Monday, 28 February 2005


Thanks to Jon Henke of QandO for their plug this morning; I know Robert and I appreciate it.

Design flaws

Alex Knapp points out a flaw in Intelligent Design theory—namely, that the universe is actually rather poorly designed.

Huzzah and kudos: James edition

Congrats to James of The Dead Parrot Society for getting tenure and to James of Outside the Beltway for getting their 3 millionth hit.

Why not here?

Via Karen at Dark Bilious Vapors, there’s this item from David Brooks on how the U.S. uses soft power:

But if there is one soft-power gift America does possess, it is this tendency to imagine new worlds. As Malzahn goes on to note, “In a country of immigrants like the United States, one actually pushes for change. ... We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas the Americans strive for the world of tomorrow.”

Stephen Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote an important essay for this page a few weeks ago, arguing that American diplomacy is often most effective when it pursues not an incrementalist but a “maximalist” agenda, leaping over allies and making the crude, bold, vantage-shifting proposal – like pushing for the reunification of Germany when most everyone else was trying to preserve the so-called stability of the Warsaw Pact.

As Sestanovich notes, and as we’ve seen in spades over the past two years in Iraq, this rashness – this tendency to leap before we look – has its downside. Things don’t come out wonderfully just because some fine person asks, Why not here?

But this is clearly the question the United States is destined to provoke. For the final thing that we’ve learned from the papers this week is how thoroughly the Bush agenda is dominating the globe. When Bush meets with Putin, democratization is the center of discussion. When politicians gather in Ramallah, democratization is a central theme. When there’s an atrocity in Beirut, the possibility of freedom leaps to people’s minds.

Not all weeks will be as happy as this one. Despite the suicide bombings in Israel and Iraq, the thought contagion is spreading. Why not here?

It’s a good column; read the whole thing. Not much I can add to it.

Sunday, 27 February 2005

Our posture toward Europe

Victor Davis Hanson does a good job of describing how we should respond to the EU in the future: dial down the rhetoric, wish them well, all the while severing our ties to them. On every major issue in recent years—going back decades, really—we’ve differed with them. We’ve also been subsidizing their defense and providing them a perch from which to snipe at us.

Rather than wishing them ill, we should disentangle ourselves from them and allow them to stand on their own two feet, and live with the consequences of their decisions:

The United States should ignore all this ankle-biting, praise the EU to the skies, but not take very seriously their views on the world until we learn exactly what is going on inside Europe during these years of its uncertainty. America is watching enormous historical forces being unleashed on the continent from its own depopulation, new anti-Semitism, and rising Islamicism to Turkish demands for EU membership and further expansion of the EU into the backwaters of Eastern Europe that will bring it to the doorstep of Russia. Whether its politics and economy will evolve to embrace more personal freedom, its popular culture will integrate its minorities, and its military will step up to protect Western values and visions is unclear. But what is certain is that the U.S. cannot remain a true ally of a militarily weak but shrill Europe should its politics grow even more resentful and neutralist, always nursing old wounds and new conspiracies, amoral in its inability to act, quite ready to preach to those who do.

We keep assuming that Europeans are like Britain and Japan when in fact long ago they devolved more into a Switzerland and Sweden—friendly neutrals but no longer real allies. In the meantime, let us Americans keep much more quiet, wait, and watch—even as we carry a far bigger stick.

I’ve done more than my share of bashing Europe and it was fun, but it’s time to disengage. Maybe, after a few decades they’ll emerge as a useful ally.

Book review: Give Me a Break

Book four in the Fifty Book Challenge is Give Me a Break, by 20/20 co-anchor John Stossel, who’s arguably the most well-known libertarian in America. As you’d probably expect from a book by a TV journalist, it’s not a hard read and largely autobiographical in nature. If you’re looking for a book to gently introduce someone to libertarian ideas, Stossel’s book may be ideal: less doctrinaire than Boaz’s Libertarianism: A Primer and lacking the serious liability of What It Means to be a Libertarian—Charles Murray’s public reputation. If you’re already familiar with libertarian ideas and Stossel’s journalistic career, there’ll be little new for you here, but it’s an entertaining read nonetheless.

Dare you to move

Spent Saturday afternoon helping my friend and colleague Kamilla move from her apartment to a nice house she’s sharing a few blocks away. Except for me being an idiot and jamming my right middle fingers in a drawer, and the aches and pains inherent in moving around large objects, things went well. Afterward, Kamilla was generous enough to buy us all dinner at La Cazuela, which was most kind of her. Then we watched Anything Else (featuring an overly slimmed-down Christina Ricci) and The Goonies on her roommate’s digital cable.

Mainly it was fun spending the day with my friends Kamilla and Kelly, as well as meeting new friends Andy, Allison and Chris Bruce, especially after a week in which I was becoming increasingly and excessively surly (read Friday’s posts if you don’t believe me…). As a special bonus, all the physical activity got me out of a Saturday visit to the HAC and being attacked by various forms of exercise equipment.

Confidence tricks

Jacqueline has some rather utilitarian relationship advice for her readers, with emphasis on the value of self-confidence. Contrary to the commercials on TV, apparently you don’t need Enzyte to become more confident—go figure.

Truth in advertising

I think the title for this job ad is what should be on this one.

Saturday, 26 February 2005

The legality of the Iraqi war

There are several good posts at Opinio Juris about the “legality” of the Iraqi war. For me the issue is rather simple: our constitution has an enumerated power that allows Congress to declare war for whatever reason they choose, and no treaty would change that (it would amount to amending the constitution via treaty).

Being international lawyers, the people at Opinio Juris take a more nuanced view. Julian Ku has a couple of posts (here and here). Chris Borgen responds here.

One point they touch on is the legality of the war in Kosovo. This strikes me as a good point to raise: the Kosovo war was popular among many people that oppose the current war in Iraq and they justify it through a fig leaf of multilateralism via Nato. This seems very dishonest to me, since we’ve heard all of the garbage from the transnationalists that the UN is the only body that can “authorize” war, though they never authorized the actions in Kosovo.

Friday, 25 February 2005

All Dean, all the time

(I figure if Eric Muller can do it, so can I…)

Howard Dean’s upcoming whirlwind tour of flyover country attracts some pub from the AP’s Emily Wagster Pettus, last seen here at Signifying Nothing looking for state legislators dumb enough to show at a Council of Conservative Citizens function (in the end, none were). Let’s play “spot the inconsistency in Howard’s message”:

Dean said today Democrats need to appeal to working-class whites and blacks in the South.

He will speak at a $75-a-ticket Democratic dinner at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Clarion Hotel in Jackson.

Way to broaden the party’s base, Howie!

I’m not unsympathetic to Dean’s arguments, although I have to say that on the issues the Mississippi Democrats are “right” on—things like civil liberties, abortion rights, and even (gasp) raising taxes to fix this state’s massively clusterf-cked budget*—their legislative caucus doesn’t have the cojones to stand up and be counted. Instead, they waste everyone’s time with idiotic Republican-lite shit like cracking down on sales of cold medicine, and slather on a good helping of smoke-filled room politics† just to make it more embarrassing. Not to mention that back in 2001 you couldn’t find a white Mississippi Democrat without a foot in the grave—William Winter doesn’t count, so you don’t get to trot him out—who lifted a finger to get rid of the Southern Cross on the flag.

In short: wanna sell me on the Mississippi Democratic Party? Start acting like Democrats who have gerrymandered yourselves into safe seats for life, instead of Republicans who have gerrymandered yourselves into safe seats for life, because in a contest between real Republicans and fake ones I’ll take the real ones (see Musgrove, Ronnie). I’ll even let you keep Bennie Thompson, just so long as you promise to never put me in his district.

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


David Bernstein has moved up from shilling his books to a post that can essentially be summed up as “please help pay my salary.” I kid you not.

Considering George Mason Law School? Are you considering attending George Mason, academic home of me and co-conspirator Todd Zywicki? People telling you that it’s crazy to consider Mason over a “superior” (i.e., higher-ranked in U.S. News) school? Well, I’m meeting an increasing number of GMU law students who have turned down, among other schools, local and regional competitors William and Mary, George Washington, and Georgetown (in fact, I’ve run into several students who turned down G’town but not G.W.; I didn’t think to ask, so I’m not sure if they didn’t get in or didn’t apply to G.W.). Several years ago, such students were few and far between, but not anymore. I don’t have exact numbers, but I’d say it’s pretty common (given that G.W. and G’town have way bigger entering class sizes than Mason, it wouldn’t take, from their perspective, many students who turned them down to make up a significant proportion of a GMU class—20 each, and you have a quarter of a GMU entering class!). Your mileage may vary of course, and one’s choice of law school is a highly individual decision. But if your heart is with GMU, and you want to reject a higher-ranked school, go for it, you will not be alone.

Why not include a referral code while he’s at it? If he doesn’t already have one, I suggest ”?exclude=davidb.”

Look, I get the institutional pride thing. If some kid with the grades and SATs asked me if he should go to Millsaps or one of the other alma maters, unless he was hard-core into engineering or really into math I’d tell him or her to come here—the hard-core engineer or mathematician I’d send to Rose-Hulman, and I’d only include math because they have a much bigger department. I’d even say the best undergraduate education you can buy in the Deep South (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina) is right here. But the idea I’d whore out my blog to plug my employer is patently ridiculous.


Will Baude explains the problem with the Court’s pseudo-jurisprudence on race and the Bill of Rights more generally:

Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided that separating prisoners on the basis of race, even for 60 days, ought to be subject to strict scrutiny (although it is as yet unclear whether they mean Adarand-strict or Grutter-strict). [emphasis mine]

This isn’t particularly surprising, since the Court rarely (never?) says racial classifications are subject to anything other than strict scrutiny—whatever the heck that means.

More in line with my pet peeves, readers are invited to comment on whether or not any standard of review other than “rational basis” (i.e. “we’re not going to do anything about it so long as the legislature or executive goes through the motions of justifying its action”)—heightened scrutiny, strict scrutiny, imminent lawless action, Lemon, whatever—is functionally equivalent to “we’ll strike it down if five of us are in the mood on that particular day.” For added Bonus Cool Points, pick any five cases where the court applied “strict scrutiny,” apply “heightened scrutiny,” and tell me if you get a different outcome in any of the cases.

He's a Deaniac on the floor

Good ole Howard Dean is working his way up the “red state” ladder with a visit to Kansas before coming to Jackson on Tuesday.

Free advice for the Deanster: I know you wanna be the candidate for guys with Rebel flags and gun racks in their monster trucks, but Jackson’s a bit more of a pistol-in-the-waistband, low-rider and gold chains kinda town. But if you wanna get down with your Nascar-lovin’ homeys, there’s always the possibility of a side-trip to Brandon. Just don’t expect any of the Rankin County folks to pay $75 for the pleasure of your company.

Making a Killen

Just what we all need, a visit from the Klan:

PHILADELPHIA — When Edgar Ray Killen’s murder trial starts April 18 for the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers, the Ku Klux Klan is expected to be there.

J.J. Harper of Cordele, Ga., imperial wizard of the American White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, is requesting permission to demonstrate on the lawn of the Neshoba County Courthouse in support of Killen, an 80-year-old sawmill owner and part-time preacher who pleaded innocent to murder last month in the June 21, 1964, Klan killings of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman.

The Web site of the American White Knights shows a hanging post with three nooses holding the severed hands of African Americans. The post reads “Murder in Mississippi,” but the word “Murder” is crossed out in red with the word “Justice” written over it.

Harper said his organization is both Christian and nonviolent, but he says on his Web site: “Brother Killen is being charged with murdering a n——- and two Jews back in 1964. Personally, I’d ask, ‘What’s wrong with that?’ ”

With tactics like this, one has to wonder whether the Klan is trying to get Killen convicted. Not that he probably needs much help in that department, mind you.

Meme of the day

Bold the states you’ve been to, underline the states you’ve lived in and italicize the state you’re in now.

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan* / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C. /

* I don’t really know whether to count Michigan or not, since I’ve never stayed there for more than 30 days at a time. (þ: CheekyProf)

Thursday, 24 February 2005

Nice to see the alma mater in the news

Leopold Stotch is none-to-impressed with the University of Memphis’ hiring practices, quoting from an ad that I’ve seen myself:

The University of Memphis invites applications for a non-tenure-track position in political science at the rank of instructor for the 2005–06 academic year. The main responsibilities of the position are in the area of International Relations and include lower division courses in International Relations plus upper division and graduate courses in International Conflict, International Relations Theory, and Research Methods and Statistics. The teaching load is five courses per semester; the salary is $30,000; Ph.D. is desired.

Necessary disclaimer: a fellow Ole Miss grad student (ABD, who also happens to be a Millsaps alum) currently holds this position. Did I mention I pray to God every day thanking Him that I only have to teach a 3–3?*

Wednesday, 23 February 2005

Uncommonly silly law of the day

Both Jeff Goldstein and James Joyner aren’t particularly upset that the Supreme Court passed up an opportunity to overturn Alabama’s law prohibiting the sale of sex toys. Mississippi is one of two other states having such laws; apparently the early eighties saw a binge of women getting off with dildos, so the legislature (presumably not wanting competition in the “being dildos” department) decided to intervene.

Mirror images

The left half of the blogosphere is rather worked up by some comments from Power Line’s John Hinderacker, quoted as follows (I didn’t bother watching the video, so YMMV) in regards to the “mainstream” of the Democratic Party:

The whole mainstream of the party is engaged in an effort that is a betrayal of America, what they care about is not winning the war on terror…I don’t think they care about the danger to us as Americans or the danger to people in other countries. They care about power.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but isn’t this exactly the same thing we’ve been hearing about the Bush administration and Republicans from the Kos/Moore/MoveOn left for the past four years? That is, when they’re not calling Bush stupid. Goose, gander, and all that. (Update: As if on cue, Greg Wythe—no Deaniac or Sorosite by any stretch of the imagination—demonstrates exactly this sentiment himself saying “the only thing Republicans are consistent about is the quest for power alone.”)

Meanwhile, Jeff Jarvis has the cojones to call out The New York Times and the rest of the media for hyping the blue state-red state myth:

I’ll argue instead that it is big media who have, to use your words, accelerated “a general polarization of the nation into people, right and left….” Who is trading on the notion that we are suddenly a land of red v. blue but big media? Except for the oddities of the electoral college, as you know, our political maps would more accurately show us to be a nation of urban vs. exurban. Or I could be really difficult and contend that the close votes in the last two presidential elections actually indicate that we are getting closer. Big media have made division the key narrative of the age.

Readers are invited to tie together these two disparate thoughts as they see fit. There might even be a lesson in it, somewhere.

(Yglesias puts his post in the “Carter series,” and thus so will I.)


Starting in July we’re gonna get 20 more episodes of Battlestar Galactica according to Sci-Fi Wire. While the renewal was already public knowledge, the announcement that we’re getting 20 shows (up from 13 this season) with all of the main cast members returning (which, in some circles, might count as a spoiler) is the real news. (þ: David Janes)

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

Presidential assassin wanna-be

James Joyner has a great post on the “valedictorian” that planned to assassinate President Bush. The AP neglected to mention that he graduated from a Saudi-backed Islamist school. I think I’ve heard of those before….

Tuesday, 22 February 2005

My annual nod to the Fairness Doctrine

Although I don’t really buy the arguments of the “keep Terri Schiavo alive” brigade, Dean Esmay thinks her parents have a fairly strong case; read their side here. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything on Michael’s side except this statement from 2003 before Florida’s legislature got involved. The truth being a three-edged sword, take both with a rather large grain of salt.

I won’t pretend this is an easy issue, but I tend to think—whatever its other faults—the legal system does a better job of deciding these things than the court of public opinion or grandstanding politicans do, and the judiciary remains unconvinced of the merits of Ms. Schiavo’s parents’ case.

Monday, 21 February 2005

Book review: Free Flight

Well, I’m massively behind on the 50 Book Challenge, but I did finish reading the copy of James Fallows’ Free Flight: Inventing the Future of Air Travel that I threw in for $6 with an order for “work” books. As Robert mentioned last month, it’s a pretty interesting look at some of the new innovations in small planes (or “general aviation”). The book slightly suffers from being dated—in particular, I think there’s a good chapter that needs to be added on the last two years of the Eclipse 500 saga.

It’s also not entirely clear how Fallows sees “air taxis” fitting in the larger aviation system; he talks a lot about the threat they pose to what most transportation folks call “legacy carriers” (e.g. American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, and US Airways) but not so much about how the air taxis would affect the regional jet networks associated with the legacy carriers or the “no-frills” carriers like Southwest and airTran. I suspect that, by further drying up the pool of high-revenue customers that the legacy carriers depend on to stay in business, the “hub and spoke” system will fall apart and two classes of travel will emerge in the aviation hinterlands of flyover country: on-demand “air taxi” travel for the rich (or those who can convince their company that an extra $200 in airfare is worth saving a night in the hotel) and increased once-a-day point-to-point travel to popular destinations. Of course, like any other predictions, these may be completely wrong.

Nonetheless, it’s a very interesting book and I recommend it highly for anyone with an interest in general aviation.

Prepare to be disappointed

Stephen Karlson writes:

I expect juniors and seniors to have a basic understanding of the meanings and spellings of simple words.

An expectation, mind you, that is largely in vain. In my public opinion class last week, when talking about affect (in the public opinion context, a synonym for emotion), I ended up explaining the difference between the words affect and effect in common usage. I’m pretty sure this was the first time any of my students were made aware that these two words, in fact, are not the same.

Of course, it doesn’t help by the time students have reached me they generally have had 13–16 years of experience with teachers and professors in various fields whose reaction to shoddy grammar and usage can be summed up as “eh, it’s not my job to fix it,” rather than the proper response of whacking them over the head repeatedly with a copy of Strunk and White.

I got your outrage right here, pal

Mitch Townsend disagrees with Cathy Young’s suggestion that Thomas E. Woods’ Confederate apologia The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History has been excessively fêted in conservative circles, asking “Where’s the outrage?” On the other hand, Eric Muller still has plenty of outrage to spare.

Balko-Barr sitdown

Radley Balko has a brief interview with ex-congressman Bob Barr up at The Agitator. When in Congress, Barr was always a bit of a putz when it came to the War on Some Drugs, but in many other areas he was a strong champion of civil liberties. Anyway, it’s short, so it won’t kill you to read it if you’re at all interested.

The gift that keeps on giving

Sunday, 20 February 2005

Babies in paradise

Steve at Begging to Differ links an interesting site that lets you graph the popularity of first names over time. Shockingly, my all-time favorite girl’s name, “Latrina,” has never cracked the top 1000 names in any decade.

Hunter S. Thompson whacks self

AP story here (and Denver Post story here), although there are no real details yet. (þ: Protein Wisdom)

That other Churchill guy

I haven’t had much to say about Ward Churchill in a while, but this post by Stephen Green (þ: InstaPundit) lept out at me, mainly due to the Rocky Mountain News article Green dug up. Read it and weep.

BOULDER—Ward Churchill was rejected by two University of Colorado departments in 1991 before the communication department agreed to give him tenure. Even in the communication department, the chairman-elect was “uncomfortable” with the decision, according to documents released Friday by CU.

At the time, CU officials were shopping for a department that would accept Churchill, fearing they would lose him to another university.

In a memo to the communication faculty, Michael Pacanowsky, who was in line to become chairman, said Churchill needed to join a department, since the program that sponsored his Native American Studies courses did not have the authority to grant tenure.

“Ward’s file was circulated to sociology and political science, and they did not agree to roster him in their departments,” Pacanowsky wrote in an e-mail dated Jan. 10, 1991. “Because Ward’s graduate degree, an MA, was in communications, we were contacted next.”

The University of Colorado at Boulder is what us academics used to call a “Research I” institution (now it’s a “Doctoral-Research Extensive” institution under the Carnegie classification system, which is essentially equivalent). In other words, the job of UC-Boulder in academe is to do cutting-edge research and produce people with doctorates (and the undergraduate program is largely designed to subsidize those activities by bringing in tuition to subsidize research and giving you guinea pigs for your Ph.D. students to practice teaching on). You do that by hiring the best people with doctorates you can find. You don’t do that by hiring fake Indians who have produced questionable scholarship and don’t have terminal degrees just to engage in quota-filling exercises.

Don’t get me wrong—if Churchill’s only crime against academic society was being an offensive jackass, that might even be a qualification for granting him tenure. But shoddy scholarship and a tenure file shockingly bereft of what most academics would consider to be tenurable activity are another matter entirely.

Feature, not a bug

This has got to be the quote of the day from Sunday’s Clarion-Ledger:

Tunica farmer Nolen Canon believes President Bush’s plan to slash farm subsidies could be the final straw in driving some farmers out of business.

You know, if you can’t figure out how to run your business in the black without getting $4.3 million in government handouts over a nine-year period, you probably don’t deserve to be in business in the first place.


I saw this a while ago, but after last night’s episode of NUMB3ERS I think Jeff Goldstein has nailed it as always:

Hoping to overcome what has quickly become a hackneyed premise, FBI agent Don Epps (Rob Morrow) eschews a dangerously abductive statistics-based theory offered him by his brooding mathematician brother, Charlie (David Krumholz), and instead tries doing his own fucking crime solving for a change—relying on nothing more than the vast resources available to him as a federal law enforcement official. (Co-stars Peter MacNichol, Judd Hirsch, and Sabrina Lloyd)

I have to say it’s not that bad a show, and the female FBI agent is “easy on the eyes” as they say, but the opening credits manage to somehow be both idiotic and patronizing. If I hear Krumholz’s character say “numbers are everywhere” one more time, I get this odd feeling that I’m going to bash my TV to pieces with a golf club, at least once I run out to the nearest sporting goods store and buy one.

Libertarians in space

David Janes observes in response to Ron Moore’s latest posting to his Battlestar Galactica blog:

No wonder I think this show is so good. The writer’s a fracken Libertarian.

Indeed. But it’s spelled “frakkin’.” Moore is also in quite a celebratory mood over news of the renewal, as one might expect, and gives some good answers to questions on such things as the rank structure, evolution, and what we can expect to see in Season 2 (although not really in a spoilery way).

The Ohioan Play

Tonight I saw a very good production of “Lend Me a Tenor” by several Millsaps College theater students. My companions for the evening, Suzanne and Kamilla (er, Drs. Woodward and Bahbahani), both agreed with me that it was a most excellent performance.* Color me very impressed.

Saturday, 19 February 2005

The EU constitution

Fortunately, I’m blessed with not having to live in Europe and face the possibility of living under a constitution that exceeds 500 pages. Here’s a review from the Telegraph:

George W. Bush is a good Protestant, but I doubt if he has read the European Constitution. Why should he, indeed, since he is lucky enough to live in a country that will not be ruled by it? No reason at all, unless, as is rumoured, early drafts of the speech he will make in Brussels next week commit him to saying what a wonderful thing it is.

It is natural for Americans to like the sound of the word “constitution”. They have the best one ever written in a single document. It consists, in the copy I have before me, of 12 pages, 11 if you exclude the list of the men who signed it. There are also amendments added over the past two centuries: they amount to another nine pages. If President Bush tucked himself up with it at his famously early bedtime of 9.30, he could finish it well before 10.

I should be surprised if the State Department, the Washington faction keenest on turning Mr Bush into a Euro-enthusiast, has encouraged him to go to bed with a copy of the European Constitution. My copy, published by TSO (note that the former name Her Majesty’s Stationery Office has quietly been relegated), is 511 pages long. I do not claim it would keep Mr Bush up all night – in fact, I guarantee that, if he tried to read it, he would still be asleep by 10 – but it would wake him and the First Lady up with a start as it slipped from his nerveless hands and crashed, all 2lb 8oz of it, on the floor.

If he did spend 20 minutes with the document, however, the President would see that it was not what is normally meant by a constitution. Rather than confining itself to the division of powers by which a country should be governed – head of state, parliament, judiciary, what’s local and what’s national – it lays out scores of pages telling people how to run their lives. It supports positive discrimination, outlaws the death penalty in all circumstances, commits itself to high public spending, compulsory consultation with trade unions about changes at work, “the exchange of youth workers”, “fat-free breakfasts”, “distance education” and “the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen” (I made one of these up). And it imposes all these on nations that have their own governments and electorates.

The content of this “constitution” sounds horrid as well, though there may be a silver lining. It seems designed to marginalize Nato and put Europe on a path toward self-defense. That can’t happen too soon for my liking. The sooner our troops are out of Europe, the better.

Why I still hate Ann Coulter

Even when she’s right on the larger point about President Bush’s appointment of minorities, she’s so intolerable in the way she states it that it physically hurts me to agree on the larger point. If she didn’t have a nice rack there would be a bounty on her head.

Friday, 18 February 2005


Back from an unofficial hiatus, I ran across an excellent article from The Economist ($) that goes into some detail on anti-Americanism:

So what explains France’s reputation for anti-Americanism? The main answer is that it is proclaimed bombastically by so many of those in France who strike political attitudes. They do this partly because of the rivalry between France and America, based on their remarkably similar self-images: the two countries both think they invented the rights of man, have a unique calling to spread liberty round the world and hold a variety of other attributes that make them utterly and admirably exceptional. Jealousy also plays a part. America is often better than France at activities that the French take great pride in, such as making movies or even cooking—at least if popular taste is the judge. And French politicians are not blind to the value of criticising someone else in order to divert attention from their own failures: French anti-Americanism tends to rise when France has just suffered a setback of some kind, whether defeat at the hands of the Germans, a drubbing in Algeria or the breakdown of the Fourth Republic.

Not many countries share all these characteristics, but several have some of them. Take Iran, where political diatribes, religious sermons, rent-a-mob demonstrations and heroic graffiti regularly denounce the Great Satan and all his doings. Anti-Americanism is central to the ideology of Iran’s ruling Shia clerics. Yet Iranians at large, like the French, are not noticeably hostile to America. The young in particular seem thoroughly pro-American, revelling in America’s popular culture, yearning for its sexual freedoms, some even hoping for an American deliverance from their oppression. Whether the affection runs deep is another matter: pro-Americanism among the young is a form of anti-regime defiance that might evaporate quickly if their country were attacked.

Yet why should the clerics bang on so relentlessly about the United States when the British were just as deeply involved in the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh’s regime in 1953, when Iraq under Saddam Hussein posed a much greater threat, and when, recently at least, America has shown itself ready to get rid of the Baathists next door and pave the way for a Shia-led government in Iraq? The main explanation, as in France, is rivalry. Iran’s theocratic regime has clear ambitions to be a leader not just of the Middle East but of the entire Muslim world. America, now avowedly bent on spreading democracy across the region, is in the way.

The article is very balanced and very good.

The points about Iran are well-taken. If we go after Iran, some day, it had better be articulated as something that’s in our self-interest, rather than flowery rhetoric about spreading democracy. I support the flowery rhetoric, but it’s not enough to sell an invasion on. We need to go in expecting that we will get little or no gratitude for liberating a people, and that we are likely to receive bile instead. The cause may be humiliation due to needing an outside power to free them, or it might be because Europe is allied against us again. Either way, I doubt gratitude will be forthcoming in the short term. A couple of decades, maybe.


No well-developed thoughts on this one (yet), but there’s a bit of a go-around arising from comments by some on the right that former president Jimmy Carter is increasingly on “the other side.” Alex Knapp seconds Matthew Yglesias’ complaint that this is beyond the pale:

[I]t says something about this country that we’ve allowed discourse to slide to the point where anyone who disagrees with a position is automatically branded a traitor.

On the other hand, the Baseball Crank writes:

There’s a critical distinction here that the critics on the Left, most notably Yglesias—who’s posted on this three times now without addressing the distinction—need to grapple with. And that is this: giving speeches and the like here at home is, indeed, just “political disagreement.” It may help us or it may hurt us, but it is just speech. But that’s not what Hinderaker is talking about, although you’d never know from reading Yglesias. What he’s talking about is traveling around the world, meeting with foreign leaders and taking positions contrary to those of the United States or rendering assistance directly to hostile forces and regimes.

This is, of course, a recurring theme in conservative criticisms of a number of liberals—besides Carter’s many trips, prominent examples include John Kerry’s famous meeting with the North Vietnamese and the trip Kerry and Tom Harkin took to meet with Daniel Ortega in the 1980s. Jesse Jackson is also a master at this. To say nothing of Jane Fonda and Ramsey Clark. (I can’t think offhand of conservative examples of the same; I’m sure you can find some, but the practice has been far more pervasive on the Left, and not only because we’ve had mostly Republican presidents since the dawn of the modern Left in 1968). Time and again, whether they be legislators, state officials, ex-leaders, or private citizens, we’ve seen the spectacle of people on the Left sitting down with hostile heads of state and assuring them that the United States does not present a united front against them. They, in turn, often use such meetings for propaganda purposes, including for the purpose of telling their own people that the United States is not going to help them.

Of course, trivializing the idea of treason by applying it to Carter’s actions—a tactic of folks like Ann Coulter and the freeper nation—isn’t a good idea, but I think it’s reasonable for Americans to expect their current and former elected officials to not actively undermine U.S. diplomatic efforts while overseas, just as I think Germans would be (rightly) offended if former chancellor Helmut Kohl went to the United States and tried to undermine German diplomatic efforts. Indeed, such efforts when undertaken by U.S. citizens are technically illegal, although the law has rarely been enforced.

Tort fraud clearly just a GOP myth

The Mississippi Supreme Court today decided to require 115 asbestos-suit plaintiffs to actually show they were injured by asbestos before they could join a class action against asbestos manufacturers. And, just last week, the last two of twelve plaintiffs in a 1999 fen-phen class action pled guilty to federal fraud charges.

Reason 732 to dislike Ann Coulter

James Joyner caught this nugget from Ms. Coulter at CPAC today:

Oddly, the woman who calls everyone who disagrees with her on international affairs a “traitor” and idiotic comments by college professors “treason,” is a big supporter of the Confederate flag. Even divorced from its civil rights era racial connotations, the flag represents treason against the Union in the most literal sense.


An interesting piece in today’s Clarion-Ledger about academic misconduct at Mississippi colleges and universities.

Funnily enough, I just talked about this topic Wednesday with my public opinion class when I handed out their take-home exam. It seems to me that honor codes and the like are just part of the puzzle; just as important is for faculty members to create circumstances in which students will be less tempted to break the rules—or, failing that, writing exams that would be very hard to effectively cheat on.

Thursday, 17 February 2005

Morissette ends own musical career

Brian J. Noggle points to news that Alanis Morissette has taken U.S. citizenship. Since the entire raison d’être of her musical career was to fill her label’s Canadian content quota, I expect her musical career (what little of it remains) to come to a screeching halt.

Correlation is not causation (volume 32 in a series)

Todd Zywicki suggests that increased advertising for legal services has increased bankruptcy filings. I tend to think that to indicate causation, Zywicki ought to at least demonstrate whether the trend in bankruptcy filings was flat before the Supreme Court found lawyers’ commercial speech constitutionally protected in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona. Unfortunately (for him, at least), Zywicki’s graph starts in 1979, two years after the 1977 ruling in Bates.

Even if he could show that, considering that this time period also corresponds with the emergence of the consumer credit card industry it would be difficult to disentangle the two effects. Slithery D is also unimpressed.

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

Wednesday, 16 February 2005

F-Unit for Senate

The Hill reports that Harold Ford, Jr. will be running for the Democratic nomination in the open-seat race for Bill Frist’s seat in the Senate in November 2006. While the article suggests that Ford’s rather controversial family may be a handicap, he’s generally stayed out of the shadow of uncle John Ford’s sleaze and his father’s alleged corruption.

James Joyner suggests that Tennessee has a “rather deep” bench of potential Republican opponents, but social conservatives like Van Hilleary, who make up most of the House delegation, haven’t fared all that well in statewide races; in recent years, successful Republican candidates have been in the moderate wing of the party, like Frist, Lamar Alexander, Don Sundquist, and Fred Thompson, and it doesn’t look like there are many of those on offer. Despite Tennessee’s generally conservative outlook, it’s a state that’s willing to elect moderate Democratic politicians like Phil Bredesen and (in his pre-veep life) Al Gore in statewide races by fairly comfortable margins, so it seems to me that Ford has a pretty good shot, particularly if the inept Hilleary gets the GOP’s nod.

By the way, Mike Hollihan has gotten a sneak peak at the campaign poster:

Golden parachute

Fail to win reelection? Well, if you’re well-connected enough, you may get to stay on the state’s payroll.

Laura points out that better-qualified adjuncts are probably quite annoyed that lovable losers like Jim Florio, Al Gore, David Dinkins, and Ronnie Musgrove are pulling in real money to teach 1–2 classes a semester at various private and public institutions.

It's not scholarship just because you got one to go to college

Everyone’s favorite piece of neoconfederate propaganda, The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, continues to pile up negative reviews, this time from Max Boot in The Weekly Standard. (þ: Instapundit and Eric Muller)

Believe it or not

Sheila O’Malley has word that one of my favorite shows when I was a kid is coming to DVD. That, the A-Team, and CHiPs had me in kid heaven.

Yes, I was a dork.

Love is all around

Belated congrats to Tim Sandefur on his engagement and to all those Signifying Nothing readers out there whose hot Valentine’s Day dates were not with a treadmill in the HAC.

Tuesday, 15 February 2005

Conspiracy theories and serving sizes

Some interesting thoughts on the difficulty of organizing a conspiracy:

Every time [a possible conspiracy] comes up in a class I ask the students if they’ve ever tried to order a pizza for 3 people, and if yes whether it was difficult to agree about what to get on it and how to divide it up. Occassionally a light bulb goes on over one of their heads when they make the connection that if pizza is this hard than conspiracy must be damn near impossible.

Completely unrelated: has anyone noticed that the recommended serving size of virtually any frozen pizza (so far tested with DiGiorno, Tombstone, and Kroger-brand Tombstone clone) is one-fifth of a pizza? However, dividing a pizza—particularly the “thin crust” DiGiorno, which is square—into fifths is left as an exercise for the consumer. (þ: Cold Spring Shops)

Saddam torture victims denied compensation—by the USA

Marc Cooper is rightly outraged that the Bush administration is attempting to stop former American POWs during the 1991 Gulf War from collecting damages for being tortured by Saddam Hussein’s regime.

While I’m somewhat sympathetic to the administration’s argument that the new Iraqi regime needs the money to help it get on its feet, and I recognize that the law that the POWs sued under (the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996) is designed mainly to deplete the assets of anti-American regimes like Cuba and Iran rather than for the purpose of securing any meaningful “justice,” I have to say this is an incredibly boneheaded decision, one that Congress would do well to force reconsideration of.

The self-delusions-of-reality-based community

I don’t always agree with Stephen Bainbridge, but he has a point about Paul Krugman’s latest missive:

Mr. Dean is squarely in the center of his party on issues like health care and national defense. (Link)

Which is precisely the Democrats’ problem. In their party, being what the Economist’s Lexington called “a moderate governor of one of the most left-wing states in the union,” qualifies you as a centrist. There’s a big difference between being a centrist in Vermont (or Manhattan or LA) and being a centrist in, say, Missouri.

Of course, that cuts both ways; a Republican at the center of his or her party (Thad Cochran? Bob Taft?) is going to be well to the right of the centrist voter in many states, and certainly would not be the same thing the media would label a “moderate” Republican (someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger, John McCain, or Christie Todd Whitman). Howard Dean may well be at the center of his party (or at least the “Democratic wing” of it, as he would put it), but that doesn’t make him a political moderate like fellow Democrats Martin Frost, John Tanner, and Joe Lieberman.

Stare decisis and all that

Nice to see the appellate courts still wasting time on claims of reporters’ privilege; it’s only been 33 years since Branzburg v. Hayes after all. And, if we’re really lucky, this means the stupid Valerie Plame business will be settled once and for all… of course, I’ve said that before. (þ: OTB)

One man's outsourcing is another's insourcing

Via the AP: Rolls-Royce announces plans for Mississippi engine-testing plant:

BAY ST. LOUIS — Airplane engine maker Rolls-Royce said today it had selected a site in Mississippi to replace its outdoor engine-testing facility in central England.

Rolls-Royce PLC announced in 2001 that it planned to close the facility in Hucknall, 120 miles north of London, once it found a new location. The firm said today it had chosen NASA‘s John C. Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis — its first partnership deal with the space agency.

“This move highlights our growing commitment to the U.S.,” James M. Guyette, president and CEO, Rolls-Royce North America, said in a statement. “As a global company with nearly 100 years of operations in this country, we are pleased to be able to conduct this important work on these shores.”

Among the engines to be tested at the Stennis site are the Rolls-Royce engines for both the Airbus A380 “Superjumbo” and Boeing 787 (formerly 7E7) Dreamliner.

Monday, 14 February 2005

The reality of corruption

Mike Hollihan looks at the motley collection of felons and other miscreants hanging around Shelby County’s halls of government today and wonders where the scandal is.

He's read my mind

James Joyner on the interminable Terry Schiavo saga:

While the issue of withdrawing life support is a messy one, I have a rough time getting too upset with the husband, who I consider the real victim in this case. His wife died fifteen years ago but, because of advancements in medical technology and the stubborn resistance of his in-laws to facing the truth, he’s being cast as the villain for simply wanting to pull the plug and get on with his life. He shouldn’t have to divorce a woman who died fifteen years ago in order to do that.

Why the Schindlers have any legal standing in this case is beyond me. Terri was an adult who was legally married. Absent a living will or other document whereby she was able to establish her desires before she entered a vegetative state, her husband is the one who has to make these crucial determinations. Certainly, he is in a better position to know what she would have wanted than the Florida legislature or Jeb Bush.

A tale of two Shiites

Is my brain malfunctioning or is this New York Times account of the Iraqi election outcome actually less pessimistic than this WaPo account?

Of course, the WaPo account spends most of its first half trying to play up the idea that Iran and Iraq (two countries that had a bloody decade-long war in the not-too-distant past) are about to become buddy-buddy, with a generous assist from Juan “Stopped Clock” Cole, then undercuts it completely with this paragraph:

U.S. and regional analysts agree that Iraq is not likely to become an Iranian surrogate. Iraq’s Arabs and Iran’s Persians have a long and rocky history. During the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq war, Iraq’s Shiite troops did not defect to Iran.

On the other hand, the Times finds not an anti-American front emerging between the “pro-Iranian” Shiites and Kurds, but instead a recipe for weak government:

The razor-thin margin apparently captured by the Shiite alliance here in election results announced Sunday seems almost certain to enshrine a weak government that will be unable to push through sweeping changes, like granting Islam a central role in the new Iraqi state. ...

The vote tally, which appeared to leave the Shiite alliance with about 140 of the national assembly’s 275 seats, fell short of what Shiite leaders had been expecting, and seemed to blunt some of the triumphant talk that could already be heard in some corners. The final results seemed to ease fears among Iraq’s Sunni, Kurd and Christian minorities that the leadership of the Shiite majority might feel free to ignore minority concerns, and possibly fall under the sway of powerful clerics, some of whom advocate the establishment of a strict Islamic state.

As a result, some Iraqi leaders predicted Sunday that the Shiite alliance would try to form a “national unity government,” containing Kurdish and Sunni leaders, as well as secular Shiites, possibly including the current prime minister, Ayad Allawi. Such a leadership would all but ensure that no decisions would be taken without a broad national consensus.

I tend to think that the Times is more accurate here, but only time will tell.

Update: On the other hand, Steven Taylor thinks the Times is making too much of “problems” that are really Comparative Politics 101, while Dan Drezner tries to wrap his head around the WaPo piece as well.

Sunday, 13 February 2005

Street cred for Junior

Half-Bakered’s Mike Hollihan is working on getting U.S. Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. a nickname with some street cred, since his having the skin tone of an albino and a juris doctor from Michigan apparently aren’t kicking it on South Third. I’m thinking something like “Master H” or “F-Unit” would work nicely.

On the Internet, anyone can be Jaye Davidson

Catallarchy’s Micha Ghertner suggested that “Libertarian Girl,” a blog I’ve never even read or seen before today, is not actually operated by a libertarian girl; the author confirms the theory. Ah, well, for those of you who have to get your libertarianism from a youthful female perspective, there’s always Jacqueline and Amber. (þ: JMPP)

Update: Wizbang!, always your home for coverage of the underbelly of the blogosphere, is now on the case.

It's all just shades of purple

The next time someone wants to sell you on the whole “red state/blue state” thing, point them to this AP piece:

LITTLE ROCK — In a bid for more national exposure, the Arkansas owners of the Miss Gay America Pageant have sold the franchise to a Mississippi company.

The annual pageant has had its headquarters in Little Rock for more than three decades. Organizers describe it as the largest and most prestigious female impersonator competition in the nation.

Former owner Norman Jones sold the pageant, its copyright and a smaller circuit of competitions on Feb. 4 to L&T Entertainment, a firm in Nesbit, Miss., about 20 miles south of Memphis.

Nineteen, nineteen eighty-five

Brian J. Noggle helps Bowling for Soup answer one of the rhetorical questions from “1985.” But when did Ozzy become an actor?

Friday, 11 February 2005

Cold sufferers latest victims of War on Some Drugs

Another entry in our ongoing series, “cut the legislature’s pay and send them home”: the nitwits in the House have managed to make it harder to buy cold medicine than it is to vote in this state.

Buying cold medicine could require showing photo ID, signing your name and talking to the pharmacist under House bills passed Thursday.

The next time any Democrats in the legislature start whining about requiring voter ID, someone ought to remind them they voted for this idiotic bill.

Thursday, 10 February 2005

Ole Miss and Memphis to square off Labor Day on ESPN

As previously noted, it’s been announced that the September 3 season-opener between Ole Miss and the University of Memphis will be moved to Labor Day afternoon and televised on ESPN, according to today’s Clarion-Ledger.

Galactica renewed

Generation deregulation

Steve Verdon has a good post on power supply problems in Texas. I added a few comments, taken from memory after being out of the power industry for several years. Take them for what they’re worth. The blog is free, isn’t it?:

I’ve been out of the power industry for six years now, but, based on what I knew then, Texas has even more problems. Every time I heard about Texas during the deregulation of generation during the 90s, it was always followed with a comment about them not being hooked into the national grid. If still accurate, they have prevented themselves from benefiting from surplus capacity in other states. Extraordinarily dumb, not unlike California limiting their grid operators to the day ahead market and making long-term purchasing agreements illegal.

Wednesday, 9 February 2005

Ok. legislator wants professors to only screw students figuratively

Eugene Volokh has a lengthy post questioning the wisdom of an Oklahoma state legislator’s proposal to define any sexual activity between a student under 21 and a university employee as “rape”.

I tend to agree with Eugene’s position—the position, incidentally, staked out in the most recent addendum to the Millsaps faculty handbook (I think; I’ll look it up when I’m at work tomorrow)—that relationships betwen faculty members and students they are currently instructing are inappropriate, for a variety of reasons that he details in his post. I generally also think that faculty members are just asking for trouble if they get involved with undergraduates—whether or not they are responsible for assessing their work—but I can’t see any good reason to make consensual sexual conduct illegal as long as both parties are over 18.

Can we get rid of the Florida manatee plates also?

This post at BTD reminded me of a few news stories recently. There are cautionary attempts to get rid of license plates that say things like “Protect Life” with a picture of a baby next to it. If opponents of the plates succeed in getting rid of them, can we also get rid of the damned manatee plates on similar grounds? I don’t see any real difference in the two; both are value judgments (wholly normative) and equally objectionable, if either is objectionable.

Apologies for the light blogging of late. I’ve been prairie-doggin’ it lately, due to an avalanche of school work.

Prof responds on bad essay

The Jawa Report has a Foothill College professor’s response to allegations of political bias in grading an essay assignment about the writing of the Constitution.

I also like Rusty’s response to student complaints that he gives too many F’s:

In fact, not a semester goes by where at least one student doesn’t accuse me of giving them an F because I don’t like their politics or have some personal vendetta against them. The fact is that neither is true.

The reason I give so many students an F is because there is no lower grade to give.

As the Blogfather would say, “heh.” (þ: Steven Taylor)

Tuesday, 8 February 2005

Setting up SMTP AUTH support for Earthlink under Debian

I had to assemble this from multiple sources (including here)… so here’s everything you need.

Quisling will do nicely

Eugene Volokh is soliciting new surnames for embattled UC-Boulder professor Ward Churchill in an effort to find a compromise.

California redistricting plan draws GOP ire

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to end redistricting as we know it in California may be hitting a snag; James Joyner notes that opposition has emerged among California’s Republican members of Congress who were gerrymandered into safe seats in the 2000 election and might have problems winning competitive elections due to the national GOP‘s position far to the right of the median California voter.

More details in today’s Los Angeles Times; meanwhile, Robert Tagorda looks at the redistricting politics on both sides of the aisle, while Kevin Drum denies he’s a hack but senses an opportune time to switch sides and support the Schwarzenegger plan nonetheless. At least Greg Wythe has been on the bandwagon all along ☺.

Incidentally, is anyone up for collecting nearly 110,000 signatures (12% of the number of votes cast in the 2003 gubernatorial race) in twelve months to qualify an initiative to do the same thing in Mississippi?

Google Maps

The Wagon

Well, I’m now 26 days into the diet program, and I have to say it’s not getting easier. In fact, life events—a relationship setback of sorts (coupled nicely with the approach of my absolute least favorite day of the year, Feburary 14th), a week of icky weather, general school stress (exam writing, prep time, the typical bizarre student issues, trying in vain not to bore my students to death), and the parade through campus of people angling for “my” job that begins in two days—have conspired to make things thoroughly unpleasant. It doesn’t exactly help that my general strategy for dealing with stress is to eat large amounts of food, something that I can’t do on my diet.

On the “up” side, I’m sleeping a bit better, probably because I’ve sharply curtailed my caffeine intake. And I’m sticking to the diet, even though the only real effect I’ve noticed so far is that my watch is even looser than usual, to the point it’s too annoying to wear much of the time.

Monday, 7 February 2005

The Mardi Gras plague

Glenn Reynolds notes a decline in class attendance at UT-Knoxville:

My classes are notably empty, and many of the students who are there are hacking, coughing and looking miserable.

I’ve noticed the same thing. Glenn blames the flu. I blame New Orleans.

Incidentally, the only tourist experience that I think possibly could be worse than Bourbon Street (in general) is Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras. But, if someone figures out a way to have Mardi Gras without the accompanying crowd of drunk teenagers I’m there.

Tupelo lawmaker supports teen pregnancy

More evidence that Mississippi has too many lawmakers and, apparently, too long a legislative session:

A practice of some teenage girls — getting birth control from neighborhood health clinics without their parents’ consent — would end under a bill pending in the Mississippi Senate.

Public Health and Welfare Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, said he’s filed the bill for about eight years without the legislation ever getting out of committee. Nunnelee’s chairmanship guarantees that the bill will at least get a Senate vote this year.

A particular highlight of the piece is Nunnelee’s apparent belief that sexually active teenagers are “little girls.” And, since the AP can’t be bothered to include the bill number in the article (a pet peeve of mine), here’s a link to all the information.

Who's your daddy?

Dan Drezner has the scoop on the hubaloo surrounding’s Super Bowl ad, which featured a pneumatic model in a tight top testifying before a bogus government committee. I thought it was a pretty funny ad and a spot-on parody of self-important lawmakers—which, no doubt, will be a major reason why you’ll hear whining from the usual suspects on Capitol Hill about the ad.

The rest of the ads were pretty so-so (though I liked the skydiving ad and the FedEx-Kinko’s ad with Burt Reynolds), I could take or leave Paul McCartney, and the game was entertaining but sloppy. Now the long off-season begins, just in time for me to start pretending to enjoy televised college basketball.

Trek going back to the fans

Former Star Trek producer Ron Moore has posted his thoughts on where Trek goes next in the post-Enterprise era to his blog.

HOPE = grade inflation

Alex Tabarrok notes recent research suggesting that Georgia’s expensive HOPE scholarship program has done little to improve access for disadvantaged students to the state’s higher ed system, at the expense of producing rampant high school grade inflation and encouraging students to avoid challenging courses in college so they can keep their scholarships.

The best that can be said for the program is that it keeps talented students in-state, which may reduce the mobility of smart people away from Georgia; whether that’s sufficient to justify a massive middle class entitlement program (financed off the stupidity of the poor, in the form of lottery ticket sales) I leave as an exercise for the reader.

Redistricting Roundup

Today’s New York Times has a somewhat lengthy piece on efforts in various states to reform their redistricting processes. As far as I know, aside from various efforts to create majority-minority Supreme Court districts, there are no serious efforts to fix redistricting in Mississippi—an oversight that surely ought to be corrected.

And, Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters says plans for a redistricting initiative in California may potentially be hijacked by partisan interests, although Walters doesn’t do a very good job of explaining how—he just alleges that requiring the redistricting commission to create competitive districts might somehow favor Republicans. (þ: Rick Hasen).

Update: More on this theme from John Fund at

Memory holed

I’ve been futzing with some posting stuff to make Robert happy; the jumps in entryids are not because we have something to cover up… just test posts (and, in some cases, non-posts) that disappeared into the ether.

Sunday, 6 February 2005

Tyranny and terrorism

Michael Kinsley's column almost got me to blog last evening, but I decided to skip it. I'll handle it now. Here's Kinsley:
The anarchist Emma Goldman said much the same thing in a 1917 essay, "The Psychology of Political Violence." It is "the despair millions of people are daily made to endure" that drives some of them to acts of terror. "Can one question the tremendous, revolutionizing effect on human character exerted by great social iniquities?" She quotes a pamphlet from British-ruled India: "Terrorism … is inevitable as long as tyranny continues, for it is not the terrorists that are to be blamed, but the tyrants who are responsible for it."

Bush does not say that tyranny excuses terrorism. But he does say that tyranny explains terrorism. This is new.

No, it’s not. Alan Kreuger did a study for the NBER more than two years ago showing that poverty is not correlated to terrorism. While that doesn’t tell us what causes terrorism, it does tell us that, absent errors in the data, poverty is not a cause of terrorism. Kreuger goes on to show correlation between political oppression and terror, though I don’t think he establishes causality.

A subsequent study (þ: OTB) showed the same thing.

Similarly, President Bush issued the National Security Strategy of 2002 in September of that year and he's been using the rhetoric of freedom as a defense against terror for at least as long. Kinsley can act like the association of tyranny and terrorism is something new and take a poke at the President, but it’s not new and the President is probably right.

Social Security for thee but not for me

Today’s WaPo carries an interesting op-ed on social security from one of the paper’s junior writers, Laura Thomas. Here’s the meat of her discussion:

It seemed as though my family (a mixture of partisan extremes, from Rush Limbaugh fans to passionate antiwar protesters) saw Social Security’s troubles as a small matter—contrary to the president’s description last week. Whether the impending collapse of Social Security is a myth or not, I shouldn’t be relying on Social Security to take care of me when I retire anyway, they said. I was taken aback by their mistaken impression that I had a sense of entitlement to Social Security, just as I was amused during the State of the Union speech to hear that Bush thought I was expecting to receive it.

I didn’t want to stir up a Christmas Eve brawl, but I nonetheless felt compelled to explain that never in my life had I assumed that Social Security was coming to me. Every time I see that somewhat shocking Social Security dollar figure subtracted on my pay stub, I choose to look at it as giving back to my older family members who’ve been known to drop random checks in the mail to their poor, desperate niece or granddaughter.

By the time we finished the antipasto, we decided that we were all more or less on the same side: Start saving now, because Social Security, if it still exists when you’re older, will only be for people on welfare or those who didn’t have the foresight or willpower to save (which will not be you, Laura).

Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy (who gets the hat-tip for the link) says none of his students “are counting on a dime from Social Security when they retire.” I haven’t polled my students on this question, but I suspect he’s right.

Meanwhile, all Kevin Drum can do is mock her stupidity for buying into Republican propaganda, although the truth—the fundamental truth—is that social security is—even today, while still “fully solvent” according to the government’s bogus accounting principles (which would land a company’s CFO and CEO in prison)—at best a safety net; anyone not on welfare who thinks they’re going to retire at the standard of living they’re accustomed to on social security alone is the “insane” one. Every penny that Drum has in his IRA, 401(k), and/or other retirement accounts puts the lie to his politically-expedient defense of the current system.

The beauty of social security is that the public was conned into having a welfare system for seniors the only way a pluralistic society can—by turning it into a handout for everyone. That social security, and its related pal Medicare (which is universal healthcare for poor seniors, packaged as a handout for everyone), are both in serious fiscal trouble is no unforseeable accident; it’s the unavoidable consequence of a system established by Democrats to ensure these two welfare schemes wouldn’t be taken away at the ballot box, like “welfare as we know it” was and Medicaid is almost certain to be.

Dèja vû all over again

Steven Taylor links a New York Times piece detailing plans by President Bush to ask Congress to cut farm subsidies, pitting Bush against many in Congress, including Mississippi senator Thad Cochran, the new Senate appropriations committee chairman (and former agriculture committee chairman). Those with longer memories—apparently not including the Times’ reporter—would recall that in the mid-90s, U.S. agricultural subsidies were reduced and the rules reformed but the 2002 farm bill rolled back many of those achievements.

Steven favors a gradual phase-out of farm subsidies, a position I wholeheartedly agree with, and starting with caps on the payments to the large conglomerates would be a great plan. Plus, this is an area where the U.S. could do a lot of good globally: both the United States and European Union have already committed to reducing farm subsidies as part of the WTO’s Doha round, but the devil (as always) is in the details.

Not so Green after all? reports that former Indiana running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who just transferred to Ole Miss, may now be heading back to Indiana. Bizarre.

Saturday, 5 February 2005

UN deathwatch

One of Austin Bay’s commenters notes a historical “Rule of 72” and figures that we can expect the UN’s death around 2018 (72 years after its 1946 founding). I can’t say I’ll be disappointed since the UN stands in the way of creating a meaningful alternative, like a coalition of liberal democracies.

More Churchill

Marc Cooper has some fighting words for his bretheren on the left who are giving Ward Churchill’s remarks a free pass:

Free speech and the first amendment should cover all professors, no matter how repugnant. I think it legitimate to defend Churchill’s right to be a vocal asshole (heaven knows most universities are densely populated with such types on both the Right and Left).

What I’m worried about is the way that some liberal groups are hemming and hawing on what he actually said. I’ve seen that some Colorado peace groups are praising Churchill as some sort of font of wisdom and downgrading his remarks as merely “stupid.” Other similar groups are actually supporting him—like this statement from the Rocky Mountain Center for Peace and Justice who in lauding Churchill characterize his remarks as only “ill-chosen.”

No. Not ill-chosen. They were carefully selected, hateful, unforgivable and demented, frankly. And having kept half-an-eye on Churchill since he emitted his execrable screed, I noticed that he has continued to be invited as a guest or panelist at numerous lefty events instead of being ostracized and ignored.

Mind you, Cooper wouldn’t have Churchill fired; neither Stephen Bainbridge nor Eugene Volokh would fire him either. Glenn Reynolds also has some linkage on Churchill’s connections (or lack thereof) to the American Indian Movement and native American ancestry in general; apparently being a “fake Indian” is even more popular than I thought previously.

Friday, 4 February 2005

For once the NYT does the right thing

With regard to “Bulgegate” that had the left side of the blogosphere worked up last Fall, the NYT explains why they couldn’t run with the story: it was all speculation. TalkLeft has the details, yet seems somewhat disappointed in the outcome.


Daniel Drezner received a gratis copy of a sex manual in the mail and is plugging it as one of his books of the month. I have two comments for Dan:

  1. Given Jacqueline Passey’s thoughts on the matter, I suspect that if some of Dan’s under-18 readers (is that a null set?) got hold of the book, I doubt many of their future mates would disapprove.
  2. Speaking of null sets, anyone considering throwing a copy my way should be aware that me having a copy of this book might possibly be even more useless than tits on a bull.

Our book of the month, however, is less likely to get you laid but may nonetheless be of interest to readers.

Spoons needs a new machine

Chris and I would differ on this, and both of us would differ with Spoons. I’m pretty sure he’s wed to a Windows box, though Chris would recommend a Linux machine and I would recommend a Mac.

Click through and give Spoons some advice. Given that he'll probably stick with a Windows machine, I recommended sticking with a Dell as well.


I went for an end-of-night stroll around the internet looking for a quote that I used years ago as an email signature. Apparently Oklahoma has had issues with cockfighting for decades, even up to the present. Here’s the quote I was looking for:

In every country the Communists have taken over, the first thing they do is outlaw cockfighting.
– John Monks, Oklahoma state representative, arguing against a bill that would make cockfighting illegal in his state
It’s now my new signature.

I also found this via The Professor, about The Professor:

10)He dresses as Santa Claus and pretends to have a heart attack in front of small groups of children.

6)He has to kill hobos to get an erection.

Thursday, 3 February 2005

Probably not a good sign

From /var/log/syslog on the laptop:

Feb 3 20:51:56 localhost smartd[6711]: Device: /dev/hda, 190 Currently unreadable (pending) sectors

Looks like it’s time to backup the laptop’s hard drive and drag it over to Best Buy for warranty service.

Inside Higher Ed

Henry Farrell and Orin Kerr both are somewhat optimistic about Inside Higher Ed, which is intended to be a web-based (and free) alternative to the venerable Chronicle of Higher Education.

I’m cautiously optimistic myself, but I wonder if its job service’s self-described mission of “transforming the tedious, time-consuming and expensive process of applying for academic jobs into something almost enjoyable” might be a tad inflated. (Indeed, transforming the job market in political science to something even vaguely resembling that mission statement would require replacing the APSA “meat market” with a proper hiring-only event that is scheduled to correspond with actual disciplinary hiring practices.)

More on the cancellation of ENT

Following up from yesterday, Steven Taylor links an E! Online piece on the demise of Star Trek: Enterprise.

Put it out of our misery

I’m with John (not Juan) Cole, Kevin Drum, and Oliver Willis: the “opposition rebuttal” to the State of the Union address is a waste of time and energy that usually makes the people who deliver it look like complete idiots (in large part because the rebuttal is written before the content of the SotU is known).

The job of the professor

Heidi Bond quotes from a rather petulant email received by Kevin Jon Haller taking issue with the latter’s use of “state time” to post to his weblog. Haller writes, in partial response:

… I think the author has a very narrow understanding of what my academic duties are. Blogging is an extension of my research and teaching, not a digression from them.

Stephen Karlson reports on another misconception of the role of the professor, while Mike Munger is highly annoyed with mid-level university functionaries telling professors what to do.

It seems to me that the job (nay, responsibility) of the professor is the dissemination and expansion of human knowledge, for the good of society at large; in other words, both teaching and research. Further, being a professor (as opposed to a teacher, instructor, or lecturer) necessarily transcends the status of “jobhood” into a (dare-I-say?) existential realm; the occupation defines one’s existence, in a way that being a secretary, janitor, lawyer, or medical doctor doesn’t.

As such, professors are never truly “off the clock,” nor are they ever truly “on the clock”—professors have professional responsibilities to teach, to counsel and advise students, and to participate in shared governance of the university or college, but the scheduling of classes and meetings are concessions to the temporal nature of the world at large rather than exercises in “clock punching.” Thus, contra the AAUP, I’m not sure there is a point at which the professor truly speaks as a “private citizen,” although there are certainly points at which the professor should make clear that he is speaking outside his field of expertise, and unless the professor is an administrator of the college or university his remarks should not be construed as to carry their endorsement.

To return to Haller’s point, the professor’s primary teaching responsibility is to his or her enrolled students, but—unlike the teacher’s responsibility—the job also entails the wider dissemination and expansion of human knowledge. Blogging—like earlier forms of professorial participation in public discourse—is thus not a “distraction,” or even an “extension,” of one’s teaching and research; it is, in fact, an essential part of it.

Wednesday, 2 February 2005

MABB IV: The Voyage Home

For our Memphis-area readers: Saturday will see another iteration of the always-popular Memphis Area Blogger’s Bash; see Dark Bilious Vapors for all the gory details.

Update: Mike has a writeup, and Abby has pictures.

Ward Churchill

I can’t say I have a huge amount of sympathy for the political views of Ward Churchill, the UC-Boulder professor who now won’t be speaking at Hamilton College. That said, he’s a tenured faculty member at Colorado—however ill-judged the decision to tenure him was—and even if he weren’t tenured, the facts that he’s an insensitive jackass with repellant views and a walking testimonial for the validity of Godwin’s Law wouldn’t rise to the level so as to justify his firing.

More at Protein Wisdom and Cold Spring Shops; another account of Churchill’s travails appears in today’s Chronicle of Higher Ed daily update ($).

Amending for Arnold back in the news

Steven Taylor notes a lengthy piece in today’s Los Angeles Times looking at efforts to amend the Constitution to permit naturalized citizens to serve as president and vice-president.

The article also looks at the historical circumstances that gave rise to the prohibition on foreign-born citizens serving as president, although mention of Britain’s 1689 Glorious Revolution, in which the Stuart monarchy was displaced by the Dutch House of Orange is curiously omitted, and past efforts to eliminate that prohibition.

I previously discussed my support for such an amendment here.

Enterprise canned

The writing on the wall was there for some time, but now it’s official; Star Trek: Enterprise will come to an end after four seasons on UPN. Although I have to say that (at least creatively) Enterprise was on the rebound, hopefully this will give the powers that be behind Trek a few years to sit down and rethink their approach to telling stories; maybe they’ll even learn something from Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica, which is getting significantly better ratings in a less desirable timeslot and with a big chunk of the potential audience having already seen the episodes that have already aired in Britain. (þ: OTB)

Bad word choice of the day

You know, I don’t think referring to the state’s leading football prospects as the state’s “Ten Most Wanted” is really projecting the image wanted by Ole Miss, State, and Southern.

Rand, rand everywhere

As a recovering Randroid—well, it was a phase of mine about fifteen years ago and it lasted less than a year—I thought I should comment on all of the recent attention that’s been given to Rand. Cass has a good post that explores it, and she even mentions my love of Rush!!

First on Rand. Cass has asked if the world we live in now—the values we claim to hold—is Rand or Rand-lite. Definitely Rand-lite, as I see it. Rand considered things as mundane, and necessary, as taxation to be slavery of one to another. If I recall correctly, she was trying to come up with a way for the government to operate without taxes, such as charging people for access to the courts and police protection. Similarly, she was quite dogmatic about, well, everything. She considered self-sacrifice repulsive, even though Cass gives the matter a more thoughtful reading. One passage I recall is her trying to figure out if one should risk his life to save another’s. I believe she used the lifeboat scenario and concluded that in an emergency, self-sacrifice might be appropriate.

Ultimately, what turned me off of Rand was the coldness of her philosophy. Her philosophy could be taken straight out of the Declaration of Independence, but she takes it to an extreme that is unsatisfying. Don’t get me wrong: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is a very basic, even foundational, description of liberty and one which I whole-heartedly endorse. In fact, The Declaration is as close to a holy book as I have. However, I see it more as defining the role of government than telling me how to live my life.

Now to Rush. My love for them pre-dates the Randroid period by seven or eight years. My first exposure to them was through the album Moving Pictures and if you listen to the lyrics to Tom Sawyer, it’s pretty clear that they were influenced by Rand. One blurb: “his mind is not for rent; to any God or government”. Sounds like her to me.

The other songs that I can think of, off the top of my head, that were influenced by her include Free Will and all of the album 2112. The title song is several things, one of which is a rant against totalitarianism and is also about human aspirations. IIRC, the first words are “And the meek shall inherit the Earth”, though the meaning isn’t the same as the Bible. In fact, it means the opposite. The meek will be trapped on Earth while the brave and adventurous will capture the solar system, though they will have to continue their battle against totalitarianism.

Lately, though, my favorite Rush song has been Red Sector A. It’s a story about the horrors of gulags, or concentration camps, and is quite moving. I can still remember the arguments about Rush starting to use synthesizers in their music (it happened a few years before Grace Under Pressure, which has Red Sector A, but I was a bit young to appreciate Rush when they made the switch; I was still hung up on Blondie and Rapper’s Delight).

Rush is still my favorite group, though Rand has been replaced by Hayek and Friedman.

See also these posts (here and here) at Marginal Revolution.

OTB Traffic Jam

Tuesday, 1 February 2005

Free idea for the C-L

Steven Taylor notes that the Austin American-Statesman has started a weblog just covering the Texas state legislature. It seems to me that the Clarion-Ledger could easily do the same thing for the Mississippi Legislature and provide a much more useful service to its readers than its typical output of 2–3 articles a day during the session.