joyner and Andrew Sullivan.

It seems to me that the dopes on The Corner should have expended as much effort against this crap as they spent (and still are spending, at least in the personage of the MoDo-esque K-Lo) riling up people to call Congress to demand that they boot Specter. But the word “DeLay” doesn’t even appear on the page. Amazing how that works…

Shut up and coach some defense

Tony Dungy bizarrely argues that the “towel-dropping incident” on Monday Night Football is some sort of “Jungle Fever” knockoff:

“No. 1, I think it was racial,” Dungy said. “I think it’s stereotypical in looking at the players, and on the heels of the Kobe Bryant incident, I think it’s very insensitive,” he added, a reference to the NBA star now facing a civil suit after criminal rape charges were dropped.

I give up. Everyone on this planet is apparently losing their minds.

Monday, 15 November 2004

The sound of TV schedules being reshuffled

I think it’s safe to say that if you’re a New York Giants fan in Mississippi you can cancel NFL Sunday Ticket for the forseeable future.

Is that a Best Buy receipt or are you happy to see me?

Jeremy Freese points out that receipts from Best Buy have become ridiculously long as of late—though, in Best Buy’s defense, Circuit City still manages somehow to have both longer and wider receipts.

RFIDs on prescription bottles

Viagra and Oxycontin bottles will soon be tagged with RFID chips, under a new FDA initiative to discourage theft and counterfeiting.

"Right away, for the first time ever, a cop can say 'that bottle came from a crime scene and this suspect is in possession of stolen property'," [Purdue Pharma chief security officer Aaron] Graham said.

(Purdue Pharma is the manufacturer of Oxycontin, a narcotic.)

Maybe I’m missing something, but what will stop thieves from just removing the pills from the bottles and throwing the bottles away?

If the “war on drugs” didn’t have such a high cost in human freedom, the ineffectual antics of the drug warriors would be a laugh riot.

Girlfriend's lap pillow

Guys, has your girlfriend dumped you for the boyfriend’s arm pillow? Don’t worry, the Kameo corporation of Japan has something for you, too. The amazing new girlfriend’s lap pillow will get you through those lonely nights without her.

Pure Land Mountain, which doesn’t seem to have permalinks.)

Creator of "The Flash" dies

Harry Lampert, creator of DC Comics superhero “The Flash” (the original Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick), is dead at the age of 88.

Recapture the Flag

Mark A.R. Kleiman has a modest proposal for Democrats that makes sense:

Think about it: when you pass a car on the highway and see an American flag bumper sticker, what do you assume about the political views of the driver? Right. So do I. And so do all those voters whose behavior you simply can’t understand. At some level, many of them were voting for the party that wasn’t made uncomfortable by the sight of an American flag bumper sticker.

The habit on the anti-Vietnam War left of dishonoring our flag and honoring that of our enemies wasn’t really very widespread. But it wasn’t entirely made up, either. And its result was to allow the right to seize the flag as a partisan symbol, giving its candidates an advantage they still enjoy. If we want to start winning elections, the first thing to do is to recapture the flag for our side.

[After the Oklahoma City bombing, I proposed to the couple of contacts I had within the Clinton White House that the President should ask all Americans to fly flags and wear flag lapel pins as an anti-militia statement. But the idea went nowhere.]

So here’s my idea, which I offer to any seeker of the Democratic nomination for 2008 who wants to take it: ask your supporters NOT to put your bumper sticker on their cars without a separate American flag bumper sticker, or to wear your campaign button without an American flag lapel pin. Yes, that will make some of your potential supporters uncomfortable. But that’s exactly the problem we’re trying to solve.

He also has some thoughts on the role of ceremony in national unity that are worth reading.

Punk who needs a real job

Maybe I’ve become old and cranky, but this is patently ridiculous:

Abit has just unleashed their first “Fatal1ty” motherboard. For those who don’t know, Fatal1ty is the name used by 19-year old Jonathan Wendel, one of the most respected gamers in the world.

Early in his gaming career, Fatal1ty became the number 1 ranked Quake 3 player in the world. This was followed by wins 3 years in a row at CPL competing in Quake 3, Alien vs. Predator 2, and Unreal Tournament 2003. Fatal1ty also won Quakecon 2002 and became the world’s first Doom 3 champion at Quakecon 2004.

Call me back when he starts acting like most responsible 19-year-olds and goes to fricking college—or at least drops the stupid l33t handle.

The best part is the “badass” pose he strikes in the included photo. That’s worth the click-through on its own.

Sunday, 14 November 2004

First date kisses

I have to agree with Amber Taylor, and disagree with Will Baude.

If one wishes to be asked on a second date, one must in some way indicate the desire to be asked. The easiest way to do this is a goodnight kiss. If one is, as Will writes, “shy, or merely very very reluctant to make bold moves,” then I recommend learning to say the words “Can we see each other again sometime?”

It's hard enough to ask a person out on a first date and face the possibility of rejection. One should not have to do so for the second.

I haven’t been in the dating scene for about eleven years, but when I was, I always interpreted no kiss as “kiss off.”

Saturday, 13 November 2004

Rebs suck, news at 11

Dear lord, what a miserable display the Rebels put on today. BigJim blames the coach for the downward spiral, and I think it goes back to a decision I’ve mentioned before:

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.”

The Spurlock QB problems led directly to fumbling around with this 2.5 quarterback system (mostly featuring Flatt and Lane, with Spurlock coming in apparently solely so Cutcliffe could hear some boos from the stands*) which has been generally unsuccessful except in its debut against a fairly mediocre South Carolina squad.

The question still, however, is whether the Rebels can expect to find anyone better on the market. Spurrier isn’t coming to Oxford—the golf sucks. Petrino will be in BCS land next year. The best that can be hoped for is probably an assistant off of a decent staff, and there is going to be a lot of competition for those guys even in the SEC (with both Florida and South Carolina apparently looking for replacements, and LSU likely to be looking too if Nick Saban goes to the Dolphins, as many expect).

Friday, 12 November 2004

Movin' right

In Thursday’s Clarion-Ledger, former U.S. representative David Bowen distills some advice for the national Democrats that’s been floating around the punditocracy over the past week:

The Democratic Party could once again become America’s majority party if it chose a more conservative path on social issues while remaining liberal on economic and governmental issues. That combination is sometimes called populism, an unbeatable combination.

It is not necessary for Democratic nominees to abandon a pro-choice or stem-cell-research position. Just abandon partial birth and late-term abortion. Respect and defend gay Americans, but abandon gay marriage. Don’t abandon your consistent support for African-Americans, but modify race-based discrimination. Don’t think you have to speak in tongues or teach Sunday school to get the evangelical vote, but do show respect and understanding for all people of faith and demonstrate some faith of your own.

I’m not entirely sure populism is “unbeatable” (ask Ronnie Musgrove, the highlights of whose unsuccessful reelection campaign were joining Haley Barbour in pathetically pandering by offering to take on Roy Moore’s Ten Commandments monument and running away from the unpopular state flag referendum he helped engineer), and referring to affirmative action as “race-based discrimination” probably won’t play well with the left-wing set, but nonetheless Bowen may have a point.

Thursday, 11 November 2004

LSU-Ole Miss ticket for sale

It turns out a friend from ICPSR is passing through Jackson next weekend, so I’ve reached my “LSU-Ole Miss fever” tipping point and decided to save the hassle and expense of a trip to Red Stick. So do me a favor and take my ticket off my hands. Thanks!

Wednesday, 10 November 2004

Thanksgiving dinner in a bottle

Or five bottles, to be precise. Following up on their successful turkey and gravy soda from last year, the Jones Soda company is selling a holiday five-pack: turkey and gravy soda, cranberry soda, mashed potato and butter soda, greenbean casserole soda, and fruitcake soda. (þ apostropher.)

Orders of magnitude

The sociology department at the University of Wisconsin is 22 times bigger than the political science department at Millsaps (or, perhaps more “apples-to-apples,” 11 times bigger than our sociology/anthropology department). I think (not being bored enough to count faculty in the sciences, which both soc/anth and polysci are at Millsaps) it’s bigger than the whole sciences division here. Yowzah.

Both* of us polysci types, incidentally, got our Ph.D.s in “red” states (and at SEC schools, to boot), for those of you playing along at home.

Donna don't preach

You know, I was all for this whole Iraq War thing… but, goshdarn it, Madonna’s opinion pushed me over the edge. No Blood For Oil! But, you know, they make the plastic in CDs from oil… Help me, I’m confused! (þ: memeorandum)

Amusing Google Search of the Day

Apparently I’m easily amused:

The search for “Killer Grease Munkowitz” turns up nothing. Or at least did before this post was indexed by Google.


Mungowitz End points in the direction of an interesting Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed by Mark Bauerlein, an English prof at Emory, arguing that left-wing dominance in the academy is detrimental to intellectual discourse.

I tend to think that it’s important in the classroom to ensure that everyone’s ideas or preconceptions are challenged; ironically, I think this makes me look like a flaming liberal in front of my (quite conservative, with a few exceptions) Intro class and something of a greedy capitalist bastard in front of my (bleeding-heart liberal) Con Law class—of course, Methods makes me look like a sadistic bastard who likes to torture students with math, but that’s to be expected, and rather non-ideological (at least outside of The Discipline) to boot. So be it.

Tuesday, 9 November 2004

Ashcroft-free justice

I can’t say I’m particularly disappointed to see John Ashcroft getting shown the door at DoJ, although his caricature as the bogeyman of America’s civil liberties has been just a tad exaggerated over the years.

Monday, 8 November 2004

Yassir "Dave" Arafat

Free hint to the Palestinians: you’re supposed to hire the actor to pretend to be the guy before he falls into the irreversible coma.

At least he’s not Terry McAuliffe

Zinging Zellweger

It’s apparently Renee Zellweger day on the blogroll; Sheila O’Malley wonders why Ms. Zellweger has a career, while Alex Knapp thinks she* looks better with a few extra pounds on her frame.

This half of Signifying Nothing is agnostic on both questions.

It's the consumers, stupid

Tyler Cowen wonders why health care sucks:

It remains a mystery, why private health insurance has performed badly in holding down costs. Companies compete fiercely to shed costly patients but they do less to invest in reputations for reliability and trustworthiness. Similarly, it is a puzzle why HMOs don’t do more to invest in good reputations; lately Kaiser has moved in this direction.

All of this, I suspect, can be traced directly to the disconnect between health care consumption and health care customers; employers contract with health care plans as a fringe benefit for their employees (which Cowen has noted before), but they have no real incentive to make sure the health insurance is good (although there certainly is an incentive to make its cost as low as possible), except to the extent that a good health insurance plan can attract new employees; but, once employed, few people change jobs solely because their health insurance sucks (and nobody in a cartelized labor market, like academe, does so), so there’s little incentive to improve health care coverage.

It seems to me the sensible course forward is to couple HSAs with incentives for employers to provide a health insurance purchasing account (in lieu of employer contributions), which employees could use to purchase a health insurance plan in a competitive market. This would align the customer-consumer interest much better than the present system.

Fictitious elections

Reason’s Tim Cavanaugh helpfully rounds up all the vote fraud allegations in one place, while Slashdot’s CmdrTaco continues to parody DemocraticUnderground. (Oh, you mean he’s serious? Never mind.)

I’ll just join the bandwagon by complaining that I had to stand in line for 30 minutes in a fire station that was open to the elements at both ends to cast my votes, zero of which turned out to be pivotal. I blame Diebold; they had nothing to do with the electronic voting machines in Hinds County, but I think they’re vicariously to blame somehow anyway.

Sunday, 7 November 2004

Alabama's blue belt

Looking at the red/blue county map, it’s pretty easy to correlate most of the blue counties with major urban population centers.

One thing that has me mystified, though, is the neat blue line bisecting otherwise red Alabama horizontally, seemingly following the path of Highway 80, as far as I can tell, and bleeding over slightly into Mississippi and Georgia on either side. Montgomery, Alabama’s capital and second largest city, is in the middle of the blue strip, but what about the rest of it? What’s the explanation of Alabama’s “blue belt”?

Update: Chris explains in comments that Alabama's "blue belt" is Alabama's black belt.

Borking Specter

Hugh Hewitt thinks the Bainbridge-Corner campaign to push Arlen Specter out of the judiciary chairmanship is a really bad idea. Perhaps if they won’t listen to me or Hei Lun of BTD, maybe they’ll listen to him (þ: Glenn Reynolds).

Update: Ok, so much for that idea. These guys at NRO really don’t get it, do they? Meanwhile, James Dobson has joined the pile-on (þ: How Appealing), while Michael Totten is unimpressed to say the least.

Creationism comes to Wisconsin

I tend to agree with James Joyner and John Cole that putting creationism in the public school curriculum on-par with evolution is a thoroughly dopey idea.

That said, Jim Lindgren points out that the textbook on evolution in question at the Scopes trial was a load of racist, eugenicist trash—the sort of stuff that’s fortunately marginalized (though perhaps not marginalized enough in Hart’s case) in today’s society.

Online book on Gödel's theorems

Prof. Peter Smith of Cambridge University has posted sixteen chapters of his work-in-progress on Gödel’s incompleteness theorems and related mathematical/logical/philosophical goodness in PDF format, beautifully typeset using LaTeX.

I’ve read the first twelve chapters, which take you through Gödel’s first and second incompleteness theorems, Tarski’s theorem on the undefinability of truth, and (the most surprising result, IMO), Löb’s theorem.

You’ll need a background in symbolic logic to understand it. If you don’t know your ∀s from your ∃s, you’ll be lost.

Smith takes the opposite approach from Boolos and Jeffrey, taking you through Gödel’s theorems using only the apparatus of primative recursion, saving full-blown recursive function theory and other topics in computability theory for later.

It’s been a while (about seven years) since I’ve been through the material, but I learned a lot of stuff I didn’t pick up the first time around.

Brian Weatherson.)

Post-election irony watch

Matt Welch notes the irony of a wine-sipping, BMW driving, California law professor lecturing liberals on “elitism”.

Prof. Bainbridge responds to Welch with “I know you are, but what am I?”

Racist gets 59,602 votes

Racist and eugenics advocate James Hart garnered 59,602 votes in Tennessee’s 8th Congressional district, 25.8% of the total vote. (Final results for all Tennessee U.S. House elections.)

Of course, I know that only means that nobody pays attention to Congressional races in uncompetitive, gerrymandered districts, and almost everyone who voted for him did so only because he was in the Republican column on the ballot.

Still, it’s pretty sad.

Prohibition in Chicago

Jim Leitzel at ViceSquad points out an unusual intersection between liquor laws and ballot referendums in Chicago. In Chicago, individual precincts can vote themselves dry in referendums, or even vote to outlaw sales of liquor at a specific address in the precinct.

Here are some examples from this year’s ballot. Ward 11, precinct 35, voted, 178 to 88, to forbid the sale of liquor at 4220 South Halsted Street.

Was there a surge of evangelical voters?

Alex Knapp says there was not:
I think it’s important to point out that there was no surge of evangelical voters for Bush that made the difference in the election. It simply wasn’t there. The gains Bush saw came as a result of terrorism. That’s what the numbers say.
Dorian Warren says there was:
Maybe I'm missing something, but based on my read of the exit polls, the religious right had a significant impact on this election. White evangelicals were 23% of the electorate, an increase of +9 points from 2000! They broke 78% Bush, 21% Kerry. Is a 9 point increase insignificant?
Update: Philip Klinkner thinks the 9 point difference between 2000 and 2004 is due to a difference in wording. Damn, if they're not going to ask the same questions from year to year, how can one expect to track the trends?

Saturday, 6 November 2004

Majors beat Rhodes

Bad news for my co-blogger as my employer’s football team beats his alma mater’s, 28–19. Congratulations to the Millsaps Majors (4–4, 3–2) on getting back to .500 after two consecutive road wins, heading into next Saturday’s final game against #6 Trinity (8–1, 5–0).

Friday, 5 November 2004

Why statistics are helpful

Philip Klinkner manages to present in a four-line table what takes Andrew Sullivan’s anonymized correspondent a paragraph and a bunch of raw numbers.

Both, incidentally, show that the anti-same-sex marriage initiatives had no effect on Bush’s share of the vote in the states where they were on the ballot.

Exit polls misjudged?

Contrary to popular wisdom, Andrea Moro says the final exit polls were accurate and has the numbers to prove it. However, that doesn’t quite explain how the networks nearly blew the calls based on the Kerry-leaning numbers they had—and, once you have the final results, it’s easy enough to go back and reweigh the data to match the “true” results; I’d be curious if anyone has hardcopy of the exit poll results, including the weights, dating from before the returns came in.

A majority, if you can keep it

Apparently Tuesday’s whopping 3% landslide win for George Bush has gone straight to Stephen Bainbridge’s head. Not content just to insult libertarians, he’s decided to make Arlen Specter his personal whipping boy, apparently under the delusion that Specter would take being deprived of his (rightful, under Senate seniority traditions) chairmanship of the judiciary committee any way other than defecting to the Democrats, and probably taking the majority with him—Lincoln Chafee has already made noises about leaving the GOP caucus, and shunting Specter aside would be the handwriting on the wall for folks like Judd Gregg, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and John McCain that the “big tent” is shrinking. If you think Judiciary is hard to get conservative judges through now, just wait until Pat Leahy or Ted Kennedy is running the show.

Joe Gandelman has more realistic thoughts on what’s likely to happen, while the quotes in Friday’s New York Times suggest Specter is unlikely to be pushed aside.

Update: Todd Zywicki apparently also doesn’t get that Specter won’t be the only Republican to defect if he doesn’t get the chairmanship. And citing a vote against Bork—given Bork’s increasing Gore-esque nuttiness over the past few years—doesn’t quite make a particuarly convincing case that a Democrat-led Senate is worth standing on some bogus principle of undying party loyalty.

Thursday, 4 November 2004

Dumpster diving

Oliver Willis digs up some lovely comments from Freepers regarding Elizabeth Edwards' breast cancer diagnosis.

Wednesday, 3 November 2004

Fumble and recovery

Russell Fox has a lengthy post on the meaning of the election for Democrats and their uneasy relationship with religion, which starts off rather poorly—anyone who writes ”[t]he great egalitarian accomplishments of the last fifty years… are all on the chopping block” is at the very least engaging in hyperbole—but makes some important points about “red state” voters (regardless of how I hate that term and the false dichotomy underlying it) that Democrats have lost their ability to reach out to.

I think, for what it’s worth, that John Edwards (or possibly Dick Gephardt) could have reached out to a lot of poor and middle-class white southern voters, but the one-two elitist punch of John and Teresa Heinz Kerry undermined any realistic chance of that happening. More to the point, one has to wonder about a national Democratic Party that can’t even secure the paltry share of the white vote in a state like Mississippi it would need to be competitive, but it’s unlikely to see an improvement until the party gets over its Dean-esque arrogance that Southerners need to stop voting on “guns, God, and gays” and come to the conclusion that they need to respect (even if it’s only to the point of respectful disagreement) those Americans who care deeply about those things.

Words to live by

Michael Munger argues that Duke’s Phillip Kurian is the poster child for some deeper problems in the academy:

More and more, faculty on the left just want students to have the “correct” conclusions, like a memorized catechism, instead of making sure the students can defend those conclusions in a debate. And students on the left are the ones who pay the price.

Mind you, I just spent a far larger proportion of my teaching day than I wanted on my soapbox, so perhaps I’m part of the problem, even though I make a very poor leftist.


I think the biggest news out of yesterday’s presidential election, at least for scholars of voting behavior, was the third consecutive meltdown by the national opinion polling service (previously Voter News Service, now Edison/Mitofsky).

What went wrong? Megan McArdle ponders, while the Mystery Pollster explains the process. My gut feeling is that the system in part failed because the networks replaced VNS; Edison/Mitofsky was new at this, and a rookie effort is fraught with perils—as I learned myself yesterday. Coupled, perhaps, with a small cognitive bias on the part of the people being paid by Edison/Mitofsky to conduct the poll themselves (one suspects the typical person looking for day-work isn’t a Republican) and you can easily see why they were quite a bit off, notwithstanding the advertised margin of error.

Monday, 1 November 2004

Promises, promises

I previously promised a pair of non-endorsements; however, no doubt to the relief of OF Jay, even though I have a partially-drafted post that I’ve been kicking around for a week, I really don’t think there’s much point in posting it.

However, I will leave you with the general flavor of the piece, which basically was just a long-winded version of this statement by Alex Knapp: “in all perfect honesty, I wouldn’t trust George Bush or John Kerry to run a f**king McDonald’s, much less the executive branch… of the United States government.”

I'd rather be in love

Apologies for the relative silence as of late; I am running a big project that comes to fruition tomorrow, and that has me rather busy (to say the least). I’ll have something more to say later today, probably.

In the meantime, scroll down and read Brock’s posts from the weekend, on such diverse topics as beer, bigots, and the Beatles.