Thursday, 31 March 2005

Stallone and Selleck: Prophets before their time

Jeff Licquia finds that thieves are discovering something anyone who saw Demolition Man twelve years ago already knew: biometrics don’t do a good job checking whether or not the owner is still attached to the thing being scanned. For that matter, the Tom Selleck sci-fi flick Runaway showed biometric scamming in action 21 years ago. Do the people who come up with these things just not watch sci-fi films?

Pope receives Last Rites

Pope John Paul II has received his Last Rites and appears to be near death. The death doesn’t appear imminent, but the ceremony of Last Rites is not a good sign. I’m not particularly religious these days, but I grew up a Catholic and he’s the only Pope I’ve ever known. In any case, Godspeed, good man:

Pope John Paul II was given the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church late Thursday night as his health deteriorated, a Vatican source has told CNN.

The sacrament does not necessarily mean that the pope is dying. Last rites—also known as the sacrament of anointing the sick—are commonly given to people who are seriously ill as well. The pope received the sacrament after he was shot by a would-be assassin in 1981.

The pope is suffering from a high fever caused by a urinary tract infection, the Vatican confirmed earlier Thursday—one day after revealing he had been put on a nasal feeding tube for nutrition.

Intellectual diversity

Todd Zywicki has a lengthy post at The Volokh Conspiracy on the merits of intellectual diversity on campus, most of which I am in full agreement with. However, Zywicki seems to have picked a rather poor example of indoctrination:

My “History of the American South” class was a one semester narrative by a Marxist professor on how rich southern whites had conspired to manipulate racist sentiments among lower-class whites to keep them from banding together in the “natural” economic alliance of poor whites and blacks to plunder the property of rich whites. He was the only one who taught it, so if I wanted to take it (I was from South Carolina, so I was interested in it), I had to take it from him.

I hate to break it to Zywicki, but that’s basically what rich whites did during the post-Civil War era in the South, a phenomenon that continues (in diminished form) to this day. You don’t have to be a Marxist to buy that argument, although I suppose it helps.

Granted, there are other important aspects of Southern history and politics (although most of them are connected, at least somewhat, to the twin issues of elite dominance and race as well), so if the entire semester was just a rant on that particular topic I’d say Zywicki had a rather poor instructor. But “divide the have-nots through racist appeals” was a cornerstone of planter-elite strategy to maintain political and economic power, particularly in the Deep South, well into the 1960s.

Chronicle freebies

A couple of somewhat weird articles have appeared on the Chronicle of Higher Education website in the last few days. First off, a graduate student decides to reinforce some stereotypes of academics:

After years of reading The Chronicle, I’ve heard just about every complaint that teachers can make—about a lack of appreciation for what we do, trouble getting students to talk, the vagaries of grading—but there’s one basic complaint that has gone unexplored so far: What if you’re so hot and bothered that you have trouble teaching the class?

Um, I’d advise sucking it up and dealing with it, or getting a girlfriend to solve that whole being “hot and bothered” thing. For what it’s worth, it’s 80 degrees out today and everyone’s pretty much half-naked here.

Second, Gene Fant of Union University (in lovely Jackson, Tennessee) explains why I can’t get a job in the geographic area that I want to work in. Now someone tells me.

Wednesday, 30 March 2005

What a gas

I came home today to find a gas leak in my apartment, apparently caused by a hole in the hose between my gas stove and the supply line in my kitchen. Fun! (Thankfully, the gas to the stove was able to be switched off until the landlord can get a replacement gas hose tomorrow morning, without also disabling the heat and hot water.)

Shat Happens

I saw the first episode of Invasion Iowa last night and found it pretty entertaining. The person who came up with the idea of Shatner hauling around his Emmy with him was a genius, and “Tiny” dancing around in his nude Speedo was pretty funny too. We’ll see how they push it a bit further over the next few days as the other characters get fleshed out.

Monday, 28 March 2005

A hairy situation

Mike Munger writes:

Now, those of you who have had the great pleasure of beholding Kgrease in the flesh know that (1) there is a lot of flesh, and (2) my hair is shoulder length, very curly, and with lots of blonde highlights. Some of those highlights are from the sun, but most come from chemical products applied by a trained and highly competent hairdresser. (That’s right: “My name is Blonde….Fake Blonde.”)

A wash/haircut/highlights job from my hairdresser costs $90, plus $15 or so tip.

I think it’s pretty safe to say I’d never had guessed that Mike spent $105 on his hair, although I suppose it’s also safe to say I suspected the “clean cut” look on his vita or here was probably closer to nature’s effects than this. Surreal, indeed.

Sunday, 27 March 2005

Before me and you

Before I become Staff, Departmental and blank, there’s still a job to be done here—most notably on my current radar, administering written comprehensive exams to 24 seniors on Monday night, then grading the American portions of said exams and sitting in on oral comps the following week. Happy happy, joy joy.

There's hegemony, and then there's hegemony

If I’d known there was a T-shirt with this logo on it, I might have considered purchasing it to wear at the conference this weekend. Somehow I doubt the humor would have been highly appreciated.

Free advice to the University of Memphis IT department

Four hints:

  • You might want to run a spyware and virus scan on the guest PC on the fourth floor of the Fogelman Executive Center. It sorely needs it.
  • Don’t try to secure your wireless network with MAC address security, particularly if you allow guest login access to a PC on the network.
  • If you do secure your wireless network with MAC address security, don’t allow known wired MAC addresses to connect wirelessly.
  • Don’t annoy your alumni by not granting gratis wireless access to guests at your own hotel. Particularly when the Holiday Inn across the street, also operated by the university, does have gratis access for its guests, and you already have wireless infrastructure in the building. (This annoyance, by the way, will be remembered when I have some money to give to various alumni associations.)


Photo by request

I met my friends Alfie and Annie for dinner tonight at Corky’s, followed by beers at the Fox and Hound on Sanderlin; both events were punctuated by bad service, but otherwise quite enjoyable.

As both Mr. and the future Mrs. Sumrall are avid Signifying Nothing fans, I indulged a request from Annie for her photo to be posted to the blog; apologies for the low quality, as the flash on my camera phone sucks royally, although daylight photos come out fairly well.

Saturday, 26 March 2005

Disliking both sides of an argument

For most of the Terri Schiavo controversy, I’ve sided with the Schindlers. The ideal outcome, given that the daughter had the medical problems to begin with, would have been to let the parents take custody of her and have Michael Schiavo divorce her and move on. The time for that has passed, though.

When the week started, I was a little concerned that opponents of Congress’s move to allow federal jurisdiction would claim that it was unconstitutional, when the Constitution allows Congress to set the jurisdiction of cases. As a matter of custom we usually don’t allow this, but it’s unclear that it’s unconstitutional. It appeared to me that the opponents of the move were themselves being selective—and dishonest—in claiming that it’s unconstitutional.

Now it seems that the Schindlers have gone overboard. They’re obviously interested in seeing their daughter, but they’ve shown themselves to be too hysterical for anyone to accept their judgment. They made political threats against the Republicans in Congress and against Jeb Bush; one of their “expert” doctors is a quack; and, they’re making unverifiable claims that their daughter tried to speak before the tube was removed. Clearly they can’t be trusted on future decisions about the matter. To make things even worse, they’ve brought Randall Terry into the mix, which is never a good sign.

I started the week off thinking that Congress and the President did a good thing by allowing the federal courts to have a look at this. In the mean time it has become clear that the other supporters of that decision won’t be happy until they get the right outcome, regardless of what the law says. Every time a decision that goes against them is made, they move the goalposts and no-one will be spared from their wrath. I hope the Republicans (and I, also) never fall for an attempt to pander to hysterics again.

For more of their misadventures, see the attacks on Donald Sensing, here and here.

Friday, 25 March 2005

AJPS, theorists at war

Some interesting discussion is happening on the H-PolMeth list over an apparent policy by the editors of the American Journal of Political Science to reject papers for a variety of reasons, most controversially including summarily rejecting any article that advances formal theory without an empirical application of that theory. Without taking sides (I can always hope I might get a pub in the AJPS someday, and the people on the other side of the dispute include at least one good friend of mine), all I can say is that this one could become highly entertaining real quick.

Thursday, 24 March 2005

Compromising democrats

The Democrats offered a compromise on abortion that wasn’t a compromise at all. One of Ross’s commenters (see link) made a suggestion that is a real compromise and fits quite nicely with my own views on both the death penalty and abortion: pass a constitutional amendment that bans post-first-trimester abortions and ends the death penalty in this country.

It has the benefit of matching my views, which I’m sure everyone is concerned about, and it wouldn’t come down from our robed masters at SCOTUS. If it did pass it would represent a real consensus that we don’t get from SCOTUS rulings. It won’t happen, though, because the Left isn’t interested in compromising, but rather holding their own views in place and calling it a consensus.

(þ: Jane)

Wednesday, 23 March 2005

Ode to House

Greg of Begging to Differ says House is his new favorite TV show. While it’s not my absolute favorite show at the moment (I probably would rank Galactica a small notch higher), it’s truly compelling TV—and that’s spoken by someone who has never cared for either medical dramas or CSI-type shows.

She has a point, you know

I shouldn’t have laughed at this post on the Terri Schiavo saga from the newly-made-over Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey, but I did:

In all the debate about “what Terri would have wanted” people seem to be forgetting that her vegetative state was initially caused by anorexia and bulimia. She was TRYING to starve herself. Let her finish.

In all seriousness, though, I’m thinking there are far more important things for the Florida and U.S. legislatures to be using their time on; of course, the libertarian in me thinks (perhaps on the erroneous assumption that time is a meaningful legislative commodity) the more time they spend on this the less they can spend futzing with my life.

Get Hitched

Since Mom “Beat Beifuss” (the Commercial Appeal’s movie reviewer) in the Oscar picks this year, she won a crapload of free passes to Malco movies, so we went to see Hitch tonight out in Collierville. We both thought it was a very entertaining and cute movie; I’d go see it if you haven’t already.

Monday, 21 March 2005

What we have here is a failure to discriminate

The second exam in American government had good and bad points; the good point was that the average, an 82, was basically where I wanted it to be. The bad point is that, somehow, the standard deviation was 4. So bad, in fact, I was sorely tempted to rescale the scores so there would be a larger standard deviation. Even worse, the correlation between scores on the first two exams was something like 0.2.

In layman’s terms, somehow I managed to ask 30 multiple choice questions, about 25 of which were either too easy (almost everyone got them right) or too hard (the only way people got them right was by guessing); coupled with the essay questions that never seem to discriminate well among students, I produced an exam that was borderline useless. Ugh.


Michael Jennings has photos up at Samizdata from his recent trip to view the highly impressive Millau Viaduct in France.


James Joyner links to an AP article about Coca-Cola’s plans to launch a new product in June, called “Coca-Cola Zero.” He asks:

It’s unclear why Coke Zero will be different from Diet Coke or Coke C2.

Well, the obvious answer is that C2 is not a zero-calorie soda; it’s just half the calories of regular Coke. Diet Coke doesn’t taste anything like Coke. So, the moral of the story is that a “diet Coke” that tastes like real Coke would be worth having; according to Coke’s press release, that’s the plan:

“Coca-Cola Zero is exactly what young adults told us they wanted – real Coca-Cola taste, zero calories and a new brand they can call their own,” said Dan Dillon, vice president, Diet Portfolio, Coca-Cola North America. “Young people today do not want to compromise on flavor or calories and we think Coca-Cola Zero’s taste and personality will appeal to them.”

There’s a product website here, of course.

Move along home

As alluded to below, I am very pleased to announce that I have accepted an appointment as a visiting assistant professor at Duke University for the 2005–06 academic year, which—if nothing else—will make Duke the most blogged political science department in the world. Thankfully for Messrs. Troester and Nyhan, however, Dr. Munger has chosen to inflict me primarily on the undergraduate population.

I’m told that my offer of employment is conditional on learning how to spell Coach K’s full name, so I suppose I should get to work on learning that, as well figuring out why a glorified gym is referred to as an “indoor stadium”—perhaps because the events at the outdoor stadium, absent the good graces of Mr. Spurrier, are such a disappointment.

In other news, the paper I sent to APR got rejected (or, as I like to call it, “revise and resubmit—but elsewhere”). At least it wasn’t in turnaround hell forever.

Update: Will Baude quibbles with my assertion that Duke is now the “most blogged” political science department in the world. If one were to count the joint-appointed and intermittent blogger Cass Sunstein and the silent Jacob Levy, I might grant his point, although I’ll raise him the equally-silent Dan Lee in the Blue Devils’ defense. Of course, Drezner can squash us all like bugs, but on one-person, one-blog rules I think we’re essentially tied.

Further Update: Mr. Troester adds D. Laurence Rice to the list, pulling Duke ahead by my estimation.

The crisis continues: Mr. Baude has dug up two more UC types with blogs. Can my fellow Cameron Crazies meet this challenge?

Think thin(g)

Former Element of Nothingness* Brock Sides notes some controversy about the phrase “you’ve got another thing coming,” used here. Just what I need—another first date question I have to remember to ask.

The rational public

I tend not to put a large amount of stock in public opinion polls, but caveats aside, an ABC News poll shows the public is rather unconvinced of the merits of Congress’ intervention in the case and the case itself, as am I (þ: PoliBlog); there’s more details on the poll here.

Update: Orin Kerr points out some rather serious issues with the question wording of the ABC News poll.

Work that isn't my day job

I just finished preparing my invited presentation for the NAFTA symposium this coming weekend at the University of Memphis. I have absolutely no clue how my presentation on the Interstate 69 corridor will be received among such papers as “Intersecting Capitalism, Patriarchy, and the Environment: Looking at NAFTA through a Gendered Lens” and “NAFTA and the Legal Consciousness of Caribbean Migrant Farm Workers.” Hopefully all will go well.

Anyway, here’s the PDF version of the presentation in all its glory. It’s nothing particularly spectacular, and if you’ve read it’s nothing new, but it gets the job done.

Sunday, 20 March 2005

Huzzah and kudos

Congratulations to Jeff Quinton of Backcountry Conservative and his new fiancée on their engagement today in Washington, D.C.

Olé olé olé

Seen at the top of yesterday’s Clarion-Ledger: Michigan State 89, Ole Dominion 81. Ole habits die hard, I guess.

No-gloating zone

Good thing I don’t have any affinity for the Duke Blue Devils, or else I’d be enthusiastically celebrating their victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Instead, I’m just enthusiastically celebrating the defeat of the Bulldogs.

Midterm loss?

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Bob Novak, who for reasons inexplicable to me is still walking the streets of this great nation instead of rotting in jail for contempt of court, states the obvious in a column that can only be characterized as “random 3-graf thoughts from Bob Novak.” Here’s the whole item of interest:

Analysts at the Republican National Committee have sent this warning to the House of Representatives: The party is in danger of losing 25 seats in the 2006 election and, therefore, of losing control of the House for the first time since the 1994 election.

Although some Republicans on Capitol Hill believe the RNC is just trying to frighten them, concern about keeping the present 232–202 edge pervades GOP ranks. The second midterm election of an eight-year presidency often produces heavy congressional losses for the party in power.

A footnote: Rep. Christopher Shays, re-elected from his Connecticut district last year with 52 percent, is considered by colleagues as the most vulnerable Republican incumbent. Other especially shaky GOP House members include Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania and Rob Simmons of Connecticut.

I doubt there are even 25 competitive House seats in the nation, much less 25 occupied by Republicans. Not to mention that the “midterm loss” theory has gone 0–2 since the 1994 Republican takeover of the House of Representatives; in 1998, the Democrats picked up seats during the impeachment debacle, while Republicans gained in 2002 during the slowest “rush to war” in human history. I suppose it’s possible that the historical midterm loss trend will return, but I wouldn’t try to predict it 20 months in advance regardless.

Che for libertarians

Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey has a mostly positive review of The Motorcycle Diaries. Politics aside, as I mentioned in my review at the time, the “buddy film” character of the piece makes it most enjoyable, and it’s fair to say that the film doesn’t really take much of a political stand beyond making young Guevara the center of the story—which, I suppose, is pretty much inherent in a biopic.

Previous discussion of the movie here and here.

Make it wave

A nasty thunderstorm this morning, in addition to tripping the master circuit breaker on my apartment (hidden behind a panel on my outside electric meter, instead of hiding in the circuit breaker box in my laundry room), killed a power strip in my bedroom and my microwave oven, both of which were pretty close to being on their last legs anyway. So now I’m the proud owner of a new GE microwave oven from Wal-Mart, which seems roughly equivalent in features and wattage to the old microwave.

Saturday, 19 March 2005


As you may have noticed, I’ve done some minor futzing with the stylesheet recently. The big changes are a new header image that replaces the Magnolia and Tennessee flags with a cartographic theme, made with scans* from my Michelin 2005 Road Atlas, that better uses PNG alpha transparency; frames around each post; and the “recent Flickr photos” box at the top of the page, currently featuring my camera phone photos from today and the ones I took on my aging Olympus C-2100UZ camera in New Orleans.

Feeling my Irish

Had a fun day today at Mal’s St. Paddy’s Parade in downtown Jackson with glowing Kamilla, object-of-glow Andy, adjective-defying Kelly, and Friday (Kelly’s dog), including a 3 mile stroll from the humble abode and back that compensated for the HAC being closed today. For your edification, here are a few photos from my camera phone of the beautiful people (i.e. not me) frolicking in West Street Park after the parade.

Friday, 18 March 2005

Dip it not-so-low

Those under the impression that limiting legislative sessions to 90 days every two years would reduce legislative stupidity have another thing coming, apparently:

The Friday night lights in Texas could soon be without bumpin’ and grindin’ cheerleaders. Legislation filed by Rep. Al Edwards would put an end to “sexually suggestive” performances at athletic events and other extracurricular competitions.

“It’s just too sexually oriented, you know, the way they’re shaking their behinds and going on, breaking it down,” said Edwards, a 26-year veteran of the Texas House. “And then we say to them, ‘don’t get involved in sex unless it’s marriage or love, it’s dangerous out there’ and yet the teachers and directors are helping them go through those kind of gyrations.”

Under Edwards’ bill, if a school district knowingly permits such a performance, funds from the state would be reduced in an amount to be determined by the education commissioner.

Edwards said he filed the bill as a result of several instances of seeing such ribald performances in his district.

One is forced to wonder if Edwards was among those protesting Elvis Presley back in the 50s. On the upside, I initially misread the headline as “Lawmaker Seeks to End Sexy Cheerleaders,” which would seem to eliminate any purpose for having cheerleaders to begin with. (þ: OTB and others.)


I’m glad to see I’m not the only college professor who is sick and tired of TIAA-CREF’s current advertising campaign. In particular, I’m not entirely convinced that one prof lecturing to a room of 200-plus bored undergraduates (the centerpiece of one of these ads) is “serving the greater good,” or even the individual good of anyone involved in the process. Plus, given most college faculty’s antipathy-to-outright-hostility toward Division I athletics, one suspects TIAA-CREF’s members might question the organization’s expenditure to help pay CBS’s bills for airing the tourney.

Prof. Karlson’s point about the “greater good” being served by such things as comparative advantage and a market-based economy, in addition to doctors and college professors, is also well taken.

In terms of the tournament itself, color me deeply pleased that two of America’s most overrated basketball programs, Syracuse and Kansas, both got spanked by rank outsiders today.

Thursday, 17 March 2005

Dave attracts another crazy person

Truly bizarre:

A painter working at David Letterman’s Montana ranch was charged Thursday with plotting to kidnap the talk-show host’s toddler son and nanny and hold them for $5 million ransom.

Kelly A. Frank, 43, was being held on a felony charge of solicitation, among others.

Montana Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sally Hilander said the plot was uncovered when someone Frank had approached about the plan informed local police.

They’re throwing the book at this guy:

In addition to the solicitation charge, Frank also is charged with felony theft for allegedly overcharging Letterman for painting, and a misdemeanor charge of obstruction for lying to an investigator who first contacted him about the alleged plot. [emphasis mine]

Mind you, this isn’t the first time nutjobs have gone after Dave:

For years, Letterman was targeted by a stalker who called herself “Mrs. David Letterman” and broke into his Connecticut house at least seven times.

Margaret Ray eventually pleaded guilty to breaking and entering. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, she served 10 months in prison and 14 months in a mental institution. In 1998, she committed suicide at age 46 by kneeling in front of a train.

As Steven Taylor says, this is insane.

M-Quality for bond before they were against it

The hooked-up “humanitarian” outfit called M-Quality has decided to withdraw its request for a cool half-mil in state loans after adverse media attention to its dubious business plan of exporting ”‘poultry, beef, lamb and pork skins’ to the Carribean as a humanitarian service.”


Steven Taylor is putting out feelers for someone who knows international political economy for a potential gig at Troy State University. If you’re interested, you know where to find him…

Off the QT

Now it’s public, I’d like to congratulate my cousin Melvin Patrick Ely, author of Israel on the Appomattox and professor of history and African-American studies at the College of William and Mary, on winning the Bancroft Prize in American History. More here.

Something to look at

Every time I start looking at Jefferson, like earlier today, it ends up leading me elsewhere. Today, I found this. If you’re interested in deism, or something similar, take a look.

Wednesday, 16 March 2005

So just give me one good reason, tell me why I should stay

Had a nice early dinner tonight with my colleagues-slash-friends Suzanne, Peter, Kamilla, and Kelly at Hal and Mal’s to celebrate some good employment news, the precise details of which I’m not ready to share with all the readers of Signifying Nothing just yet.

Topics of discussion included such eclectic topics as hair (Kelly’s good, mine bad), the spatial properties of glowingness (I made an argument that glow is a multidimensional concept that has, at least, romantic and vocational axes, while others disagreed), coattail effects, the incumbency advantage, metrics of success, whether “free love” and pot was all it was cracked up to be in the late 60s and early 70s, sumo wrestling as a career option, and the geography of Ann Arbor. Damn I’m going to miss these folks.

A weird time to go wobbly

Like many, I’ve had my doubts about the potential success of the war in Iraq. In fact, I had them last Fall in Cass’s comments section back when she was at Jet Noise. I never thought I would see Michele go wobbly, though.

Michele is apparently experiencing buyer’s remorse over having voted for President Bush back in the Fall. She’s even starting to question us going to war in Iraq. Coming from one of the founders of The Command Post, a post I manned in the runup to the Iraq War, it’s more than a little astonishing.

Here’s Michele on her reasons for experiencing buyer’s remorse:

Social Security. Bankruptcy. The insistence of the far right that they have some kind of religious mandate now and we need to revert back to our Christian roots and morals. And yes, Iraq.
One at a time:
  • Social Security: it’s not clear to me why there should be any remorse here. Bush’s support for private accounts is one of the worst kept secrets in the world. He’s favored them since the 2000 race. Lately, I’ve started to question the need for the accounts myself, but I can’t claim that Bush’s support for them is a surprise.

    According to Zogby, this is part of a political realignment that Bush is attempting to engineer. Maybe so, but it seems like a far more difficult solution to the problem than is needed (for more see here, here and here) and that the effort to reform Social Security would be better spent working on Medicare, which is a far bigger problem.

  • Bankruptcy: this is a little more bothersome, but not as much as Michele seems to think. From what I’ve read, the credit card companies are refusing to accept any responsibility for the people they give cards to. This seems a bit unfair, and I would like for it to be different, but it’s not something to get worked up over. The best solution is to limit your use of credit cards and you won’t have to deal with the bankruptcy bill. If there’s more to it than that, please let me know.
  • The religious right: Michele and I apparently read different publications. Even if the religious right thinks it has a mandate, what are they gonna do? Throw people in jail for going to the wrong church, or for not going at all? I’ll be in there with all of the other sinners.

    On gay marriage it seems that they mostly want it to be handled at a state level. Some want it outlawed nationwide, but it’ll never happen. They couldn’t even get the FMA out of the Senate last Fall and it doesn’t outlaw gay marriage; it simply guarantees that it’s left to the states. The optimal answer here is to let the states decide and that appears to be what is happening.

    Abortion is another item, but again, the religious right doesn’t seem to be intent on outlawing it nationwide; they simply want it returned to the states, which is all that would happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned. The real problem is that the courts intervened in this process thirty years ago and tried to fashion a consensus where none existed. And it’s still a huge issue today precisely because the Court intervened, rather than leaving it to the states. If someone tries to do the opposite and outlaw it nationwide before a consensus exists, I’ll be screaming about it as well. Until then, I won’t worry about it.

  • The Iraq War: this is the most inexplicable of Michele’s gripes. Finally, after months and months of nothing but bad news, the idea of freedom in the Middle East seems to be getting a bit of traction, and part of it can be traced to the reelection of President Bush. By reelecting President Bush we told the rest of the world that we can’t be rolled and that we’ll remain committed to what we started. The people in other countries in the Middle East have taken this to heart and are acting on this and other events to work for freedom. How is this sneaking past Michele?

    Like Cass said, it’s gut check time. All we have to do is be resolute in our jobs as computer jockies and let the troops know that what they are doing is not in vain. I can do that.

It’s weird. Right now I support Bush more strongly than I ever have and seeing others get buyer’s remorse is a bit confusing.


I love my students most of the time, but I’ve got to hand it to the guy who sent me an attachment today with the title IMFUCKED.WPS. Actually, the title is very appropriate, as I wasn't able to open the file using OpenOffice, Word, or WordPerfect; you can’t grade what you can’t read. Thankfully (for the student, at least), a bit of googling implicated Microsoft Works as a possible producer of this document, so maybe I can figure out a way to get it into OpenOffice so I can print the thing.

Mystery group gets half-mil state loan

I love Mississippi politics sometimes. Case in point: yesterday, the idiots we elected to our House of Representatives approved a bond package that features a $500,000 loan to some newly-incorporated outfit without even an office:

M-Quality Inc. is a “humanitarian group” and will perform work in the Caribbean, House Ways and Means Chairman Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg, said about the 4-month-old company. Watson said that is all he was told about M-Quality by one of the firm’s incorporators, Dr. Roy Irons, president of the Mississippi Port Authority board of commissioners.

Corruption? Pshaw. Nothing to see here, move along.

Catfight 2008

I’ve been a big fan of Condi running in 2008 for some time now. The issue has been popping up everywhere since Sunday and has never really gone away at all (Condi's rather lengthy, and tortured denial didn't help).

Condi has some negatives for a Republican—she’s pro-choice and supposedly supports affirmative action—but the positives outweigh that by a great deal. Foreign policy is a great starting point and I’ve seen no indication that she would be all that different than most free-market Republicans.

On the abortion issue, which is usually a deal killer for most Republicans in the primary, Condi isn’t nearly as far out as many Democrats, which usually involves abortions on demand up until the baby crowns. Also, she won’t get elected in a vacuum and will have to pay attention to the pro-lifers. When it comes down to it, Republicans are far more reasonable than the Democrats on the issue and I hope the Republicans aren’t marginalized in the same way the Democrats have been due to their hard-headedness on the issue.

Outside of Condi, the Republicans have a very shallow bench for 2008. In fact, the best candidate outside of Condi seems to be Jeb Bush. If Hillary runs, that will do away with a lot of the nepotism charges and make a run for Jeb easier.

As for Hillary, Condi could whip her with a corn stalk.


I’ve never been a fan of the phrase “state’s rights” since I view individuals as rights holders, so I generally use the word federalism instead. The Professor points to an article that makes the distinction. I’m simply marking it for later reading, and hoping it will be of interest to you.

Sacrilege (but funny)

Ryan dredges the Dead Parrots archives and finds this gem from last year (þ: Begging to Differ). Good thing I don’t have any reason to have any Cameron Crazy pride or anything, or else I might be insulted.

Monday, 14 March 2005


Ten-digit dialling came to much of Mississippi overnight. No reports yet of panic, although those most prone to panic are probably out in sheds in Neshoba County—and may be unable to call anyone to express their panic.

Exactly why the PUC went with the overlay instead of just splitting 601 again is one of those unresolved mysteries that probably should be resolved.

Sunday, 13 March 2005

Just say no to NOLA

Final thoughts on New Orleans:

  • Both Mike Munger and Dan Drezner have slightly more substantive posts about the panel.
  • The “most unlikely sighting of a URL” award for my visit goes to John Brown’s New Orleans Sidewalk Astronomy, which was set up right next to our table at Café du Monde. It was a perfect evening for stargazing; perhaps we should have partaken.
  • I do have a few photos from my stroll around New Orleans today; maybe I’ll post them at some point.
  • We missed TigerHawk by 48 hours or so.

Sigh. Now back to the grind.

The Day After

Today, I decided to continue to semi-unwind in New Orleans rather than driving straight back to Jackson. I think I ended up walking around downtown and the French Quarter for about four hours, although I spent much of that time at the D-Day Museum (excellent, and well worth the $14, even though I’d had the history of it before when I visited Normandy with my dad in 1990) and the aquarium (my five-year-old cousin probably would have enjoyed it, but I couldn’t exclude the $16 admission from my evaluation of the clearly kid-geared presentation; the jellyfish were neat, however). Also worth seeing is the New Orleans Holocaust Memorial, an interesting piece of public art on the riverwalk just downriver from the aquarium.

Had I decided to play tourist before 10 a.m. this morning—or if I’d realized that her cell number was in my cell phone before I was calling my dad on the way back to Jackson—I probably could have had the company of TLLJ, who I believe had similar plans for the day, although the simple pleasure of wandering about alone with one’s own thoughts should never be discounted.

We came, we saw, we blogged

As some may already know, I was one of three participants in a panel entitled “Can academics be bloggers? Can bloggers be academics?” at the Public Choice Society conference in New Orleans, organized by Mike Munger and co-starring Mike and Dan Drezner. I think we had a really good and interesting discussion with the audience, although I’m uncertain how much my participation really enhanced things.

I also had the serendipitous opportunity to catch up with the lovely Leslie Johns from NYU, a friend and fellow TA from ICPSR this past summer; Dan, Leslie, and I ended up having a nice dinner at Arnaud’s (which Dan kindly paid for), followed by some sort of alcoholic slurpee concoction from a Bourbon Street vendor and beignets at Café du Monde.

After a pretty up-and-down week, it was nice to have a low-stress conference and a day with some good company.

Personal crud

A few odds and ends:

  • Had a nice time Friday night hanging out with my friend Kamilla and some of her fellow Baha’i at their mid-fast feast. Plus I got to show my massive dominance at Scrabble at the Video Café afterwards, although I don’t think anyone was really impressed.
  • My friend Kelly (who also hung out with the Baha’i) is exhibiting some recent work as part of a show at Lemuria starting on Tuesday. Buy some of her stuff; it’s helping a good cause.
  • I’ve got three tests to write and an honors committee progress meeting between now and Wednesday afternoon. Don’t expect lots of blogging in the meantime.
  • There might be some really great job news I can share in a few days. Or there might not be, I’m not entirely sure yet. You’ll know it when you see it.

Saturday, 12 March 2005

How is this possible?

They wrote a report and everything!!

There’s been a lot of attention paid to this midterm meeting on the Lisbon Report, wherein the EU planned to catch up with the US on a number of economics measures. It’s apparently not working out (duh). Every time someone in the EU suggests substantial reforms, they’re shouted down as “neoliberals” (capitalists).

(þ: Tim Blair and The Professor.)

See also here, here, here and here.

Friday, 11 March 2005

Things that annoy me

Every time I log on to MyAPSA, I have to scroll past this stupid message:

Thank you for submitting your proposal to the 2005 Annual Meeting program. We received a large number of excellent proposals—too many, unfortunately, to be able to incorporate all of them into the program. Your proposal has not been accepted to the program.

We appreciate your interest in the upcoming APSA Annual Meeting and hope that you have the opportunity to attend.

Now, if I were just someone who had submitted a proposal and been rejected, I’d be annoyed by the reminder every time I log in that I got dinged—on the first login, I could see it being valuable, but by the 30th or so I think I’d be pissed off. But I didn’t even submit a proposal, so it’s just insulting me for no good reason. Jackasses.

Just another reminder that, as Mr. Pravda says, “it’s always a good idea to underreport your professional income when paying dues to the APSA.”

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy

Edgar Ray Killen, accused of involvement in the 1964 “Philadelphia Three” murders, had both of his femurs broken when a tree fell on him yesterday. He’s apparently been in surgery all day at UMC. According to the AP:

The accident happened when one tree Killen had cut fell onto another one, [Killen’s attorney, Mitch] Moran said. As Killen cut the supporting tree, the top tree fell onto his head and drove him into the ground, causing the leg injuries. People nearby called for help, Moran said.

“It kind of drove him in the ground like a pile driver,” Moran said.

I believe this is pretty much what the Old Testament was talking about when people were “smited.”

Special Handling

Tonight’s episode of Battlestar Galactica is the thoroughly awesome “Hand of God,” which is probably the best single episode of the first season (“Kobol’s Last Gleaming,” the season-ending two-parter, is equally as good, but spread out over two episodes). And don’t miss the podcast commentary by Ron Moore while you’re at it. (þ: UBSGB).

Also tonight: Stargate SG-1’s “Threads,” a 90-minute episode which promises to wrap up quite a few plotlines in time for the season finale.

The appearance of (tasty) corruption

An amusing story from the AP today: a town alderwoman in Ecru (a small town in north Mississippi near Oxford) was accused of attempting to bribe voters with baked goods. I’m familiar with the concept of women getting to your heart via your stomach, but this is the first time I’ve heard of one getting you to dimple your chads.

Thursday, 10 March 2005


Do any of my readers need a guy pushing 30 with a Ph.D. in political science for anything? Statistical analysis of data, teaching undergraduate students, lawn mowing, assistant fry cook, you name it. He’s available end of July; maybe sooner.

Just curious.

Wednesday, 9 March 2005

Purer than thou art

Mike Munger took the purity test that I took exactly a year ago and got a 54 out of 160 (my score was a 50 at the time, and has subsequently declined to 41). He makes a pretty good point too:

I agree that government is evil, but like most social scientists (even economists) I think it is a necessary evil.

Indeed, I don’t even think most classical liberals argued there should be no government. And, for what it’s worth, I don’t even think institutions are inherently evil, although I’ll grant that governments that only do non-evil things are rare and even governments we retrospectively idealize for some things (for example, libertarians who look fondly on the substantive due process era) had major faults in other areas (because substantive due process was generally only applied to economic rights; if you were a black in the South, substantive due process did bupkiss for you). The Great Libertarian Paradise, like the Great Socialist Workers’ Paradise, has never come to fruition and probably never will.

Apropos of this point, the folks over at Questions and Observations are setting up a Neolibertarian Network of likeminded weblogs; go take a peek if you’re interested.

Tuesday, 8 March 2005

SN gets results, volume 3 or so

About 18 months ago, I wrote:

If the Rebel coaches want students to be interested in coming to practice and supporting the team, they should have a regularly-scheduled, free “open practice” session at the stadium, open up the concessions, and maybe even let manageable groups come down to the sidelines or end zone so they can take a look at that fancy new artificial turf we have. They could learn something here from the basketball program, which goes to much greater lengths to drum up fan support.

Let’s read today’s Clarion-Ledger:

Ole Miss fans curious about what changes new football coach Ed Orgeron has in store for the program experienced a significant one Monday when they showed up to get a peek at practice.

They were actually welcomed to stick around.

Orgeron told a room full of fans when he was hired on Dec. 16 that Ole Miss football was going to be a family affair with him at the helm. Helen Carraway said Orgeron took a huge step toward fulfilling that promise.

Carraway was one of an estimated 250 fans who lined up around the track inside Ole Miss’ indoor practice facility to watch the Rebels kick off spring practice.

Now if we could just understand a word Coach O said, we’d be set.

Cool Firefox extension of the day

Mike Hollihan recommends Quick Note for Firefox, a “post-it note” tool that works from the right-click menu and includes the URL of the page you’re visiting, and it does look very nifty… particularly when trying to compose a post that references more than web page.

Meanwhile, those of you who can’t remember whether or not Godfather actor Abe Vigoda is still alive may find this extension helpful (þ: Ryan at the DPS). Quick Note seems more useful, though.

Monday, 7 March 2005

The rule of 72

Michael Barone has a column that would be better titled “The Rule Of 72”—not the one used for financial purposes, but the one I mentioned here. It’s an interesting read. Check it out.

(þ: Power Line)

Redistricting editorial

The lead editorial in today’s Clarion-Ledger calls on Mississippi to adopt a non-partisan redistricting panel to set congressional and state legislative districts, noting the mess resulting from the last redistricting round in 2001. As noted before, a initiative to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot would be a long-shot, but perhaps the prospect of another fight over congressional districts will get the legislature to consider adopting a non-partisan districting proposal.

The Clarion-Ledger also carries an article today looking at the wrangling over judicial redistricting and the defeat of Ed Blackmon’s “single-shot” districting bill.

Paper trails

Stephen Bainbridge has dug up a law review article that includes evidence that Robert Byrd, in fact, endorsed the Senate’s ability to amend the Senate rules to limit the filibuster by a simple majority vote in 1979; it’s not exactly the equivalent of the “nuclear option,” which would be a (possibly suspect) ruling from the chair, but it’s pretty damning evidence nonetheless (þ: Steven Taylor; more here).

Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite syphilocon/national securty threat Robert Novak is reduced to complaining about the order in which Arlen Specter plans to send judicial nominees to the Senate floor, which is doubly amusing since at the end of the article he concedes it won’t matter anyway (þ: memeorandum).

Sunday, 6 March 2005

The Bus

There’s a nice tribute to Jerome Bettis here. It’s a little too early to be doing a tribute to him because he might still play another year for the Steelers, but it’s a nice rundown of his career. Most impressive.


Cassandra has a good, detailed post that explores the hypothetical primacy of international law over domestic law. There’s not much I can add to her post, other than I agree with her and hope that, when the time comes (if ever), it is approached by amending the Constitution, not imposed on us by our robed masters. It would take several decades of goodwill on the part of the rest of the world before I favored this. Even then, I would wait until right before death to say it out loud, so I don’t have to deal with the aftermath.

Cass’s post is a followup to an earlier post of mine. Be sure to wish her well as she takes a little time off from blogging. You’ll have to use a different post for that, as she’s closed comments on the linked post.

The touch, the feel of a sensible Times editorial

Sunday’s New York Times has an unsigned editorial noting the opportunity to fix America’s cotton farming subsidies as the result of an adverse World Trade Organization ruling on Thursday. As in the case of the Canadian beef case, President Bush appears to be on the right side of the issue, marking a welcome change of pace from his election-driven protectionist behavior on steel imports.

Are you Monica Seles or just happy to see me?

There are few things more distracting than, while killing yourself on an exercise bike, hearing the 20-ish young woman behind you on a treadmill either (a) grunting like tennis player Monica Seles or (b) having a really loud orgasm. Since I have no delusions about my physical attractiveness, I am forced to assume that (a) is the correct explanation.

Natural rights

Jon Henke has an excellent post that I unfortunately don’t have the time to go into in detail. The issue is whether natural rights exist since they aren’t visible, and so forth. He makes, essentially, a utilitarian argument about rights—they exist because others agree that they exist. I’m not comfortable with this position because the “rights as social construct” concept leaves a lot of room for people to tamper with you for whatever reason they choose.

I’m an adherent to the natural rights view, but the only thing “natural” about them is that they create a moral case for the person whose rights are being violated to do whatever is necessary to secure them, including violence. Of course, there are trade-offs to be made. I live in Mississippi and there are certainly laws here (as with any state) that were cooked up by some tin-pot tyrant that have nothing to do with protecting anyone’s rights. They simply did it because they could. Is each of these worth fighting over? No.

I would like to say more, but time is short. Check out Jon’s post.

Saturday, 5 March 2005

Comment feed

For those of you who like to keep up with the discussions on our posts, a few minutes of hacking led to an experimental Atom feed of comments. It’s not playing nicely with If-Modified-Since yet, so be gentle.

Tonight's project

I cobbled together an op-ed on judicial nominations and the filibuster for the Clarion-Ledger. Let’s see if it makes print; maybe they’re looking for a Mary Matalin (or at least a George Stephanapolous) to Bob McElvaine’s James Carville.

More from the Klansman

Steven Taylor points out that in addition to eliding his own role in the anti-Civil Rights Act filibusters of the 1960s, perennial Signifying Nothing foil Robert Byrd seems to be forgetting that he was Senate Majority Whip (the second most senior leadership position in the Senate, behind only the Majority Leader—the Vice President and president pro tempore are essentially powerless) when the cloture rule on ending filibusters went from two-thirds to three-fifths back in 1975.

Update: Hugh Hewitt, writing for the Weekly Standard, finds Byrd singing a different tune about rules changes in 1979 too (þ: Prof. Bainbridge).

Galactica fan humor

Jeff Harrell is proposing a T-shirt design to help you join the new McCarthyism.

Incidentally, I initially considered this week’s episode (“Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down”) the weakest outing of the first season, but on second viewing it’s grown on me a bit. And those of you who just tune in to sci-fi shows for cool explosions won’t want to miss next week’s episode, “Hand of God,” also featuring the coolest bit of misdirection I’ve seen in a long time.

Another thing: don’t miss the Unofficial Battlestar Galactica Blog.

Friday, 4 March 2005

Where only one gender has gone before

A couple of interesting things I noticed today are being discussed at Begging to Differ:

  • Today’s New York Times carried a story on unisex bathrooms; I tend to think the solution to this issue (discussed today by Will Baude and Hei Lun, among others) is the spread of unisex, handicapped-accessible/baby changing restrooms, which would seem to be the solution for the gender-confused or gender-transitioning, rather than “desegregation” of bathrooms in general. Incidentally, every story I’ve heard about womens’ restrooms has echoed Amber Taylor’s indication that they tend to be worse than mens’ rooms (initially, I was surprised too); I should ask the custodial staff for an objective evaluation.
  • I learned a new word today: heteronormative, which apparently doesn’t mean that you think diversity is a good thing (i.e. what the word would mean if it were constructed from the actual meaning of the stem “hetero”; more properly, the word should be “heterosexualnormative”). Greg has more if you care. Given my epistemological leanings and the likely composition of the audience, I suspect Ms. Pinkett Smith’s comments were probably more heteropositive or heteroempirical. Or something.

Plug'd again

When it rains, it pours. Thanks to Steven Taylor of PoliBlog for naming Signifying Nothing as one of his three favorite blogs in his interview with Norm Geras.

It's always Martha, Martha, Martha

In honor of Martha Stewart’s release from the big house, Jeff Goldstein has helpfully compiled all of his screencaps of Ms. Stewart’s prison diary (probably NSFW, but it’s Friday night so who cares?).

Movie theaters and price differentials

Tyler Cowen has an intriguing post on movies costing the same, regardless of popularity. As someone who’s been to literally thousands of movies, I have a couple of thoughts.

I think much of the reason for the lack of price differentials has to do with contracts from the studios. They are very protective of their profits, maybe to the point of not maximizing them, even. When the first Star Wars prequel came out six years ago, I read an article that Lucas’s contract stipulated that the movie must play in the four largest theaters (for a certain class of large multiplex) and for four consecutive weeks, regardless of attendance.

When I lived in Illinois, I frequently went to a huge multiplex and noticed that they had a number of theaters of differing sizes. I suspected then, as now, that they created the multiplexes with various theater sizes to allow some flexibility to compensate for the lack of price flexibility. That way movies like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” can run for months on end in a small theater and generate word of mouth. Similarly, popular movies can be moved to smaller theaters as their audience declines.

Another thing I read is that for the first four weeks of a movie’s run, the studio gets around 90% of the box office. This helps account for the outrageous cost of a Coke and popcorn. If the studios allowed the theaters to vary their prices, and share an even cut of the film’s box office over its run, I suspect much of this weirdness would go away and the obsession with blockbusters would disappear. I also suspect that more movies would be profitable if the prices were allowed to vary.

Currently listening to: "Up On Cripple Creek".

McCain-Feingold and the blogosphere

I haven’t had anything to say about the CNet interview with FEC commissioner Brad Smith, so I’m a bit late to the party, but apparently the controversy has a former McCain aide and FEC commissioner trying to respin the story. (þ: InstaPundit).

I Ubuntu, You Ubuntu

I somehow managed to end up with a bastardized Debian unstable/Ubuntu hybrid on my laptop that seems to be working fairly nicely; oddly enough, my original intent was to get Evolution Exchange working again with the Millsaps mail system, but that doesn’t seem to have happened. Except for some minor annoyances, mostly having to do with Ubuntu’s decision to make Python 2.4 its “default” Python, I think it’s pretty nice… particularly the ability to run the GNOME 2.10 prerelease and the X server and xcompmgr for nifty drop-shadows on my windows (the fade effect was too annoyingly slow on my laptop, so I ditched it).

So, basically, Ubuntu is Debian without the FUBAR release process and without me as a maintainer, which I see as two mostly-positive changes.

Round and round we go

Continuing my roundabout theme, today’s Clarion-Ledger reports on construction of a roundabout on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford as part of the North-South Parkway (a.k.a. Gertrude Ford Boulevard) project.

Thinking like a lawyer

Sebastian Holdsclaw has extracted a rather interesting comment from a long thread at Left2Right about judicial interpretation of the Constitution. However, I don’t know if it will get me to abandon my long-held opinion (only reinforced by attempting to teach two entire constitutional law textbooks) that every judicial mode of reasoning is just an excuse for attitudinalism run rampant.

College entrance exams

The Times today also has a piece on the trend of more students taking both the ACT and SAT, due in part to recent changes to the SAT. I found this passage in the article somewhat disturbing, however:

“There’s almost no reason not to take ACT,” said Lisa Jacobson, chief executive of Inspirica, a tutoring and test preparation company in New York. “The only significant reason not to is if a kid is totally stressed out, and doesn’t want to spend another Saturday taking tests.”

Students have nothing to lose by taking the ACT, she and others say, because they can take the test as many times as they want and choose which scores, if any, to send to colleges—a calming option for students with severe test anxieties. In contrast, all SAT scores are sent to all colleges a student applies to. [emphasis mine]

Doesn’t this fact shoot any meaningful comparability between the two tests straight to hell, despite the well-known “equivalency tables” between the two exams?

Where's the Canadian beef?

Today’s New York Times has a piece in the business section looking at the effects of the Canadian beef import ban on both sides of the border—few of which are good unless you’re an American cattle rancher. It seems fairly clear (to me, at least) that the motivation behind those seeking to extend the ban is naked protectionism rather than concern about Americans’ health.

The small bit of silver lining in this is that, unlike on the steel tariffs, the president is on the right side of the issue, although there are many in Congress who aren’t.

Thursday, 3 March 2005


I am a lousy 15% metrosexual. (þ: ChicagoBoyz)

Some pens mightier than others

Tim Sandefur and Ed at Dispatches from the Culture Wars are blogging about their favorite pens. Mr. Sandefur’s preferred Pilot V-Ball Extra Fine Point was my favorite for the longest time as well, and I still have a few floating around the apartment, but recently I’ve become more enamored of the Sanford uniball Vision Elite, particularly in the super-fine blue-black and red inks, the latter of which I use for grading.

Downsize Me

Colby Cosh talks about a guy in Canada who’s eating nothing but McDonald’s food and still losing weight. Colby asks:

Is it some kind of heresy to suggest that McDonald’s may not necessarily be a temple of doom for people who want to eat right, and are prepared to go about it armed with common sense?

Clearly, yes.

Incidentally, the diet is going reasonably well; I lost about four pounds last week, with four days of 30–40 minutes of aerobic exercise, about 15 minutes a session on various pieces of weight-training equipment, with limited changes in diet that mostly add up to “don’t eat all the time.”

Wednesday, 2 March 2005

Ars gratia artis

Tonight I went to see an interesting slide show of installation art and sculpture by Renee Una.* The more I think about it, the more I realize that the only adjective I can apply to it is interesting; I’ve seen art by friends that I can say is “good” or qualitatively “better” than their other art, but I was unable to provide any sort of evaluative statement about Ms. Una’s art. Does art have to be good or bad, or can it just be interesting?

Roper (not the guy who replaced Siskel)

Unlike my co-blogger, I tend to think that the Supreme Court’s decision in Roper v. Simmons was the morally correct one—in general, I am suspicious of the death penalty not for legal or practical reasons, but philosophical ones; namely, that the state should not have the power to kill its own citizens, whether or not they are of some arbitrary age. Having said that, like Will Baude, Steven Taylor, and James Joyner I am deeply skeptical of any form of legal reasoning that relies on state legislatures to decide the constitutionality of various actions. I may have more coherent thoughts once I’ve actually sat down with the opinion… which comes at a fortuitous time, as we will cover the 8th amendment on March 16th in my con law class.

In other judicial news, I tend to think the Padilla case was correctly decided (both on the legal merits and the moral ones), following most generally from Hamdi (particularly Scalia’s partial dissent, which I think articulated the correct standard) and Ex parte Milligan.

Tuesday, 1 March 2005

Death penalty

Seeing the juvenile death penalty overturned today was good in a number of ways—the reading of the constitution that says the 8th amendment is malleable is plausible to me—but the 5th amendment reading other people are putting forward is not. Already there are calls to overturn the death penalty altogether on constitutional grounds. These, however, are not plausible.

I should be happy with today’s ruling, but I’m not. Most of the people calling for a complete overturn of the death penalty have apparently not read the constitution:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Note that it is constitional to take a life provided that due process is provided. The death penalty is mentioned elsewhere in the constitution and the country’s history doesn’t support a conclusion that it is unconstitutional.

The references to international law are a bit galling as well. I looked at the opinion and Kennedy did limit those references and stated that they had no legal weight. If so, why mention them? I'm with Scalia: if the Justices want to indulge their curiosity, fine. Just keep it out of their opinions.