Saturday, 30 April 2005

Social insecurity

Me, three months ago:

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 [in the future].

The New York Times, tomorrow:

In choosing to preserve benefits for the less well off and not raise taxes on more affluent people, Mr. Bush sought to cast himself in the Democrats’ traditional role as a defender of the poor. In his radio address on Saturday, he said: “By providing more generous benefits for low-income retirees, we’ll make good on this commitment: If you work hard and pay into Social Security your entire life, you will not retire into poverty.”

But critics, including most Democratic lawmakers, say that such an approach would undermine a central bargain conceived during the New Deal: that Social Security is not just a welfare program for the poor but a form of social insurance that people at all income levels pay into and reap rewards from.

“Social Security is not a poverty program, it is a retirement system people have worked hard for, paid into and have earned,” said Representative Sander M. Levin, Democrat of Michigan.

If it becomes increasingly irrelevant for middle-income people, the critics warn, Social Security will eventually become little more than an empty shell.

Most intriguing. (þ: Eric Lindholm)

Right hemisphere

Of late I’ve been making a vague attempt to broaden my appreciation of various things artistic and musical. A couple of students have pointed me in some different musical directions; here’s what I’ve added to my collection lately:

Last, but not least, one of my students this past semester in American government is in a band called Enursha with a spiffy new website. (I have some other musician students but I don’t know if they want me plugging their stuff!)

Closer to fine

Somehow I managed to lose eight pounds since the last time I visited the HAC (which I’ve narrowed down to “sometime after the time change”), and I don’t have the faintest clue how I did it—indeed, all I’ve done lately is misbehave on the diet and exercise front. I guess that’s good.

W in Canton Tuesday

The president is coming to the Nissan plant on Tuesday as part of his “reform social security” bandwagon tour. Anyone under the delusion that Mississippi is important in presidential politics should note that this is only Bush’s third visit to the state since being taking office in 2001.

Friday, 29 April 2005

Johnson shrinkage

The polls have gone from bad to worse for incumbent mayor Harvey Johnson in Tuesday’s primary: WJTV’s poll of registered voters shows a stunning 64–30 edge for Frank Melton on the question “Who would make a better mayor?”—which isn’t exactly “Who do you plan to vote for on Tuesday?” but pretty damn close.

More coverage at the Jackson’s Next Mayor blog; I could try to dig through the comments at the JFP to find something but Donna Ladd doesn’t seem to get the whole “new topic needs a new post” concept behind blogging (and I came up dry on anything except a Clarion-Ledger link anyway).

Quiz'd again

Yeah, this is pretty much right, although the high ranking of Philly was a bit of a surprise, since Scott and I thought it was kind of a cesspool when we visited for APSA in 2003:

American Cities That Best Fit You:
65% Chicago
65% Philadelphia
60% Atlanta
60% Miami
55% San Diego
Which American Cities Best Fit You?

þ: PoliBlog.

Hedwig and George Street

My generally-nonexistent social life had a brief blip Thursday night: Kelly and I saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Hal and Mal’s (muy excellente), and followed up by meeting Kamilla and Andy at George Street where a couple of acts were playing and a fair share of the Millsaps political science majors were partying. Fun and merriment were had by all, I do believe.

No doubt frequent commenter Scott will chime in to provide his review of George Street. For my part, I thought it was a pretty nice place, though the $5 Bass on tap seemed a tad steep (maybe I'm too fond of Oxford prices).

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

This has to be read to be disbelieved

It takes a lot to get me to blog these days, with finals and qualifiers approaching, but this article at The Guardian has done it.

They begin by declaring Tony Blair a “war criminal” and say he’s the worst British PM since Chamberlain. You can see where this is going, right? Chamberlain appeased Germany and Blair “appeased” the U.S. by supporting the Iraq War. Hence, the U.S. is Germany of the 1930s. Well, minus the territorial ambitions, a dictator running the country and a million other things. No socialism either.

I’ll quote a good bit from the article, but you really should read it all for yourself:

Blair has followed in his footsteps, and is destined for the same place in history's hall of infamy. Like Chamberlain, he is an arrogant and God-fuelled appeaser, the unseemly ally of an unbridled country that presents a global threat similar to Germany in the 1930s.

Tony Blair has been the worst prime minister since Neville Chamberlain, a figure with whom he shares a number of significant characteristics. Chamberlain was a supremely confident and arrogant politician, an excellent speaker and a deeply religious man with a hotline to God. He had an unassailable majority in parliament, was popular in the country and presided over a cabinet stuffed with nonentities.

Unfamiliar with the outside world, he conducted his own disastrous foreign policy with the help of backroom advisers as ignorant as himself. By seeking to appease the German government, the principal threat to world peace at the time, he onlysucceeded in encouraging that country's appetite for aggression and expansionism. His egregious errors played a not insignificant role in the outbreak of the second world war, the principal tragedy of the 20th century.

Blair has followed in his footsteps, and is destined for the same place in history’s hall of infamy. Like Chamberlain, he is an arrogant and God-fuelled appeaser, the unseemly ally of an unbridled country that presents a global threat similar to Germany in the 1930s.

Instead of seeking a grand alliance to confront this new danger – “a coalition of the unwilling” that would include the Europeans, the Russians and the Chinese – Blair has sided with the evil empire. He has taken up a role as its principal cheerleader, obliging Britain to become a participant in its wars of aggression. Today’s Labour party has been a supine collaborator in this policy of appeasement, just like the Tory party in the 1930s. Blair’s war party must be defeated at the polls.

So. Britain should have sided with Russia, China and France rather than the U.S. I’m glad this idiot isn’t actually running things in Britain.

Guess who

If I didn’t know better, I’d say Glenn was the political scientist and Andrew the lawyer.

Of course, I might also express some skepticism about this phrase from Sullivan:

Gay couples who have had basic rights taken away from them since November

I’d like to meet these gay couples who have been deprived of a right they actually had on November 1, 2004. Indeed, I tend to think the scorecard over the past few months is +2 for gay couples, as Oregon and Connecticut have civil union bills either passed or well on their way to passage. You could argue that in the states that passed anti-same-sex marriage amendments (including Oregon), gay couples lost constitutional recognition of rights that weren’t recognized by any of those states in practice anyway—and could only be recognized in the future by judicial fiat, since none of those states had ever intentionally created a right to same-sex marriage—but that’s something of a stretch.

Update: Daniel Drezner is underwhelmed by Sullivan’s political theory credentials based on the TNR piece that had something to do with the Sullivan-Reynolds debate.

Another Update: I probably should correct the score to +1, as I forgot about Texas passing its (ill-advised, though probably constitutionally valid) law forbidding adoptions by gay couples.

Stereotype conformance

I walked around Belhaven with my camera today and took a few photos. This was by far the most amusing photo I took:

Belhaven patriotism/Freedom House

I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation why a French flag would be flying outside a house in Belhaven, but I found this juxtaposition incredibly funny nonetheless.

Terminal cuteness insufficient

The gals at Go Fug Yourself are right: Bermuda shorts just aren’t appropriate for any event at which you might be photographed, unless it’s a beach party. What’s semi-frightening, though, is that Kristen Bell (q.v.) almost pulls it off through sheer force of cuteness.

Oh, yeah, and that Logan Echolls is a real bastard. Unless he didn’t really do it (and I suspect he didn’t, but what do I know?), in which case he’s cool.

Mayor poll

Today’s Clarion-Ledger reports on a poll showing Frank Melton with a double-digit lead in the Democratic primary (scheduled for Tuesday) of the Jackson mayoral race.

Predicting these things is always messy, especially with Mississippi’s open primary laws and low turnout rates in primary elections, but a 13-point lead (well outside the 4.5 point margin of error) is quite impressive. Mind you, there’s a surprisingly big undecided pool out there—hence why Johnson’s camp is trying to hang the DINO label on Melton to solidify support among Democratic identifiers, not to mention the use of the “northeast Jackson” codeword for “whitey.”

Update: More commentary here and here. For what it's worth, the Mason-Dixon poll shows a somewhat wider margin than the exit poll we conducted in November (712 respondents who were actual voters from five precincts), but we didn't give an "undecided" option (or list any other potential candidates).

Not a guy named Buster from Philly

James Joyner has lots of linkage today on the filibuster, including a link to Steven Taylor’s civics lesson on the origins of the practice (and the meaning of “checks and balances”). It’s good stuff: go forth and read it.

Now is as good a time as any to relink the filibuster op-ed, including (for the first time on this blog) the unedited version of the piece. As the op-ed indicates, I’m more ambivalent than both James and Steven on abolishing the filibuster outright—and, as Jacqueline Passey points out, obstructionism has its uses.

Useful tool

A friend passed along the Ron Mexico name generator. My alter ego is apparently “Bruno Jamaica.”

Incidentally, at least none of my students in intro last night thought the Supreme Court case that applied the exclusionary rule to the states was People v. Ron Mexico. (On the downside, I did have one student who thought the Shakira-Aguillera test had something to do with the free exercise clause.)

This is my entry in today's DIY OTB Traffic Jam.

Ode to ugly chicks

As the web’s resident critic of pop song lyrics, I appreciate the sentiment behind Jesse McCartney’s Beautiful Soul, but I’m not sure the chorus is exactly what your object-of-smittenness wants to hear:

I don’t want another pretty face
I don’t want just anyone to hold
I don’t want my love to go to waste
I want you and your beautiful soul

In other words, McCartney wants to have a homely girl who doesn’t believe in the use of birth control. Then again, maybe I’m just reading too much into his use of the phrase “I don’t want my love to go to waste”...

Tuesday, 26 April 2005

“No” is the new “yes”

Dan Drezner wonders aloud about the implications of French voters deciding to reject the proposed E.U. constitution; he certainly doesn’t buy the doomsday scenario advanced by former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi.

Since the referendum is likely to fail for reasons other than policy grounds* (French voters being as ignorant of policy as any other democratic public’s citizens), reworking parts of the treaty, as suggested in this Economist piece, seems to be an unlikely solution. Rather, I tend to think (as some of Dan’s commenters suggest) that France may say “no” today, but will say “yes” later; the French electorate will have its protest vote, then get back onboard in a few months, probably without any substantive concessions. Ditto for the Netherlands.

Of course, the longer-term issue is that the iterated game is much less likely to work in Britain, where the public has never really been sold on the E.U. since joining in 1973. But again it’s unlikely that any proposed constitution would pass muster with the British electorate—again, because voters’ ratification decisions on the constitution won’t be made on policy grounds.

Sunday, 24 April 2005

Turnout collapsing in Britain

Robert Tagorda has a link to a really interesting Christian Science Monitor piece that notes a massive collapse in voter turnout in the United Kingdom over the last decade:

With less than two weeks to the May 5 vote, the big question facing British politicians is not who votes for them, but who votes at all. Experts predict the lowest participation in a century.

Turnout that persisted above 70 percent for decades after World War II is expected to plunge to 53 percent this cycle, according to Professor Paul Whiteley of England’s Essex University. Turnout in the 2004 US presidential vote was 61 percent.

Turnout is expected to be especially dire among young people – and worse still in inner-city districts like Vauxhall. “People of my generation do feel guilty if we don’t vote, but 18— to 20-year-olds don’t,” says Mr. Whiteley. “They don’t see party politics as interesting.”

Bizarre theories are raised for this turnout collapse by some:

Some critics charge that the increasingly presidential nature of British politics is a turn-off. Martin Bell, a former independent member of Parliament, says Parliament is too subservient to the prime minister. Mr. Bell, who is now managing a campaign for a candidate running against Mr. Blair in his Sedgefield constituency, also cites the erosion of trust in politicians.

“The problem of trust is at the bottom of the distaste for public life,” he says. “The prime minister hardly ever appears in Parliament. He hardly ever votes himself” in parliament, he adds. The inference is clear: Why should the electorate vote, when the country’s leading politician doesn’t?

The imperial prime minister (or, at least, the imperial cabinet) is nothing new in British politics (Walter Bagehot wrote about it in 1867 in The English Constitution), so Bell’s explanation seems rather unlikely. Another theory seems slightly more plausible:

Then there is the dramatic shift in British political geography. A generation ago, Britain’s electoral map looked like a Piet Mondrian painting: red slab in the north for Labour, blue block in the south for Conservative – a split evoking the contrast between coast and hinterland in the last US presidential vote.

Today, the map is pixellated like a faulty computer screen.

Ms. Giddy says it’s part of a cultural shift. “You don’t have strong allegiances to communities and parties in the way you did, say, when living in a mining town meant you voted Labour as an extension of your community,” she says.

This theory—essentially, dealignment of the British electorate—makes some degree of sense; indeed, dealignment of the electorate is a common explanation for turnout decline (despite increased ideological polarization of the major parties) in the United States. Of course, dealignment would suggest a substantial reduction in the importance of social class in British politics—something I’d hesitate to argue has happened, absent a lot more evidence. Either way, it will be interesting to see if the turnout rate is as low as the 53% figure posited by some of the experts; my gut feeling is that it will be higher, but what do I know?

Saturday, 23 April 2005

Cry for help

Can anyone recommend some good books that teach one to use SAS for econometrics? I bought a couple of books from Amazon, which were highly recommended, but apparently not for people that are interested in econometric applications. The types of books I would be looking for would list ALL of the options for the commonly-used procedures (proc reg, proc means, proc ttest, etc.) and list them together with the command, rather than having them scattered throughout the book (and then only some of them).

A book with a f*cking index would be valuable as well. Another good book would include examples of programs written using both SAS procedures and IML, again of the kind an economist would use.

I plan to learn Stata in the not-too-distant-future but it’ll do me no good for class, which requires SAS.

My love don't cost quite as much as hers

Brian J. Noggle on Bennifer redux:

Nothing says “I love you” like giving the second Jennifer a ring that’s 73% of the one given to Jennifer I.

The only thing I suppose Jennifer Garner might possibly see in Ben Affleck is a better script than Elektra.

Friday, 22 April 2005

Cops handcuff five-year-old

Robert’s post below juxtaposes rather oddly with this bizarre ABC News story I just saw on memeorandum. Freaky.


For those with a wicked sense of humor (that includes me), this will probably be one of the best blog posts you ever read.

DuBose now a Major

Just to prove how far out of the loop I am, people in other states have been letting me know that Millsaps hired Mike DuBose as defensive coordinator of the football program today; here’s the press release.

It looks like something of a coup for the Majors, who have been attempting to rebuild the football program the last couple of seasons with improved facilities and new blood on the coaching staff, including DuBose and former Alcorn State and arena league star Fred McNair. It wouldn’t be particularly surprising to see DuBose move up to head coach sooner rather than later, as rumors of current head coach David Saunders moving on to a I-A assistant coaching job have been circling for a while—recently, he was rumored to be on the shortlist for Ed Orgeron’s staff at Ole Miss.

The Wright Stuff

Bryan at Arguing with Signposts talks about the asinine Wright Amendment, a provision of federal law that prohibits Southwest Airlines from serving most of the United States for passengers headed to or from Dallas’ Love Field. There’s more details on the back-and-forth lobbying here and here (registration required for both), and background on the Wright amendment in this Virginia Postrel op-ed; I have to say it’s downright odd (for me, at least) to be in the position of agreeing with Trent Lott’s position on an issue.

Thursday, 21 April 2005

Mister Quito

The fun down in Ecuador continues after the semi-deposal of its president by at least part of Ecuador’s Congress, and it doesn’t look like the mess is going to be cleaned up any time soon.

House calls

Steven Jens and I are having a bit of a discussion about the latest developments on House, M.D. at his place; there’s also an interesting post on the show up at

Abort this

Apropos the previous two posts, I noticed something odd in the comments on this sidebar post at the Jackson’s Next Mayor blog: two people debating incumbent mayor Harvey Johnson’s position on the abortion issue.

I’m at a loss to figure out what exactly a city mayor’s authority over abortion would be; indeed, the only elected officials I can see whose positions on abortion would be worth knowing (at least, given the current situation where the Supreme Court decides what public policy is acceptable on abortion) would be presidential candidates and U.S. senators, who are responsible for nominating and confirming appointments to the Supreme Court. Even if that weren’t the case, I don’t really know what the mayor could do for or against abortions, or—for that matter—what another candidate would do differently on abortion.

The only thing I can figure is that candidates’ positions on abortion are seen as proxies for general ideology by at least some voters, which I suppose makes sense (given that abortion is a fairly “easy” issue in Carmines and Stimson’s typology), but it’s not all that great of a shortcut.


My local media infamy continues to increase in this week’s issue of Planet Weekly, one of Jackson’s two alt-weekies:

Such questions [about ties between bloggers and political campaigns, and whether independent blogs are campaign contributions] are becoming more and more prevalent as websites and blogs become more of a force in politics at all levels, said Dr. Chris Lawrence, visiting professor of political science at Millsaps College and webmaster of a blog called “Signifying Nothing,” which he’s operated since 2003 [sic: actually, November 2002, but who cares?]. Such sites can serve as an organizational tool for volunteers, a media channel for voters, or a method for campaigns to get their message out, said Lawrence.

The article is about the Jackson’s Next Mayor blog, which is in something of a pissing contest with the Jackson Free Press, the other alt-weekly; the JFP says JNM is carrying water for incumbent mayor Harvey Johnson’s opponents, while JNM says the JFP is carrying water for Johnson—I’d charge both as being “guilty” on all counts, as a mostly-disinterested observer.

Incidentally, it’s amazing how much more pub I’m getting now that I’m leaving town…

Brooks on Roe

A good David Brooks piece appeared in today’s New York Times on the hyperpoliticization of the abortion issue in the wake of Roe v. Wade. An excerpt to whet your appetite:

Justice Harry Blackmun did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American. When he and his Supreme Court colleagues issued the Roe v. Wade decision, they set off a cycle of political viciousness and counter-viciousness that has poisoned public life ever since, and now threatens to destroy the Senate as we know it.

When Blackmun wrote the Roe decision, it took the abortion issue out of the legislatures and put it into the courts. If it had remained in the legislatures, we would have seen a series of state-by-state compromises reflecting the views of the centrist majority that’s always existed on this issue. These legislative compromises wouldn’t have pleased everyone, but would have been regarded as legitimate.

Instead, Blackmun and his concurring colleagues invented a right to abortion, and imposed a solution more extreme than the policies of just about any other comparable nation.


I meant to blog this before I went to bed last night, but the permanent link hadn’t appeared yet in the RSS feed. More here.

DPL Interview

There’s a pretty interesting and far-ranging interview by Rob Levin of the new Debian Project Leader, Branden Robinson, up at Levin’s blog. While Branden and I don’t agree on many things politically, he’s a great guy in person and a damn good developer, and I think he’ll make a great DPL. Of course, I would say that to rationalize my #1 rankings of him on at least the last two ballots! (þ: Linux Weekly News)

Wednesday, 20 April 2005

What to blog, what to blog

Well, there’s a new pope… I guess I should say something about that. Instead, I’ll let the Catholics duke it out—in particular, I’ll witness the fur fly between Andrew Sullivan and Stephen Bainbridge.

In other news, Ms. Passey has good news for those men who engage in regular sexual activity (solo or otherwise); more details here. One wonders what Pope Benedict XVI thinks of this news.

Oh, and my semester is over in 13 hours (except for finals and this pesky honor code violation problem I’m having to deal with). I plan to celebrate enthusiastically with friends.

Tuesday, 19 April 2005

Monday Night on ESPN

Jerry Palm has some thoughts on next year’s move of Monday Night Football from ABC to ESPN; I do think the “stars come to play on Monday night” hype has gotten downright tiresome, but if history’s any guide ESPN won’t exactly be toning it down…

Every day is a winding road

Those of you who’ve done the U.S. 78 slog from Memphis to Birmingham and points beyond: it’s not going to be a lot better for at least another seven years, although you can look forward to most of the road being open in 2008:

Future Interstate 22 has a new name, but it may take a full decade to get the road completed—including at least three years just to perform drainage and dirt work in Birmingham.

“It could be as early as late 2011 or in 2012 when we could be finished,” said Tony Harris, the special assistant for the director for public affairs at ALDOT. “If there are any delays to funding or to construction, it could put us as late as 2015.”

This, mind you, was work that was supposed to be underway by now. At this rate, Mississippi might actually have their work on connecting U.S. 78 to some part—any part—of the Interstate system done by then.

Monday, 18 April 2005


You know, when the folks down at Southern started talking about becoming more competitive with SEC schools on the recruiting trail, I didn’t realize they also wanted to compete with Ole Miss and State by outdoing them in recruiting thugs (þ: Jeff Quinton, via email):

Southern Miss president Shelby Thames sat down with the man who plead guilty to his role in the beating death of a high school student. The talk went so well, Southern Miss will offer the convict a football scholarship and a “second chance”.

There are more details here on the story of Marcus Raines. It isn’t exactly pretty.

You know, the Thamester isn’t exactly in the world’s most secure position to begin with, and you have to wonder what he’s is thinking. Particularly when you realize that up the road at Ole Miss, Coach O (from whose backyard this prospect is coming from) wouldn’t touch this kid with a ten-foot pole, and it’s not like Orgeron has been shy about pushing the reset button for problem children like Jamal Pittman. This decision just screams “bad news waiting to happen.”

On the other hand, I suppose I am marginally sympathetic to giving kids who do really stupid things a second chance, although it seems to me that if the kid really wants to redeem himself he ought to be content to go play for free at a Division III school.

The Avenger

Today, Kelly promised me that she would avenge my death, should it be from unnatural causes. I feel strangely comforted by this promise, although I am at a complete loss to explain why.

Yay economic substantive due process

Tim Sandefur* has a post on Lochner for dummies. I’m personally still wrestling with how to teach ESDP in my constitutional law classes†—in general, the economic liberties stuff in Epstein and Walker is the weakest material and the hardest for the students to understand—so every little bit I can get from alternative perspectives helps. Of course, the quasi-artificial division of ESDP in “Con Law I” and other forms of SDP—what normal humans call the right to privacy (with or without scare quotes), the right to travel, and the whole mess that is discrimination law—in “Con Law II” doesn’t help student understanding much either.

* Who I don’t read nearly often enough because he doesn’t ping any update services when he posts—hint, hint!
† Which I can mercifully put on hiatus while at Duke, though the over-under is that I’ll probably return to the role of jack-of-all-trades Americanist where ever I end up tenure-track (which actually I don’t mind that much).

Drink a colortini for Tom

Steven Taylor links an E! Online piece that says Tom Snyder is battling lymphocytic leukemia. While I don’t remember ever seeing Tomorrow (although my mother was something of a fan, so it’s possible I did see it back in that gray zone before my memory starts), I remember his show on CNBC and the post-Dave Late Late Show fondly; here’s hoping Tom pulls through.

Premise not computing

Normally, I’m in full agreement with TigerHawk about things, but this post on Ann Coulter will not stand:

Michelle Malkin, who certainly should concern herself with the press’s treatment of attractive conservative women, writes that it is all part of a pattern. [emphasis mine]

Of course, I don’t share my co-blogger’s apparent interest in emaciated women—not to mention his predilection in favor of Ms. Coulter’s cleavage—so I may not be an unbiased observer.


I thought teach-ins were only held by ultra-lefty nutbars who couldn’t get real teaching jobs. Apparently I was at least partially wrong:

I attended a teach-in about the current state of judicial nominations today [Jack Balkin on the Constitution in Exile: “I don’t believe it for a second.”] and came away with, inter alia, a map of the geographic boundaries of not only the Circuit courts but also the District courts (sort of like this only easier to read and less garish). It’s something of a surprise to me. New Jersey, the ninth most populous state, is a single federal district. Oklahoma, the twenty-seventh, has three. West Virginia, the thirty-seventh, has two. To be sure population and federal caseload are but rough correlates (witness, e.g., the District of Columbia) but still. Three districts in Oklahoma? Three in Alabama?

Is the mismatch because some local features turn up a surprising amount of federal case law, or because districts are created as prizes for local senators, who presumably get to fill the spots with their chosen folks? Presumably both.

How about a third theory: geography. Try dragging your court around a state the size of Alabama versus one the size of New Jersey. Pork may be a factor (though I’m somewhat skeptical—there are not a lot of patronage jobs in the courts), but I think the more compelling explanation is that Oklahoma and Alabama are a heck of a lot bigger than New Jersey.

Reapportionment math

Steven Jens has posted some dummied-up figures for how the reapportionment of Congress would go if the population trends in 2004 continue through the end of the decade. It’s moderately interesting that both Alabama and Louisiana would lose a representative each; like Mississippi, one presumes they are gaining population, but not quickly enough to keep pace with the national rate.

Also: will someone explain to me why when legislative districts don’t have equal populations people use the term “malapportionment”? Reapportionment refers to the process of allocating House seats to states, while redistricting refers to the process of redrawing district boundaries to compensate for population shifts within states, so why would bad (or nonexistent) redistricting be called malapportionment instead of maldistricting? (If I don’t get an answer here, I may have to interrogate my civil liberties students Wednesday on this topic…)

There's inequality and then there's inequality

I hadn’t really paid much attention to this Sunday Times piece by an American expat living in Oslo comparing Scandinavia with the United States, but this post from Brett Marston made me curious. Marston asks:

How can the New York Times get away with publishing a Week in Review piece on income in Norway and not even mention income distribution (except disparagingly), the GINI index, or the effect of income inequality on aggregate statistics?

Well, the first potential response is that it is, after all, an opinion piece, and the writer has the choice of what evidence to marshall or respond to. But I do think Marston has a point… at least to an extent.

Income inequality, of course, does bias some statistics like the mean income; comparisons of median income would be more helpful, since it is unbiased by outliers. My suspicion, however, is that median U.S. income is substantially higher than median Norwegian income, regardless.

I also think a focus on inequality (and the Gini coefficient, which is a measure of inequality) might be worthwhile… but what does inequality mean in this context. Is the poorest Norwegian better off than the poorest American? If so, that might be a problem. However, by most consumption measures, a large share of poor Americans are only “poor” relative to other Americans (consider that even many of the poorest Americans have cellular phones and cable TV, not to mention $100 tennis shoes), although certainly there are poor Americans who fall through the cracks—as, for that matter, there are poor Norwegians in the same situation.

Certainly income inequality can be viewed as a problem—consider, for example, the well-known problem of relative deprivation. I’m not sure the solution to that problem is to force rich people to have less money so poorer people feel better about themselves, which seems to be the implicit solution to the problem: giving the money the rich have to the poor, while a nice concept, probably wouldn’t materially help the poor that much—and they’d still be poor relative to everyone else, so relative deprivation would kick in again.

In other words, I don’t know that income inequality is prima facie bad; certainly, poverty is bad, and that is something most societies could do better at solving, the United States included. But I think a focus on inequality over objective conditions probably is counterproductive.

Update: Jason Kuznicki has nicer things to say about the piece, and also discusses the rather silly “constitution in exlie” piece that has all the lawprofs and law students atwitter.

Sunday, 17 April 2005

Iraq's fake hostage crisis

Monday’s New York Times reports that the Shiite hostage situation in Madaen didn’t really exist, despite yesterday’s reports of upwards of 150 captives. Truly bizarre.


Both Stephen Karlson and Reihan Salam are less-than-impressed with Amtrak’s latest fiasco: the discovery that the Acela high-speed train’s brakes aren’t up to snuff. Quoth Salam:

Rather than purchase a proven Swedish high-speed train, the X2000 tilt-train, designed to accommodate older, not-quite-straight tracks like those found in the northeastern corridor (and unlike the very straight railtrack used by the TGV and other high-speed lines overseas), Amtrak decided to build an entirely new model at vastly greater expense that—get this—experienced serious mechanical failures from the very start. For the sake of building a much slower fitfully tilting version of the TGV, a non-tilting train, they built a train that, remarkably and at the most inconvenient moments, failed to tilt. Had they gone with the X2000, they would’ve had an excellent high-speed train in 1998. This is stupidity on a colossal scale.

It’s rather clear that the choice of the Bombardier design had more to do with the byzantine financial structure of the deal than technical merit. Not surprisingly, this decision has come back to bite Amtrak in the ass.

As this Boston Globe piece points out, this latest round of bad news did not come at a good time for Amtrak, with many in Congress already highly skeptical of passenger rail and President Bush pushing for rail service to be devolved to the states.

…but you just can't kill the beast

It turns out that the only folks abusing Terri Schiavo were politicians, according to Florida investigators:

The agency completed nine reports of abuse accusations made from 2001 to 2004, including neglect of hygiene, denial of dental care, poisoning and physical harm. The accusations, which have been widely reported, focus on Michael Schiavo, the husband of Terri. Ms. Schiavo died on March 31, nearly two weeks after her feeding tube was removed.

The names of many accusers have been blacked out in the documents, but the name of Ms. Schiavo’s father, Robert Schindler, appears on one.

And via Stephen Bainbridge comes word that the Democrats will be bringing up Terri Schiavo again during at least the next two election cycles:

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Friday that his party would wield the Terri Schiavo case against Republicans in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but for now needed to stay focused battling President Bush on Social Security.

“We’re going to use Terri Schiavo later on,” Dean said of the brain-damaged Floridian who died last month after her feeding tube was removed amid a swarm of political controversy.

I can hardly wait…

Saturday, 16 April 2005

Pondering synchronicity

Heidi Bond is also thinking about synchronicity and the extroversion-introversion divide:

While I like all my friends very much, I don’t understand how interrupting a perfectly good train of thought with the annoyance of a call could be perceived as a benefit. And I think that about sums it up—calls, however dear the friend, are an annoyance.

And so I wonder whether there’s a difference between cell phone usage of extroverts and introverts.

Undoubtably. Of course, you could be an introvert like me, but be trained to carry your phone with you all the time, and reap the worst of both worlds.

Tennessee county growth rates

As requested in comments here, I’ve produced a map of Tennessee county growth rates; here it is in Adobe PDF format. (Once I had the code written for Mississippi it was trivial to produce one for Tennessee.)

I’m still working on a southeastern U.S. map, but it’s made much more complicated because I can’t figure out a way to toss out the Virginia independent cities, which aren’t in the map data in the maps package, from the census data in R. I may just edit the raw data file before reading it in.

Friday, 15 April 2005

You love me, but you don't know who I am

Ok, somebody riddle me this: why would you go to the trouble of producing campaign signs that call yourself by two different names? And, yes, Ward 7 city councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon, I’m asking you:

Campaign sign for Margaret Barrett-Simon Campaign sign for Margaret Barrett

I’m at a loss…

Bizarre disclaimer of the day

I can appreciate the value of this Debian package to the fairer sex, but I have to admit the disclaimer is pretty amusing:

NOTE: This program is not a reliable contraceptive method. It does neither help to prevent sexual transmision diseases like AIDS. It is just an electronic means of keeping track of some of your medical data and extract some statistical conclusions from them. You cannot consider this program as a substitute for your gynecologist in any way. [emphasis mine]

I think if you’re the sort of person who would confuse a computer program with the Pill, a condom, or a gynecologist, the disclaimer really isn’t going to help you very much.

Berlusconi on the ropes

Saturday’s New York Times reports on the withdrawal of the Christian Democratic Union from Italy’s center-right coalition government under Silvio Berluconi. The withdrawal may lead to either a new government or fresh elections, the latter of which would probably favor a center-left coalition under former prime minister Romano Prodi. The CDU, however, is sending mixed signals about its withdrawal, so it’s possible Berlusconi will be able to maintain the coalition if he makes some policy changes.

As James Joyner points out, Italy hasn’t exactly been known for stable post-war governments, so if Berlusconi’s coalition collapses, it would hardly be unprecedented. (Italy manages to muddle through the instability largely because it has a remarkably strong civil service.)

Yay plagiarism

I really love it when my students give me extra work to do—in this case, an hour of fighting with OCR software and Word’s “compare documents” feature so I have evidence to take to the dean on Monday. To coin a phrase, I plan to shoot ‘em all and let the Honor Council sort ‘em out.

Late Notice

Well, if you happen to live around Starkville and want some good music, try the University Union, 3rd floor, Small auditorium at 7:30pm. I have it on good authority that these guys are great. I know with our MILLIONS of readers and such short notice, the turnout will be overwhelming.

Preferential voting

John Quiggin asks, “Why hasn’t Labour introduced preferential (single transferable) voting in Britain?” It’s actually a fairly good question, although I think Quiggin answers it later in his post:

Sooner or later, there will be a hung Parliament, and the price of LDP support will be full-scale proportional representation. If Labour introduced preferential voting without being forced to, it would not only cement LDP support but would greatly weaken the case for PR.

Labour, however, doesn’t need to make a deal yet—and, judging from the past 100 years of British electoral history, a hung parliament where Labour needs the LDP either to form a coalition or to sustain a minority government isn’t likely to come about anytime soon. So why help the LibDems today if you can put off an accomodation until later, perhaps much later?

What a boob

Jacqueline has two completely NSFW quizzes for her readers. I’m not entirely sure what my scores (which you will pry from my cold, dead fingers) said about me.

Thursday, 14 April 2005

Principal-agent problems

It’s probably not good when your boss reads something in the newspaper he doesn’t like:

President Bush said Thursday that he had been surprised to learn in the newspaper of his administration’s decision last week to require Americans to have passports to enter the country from Mexico or Canada by 2008. He said he had asked the State and Homeland Security Departments to look into other means of tightening border security.

I’m not at all convinced that passports are really any more secure than driver’s licenses anyway; my passport (from September 1998) doesn’t have any biometric data on it whatsoever, and neither does my 2004-vintage driver’s license. That said, I’m not sure that requiring passports will increase delays at the border—checking a passport shouldn’t take any more time than checking any other photo ID, unless for some reason the government insists on stamping the passport.


Keith Taylor has a discussion of a number of Bill Bryson’s books up at Dean’s World; like Taylor, I’m a big fan of Bryson’s writing, although I haven’t gotten around to reading a few of his more recent books yet.

Mississippi county growth rates

As James Joyner notes, the Census Bureau today released statistics on the estimated growth rates of U.S. states and counties; the nitty-gritty is at the Census Bureau website, while the fastest-growing counties are the focus of attention for many in the media. Only one Mississippi county, DeSoto County (bordering Memphis), ranked in the top-100 nationwide in growth.

To flex my R skills, I put together a map of Mississippi counties and their growth rates, reproduced below the fold.

As you might have expected, among the fastest-growing counties were the suburban counties—DeSoto County near Memphis, Rankin County and Madison County near Jackson, and the Gulf Coast counties (Harrison, Hancock, and Jackson). Absolutely stunning is the turnaround in Tunica County, the only Delta county to post a positive growth rate; it’s growing at a 9% clip. Meanwhile, the hollowing-out of the Pine Belt, much of the hill country, and most of the Delta continues apace.

Connecticut, Oregon having a gay old time

Steven Taylor notes that both houses of Connecticut’s legislature have approved civil unions bills in the past week, while James Joyner links a Reuters piece on the introduction of a same-sex civil unions bill with bipartisan support in the Oregon legislature. No word yet on when the Mississippi legislature plans to get in on this trend…

Nepotism: not just for House members any more

James Joyner has been pulling together various articles detailing which of our elected representatives have relatives on the campaign payroll. Suffice it to say that Sanders and DeLay aren’t the only ones…

Previous discussion here.

Wednesday, 13 April 2005

Killen out and about

Edgar Ray Killen, the man due to be tried for the 1964 murders of civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman this summer, apparently checked out of the hospital today after a month’s recovery from being smited while out on a hunting expedition near his home.

May his recovery continue with all deliberate speed so he can be tried, convicted, and rot away in Parchman as he undoubtedly deserves.

Nipplegate Redux

James Joyner and Jeff Jarvis are up in arms that Fox network censors have allegedly insisted that Pamela Anderson’s nipples be “taped down” on her new sitcom Stacked that debuted tonight (without my viewership), lest viewers be offended by her attributes sticking out.

While I agree with the general principle at stake here—indeed, who is going to tune into a show starring Anderson who doesn’t want to see her nipples?—I am forced to wonder why this problem exists in the first place. I suppose the issue could simply be that soundstages for TV shows are notoriously chilly, to compensate for the heat radiated by the lights and other equipment, or it could be that Anderson has atypically attentive nipples*—I know of a few young women with this “problem” myself, and it’s not one you can really point out to them.

I guess the moral of the story is to let the nipples soar; besides, the show will probably be canned in six weeks anyway.

Genie, bottle no longer intersecting

And so it begins… the round of newspaper stories saying “my congressman is too as corrupt as your congressman.” First up, the Bennington Banner finds U.S. Representative Bernie Sanders, DEIN-Vt., having a bit of a DeLay problem of his own:

Rep. Bernard Sanders used campaign donations to pay his wife and stepdaughter more than $150,000 for campaign-related work since 2000, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Jane O’Meara Sanders, his wife, received $91,020 between 2002 and 2004 for “consultation” and for negotiating the purchase of television and radio time-slots for Sanders’ advertisements, according to records and interviews.

Approximately $61,000 of that was “pass through” money that was used to pay media outlets for advertising time, Jane O’Meara Sanders said in an interview. The rest, about $30,000, she kept as payment for her services, she said.

Carina Driscoll, daughter to Jane O’Meara Sanders and stepdaughter to the lawmaker, earned $65,002 in “wages” between 2000 and 2004, campaign records show.

Frankly, I think the whole “family consulting” thing is a non-story, but if the Good Government types want to get their undies in a bunch about politicians putting their families on the campaign payroll, let’s have everyone’s cards on the table. (þ: Jeff Goldstein)

Dumb false advertising

I bought a pack of Zeiss Lens Cloths at Wal-Mart yesterday to clean my glasses. The box says it contains 50 lens cloths, and was just under $3. Each lens cloth is individually packaged in strips of three, and I received 17 strips (yes, I counted), so I actually bought a box of 51 lens cloths.

I am at a loss to explain this discrepency. Would people be confused by a box that says it contains 51 cloths? Or, alternatively, would people be so excited by the bonus lens cloth as to feel like they’d gained some sort of karmic reward? Inquiring minds apparently want to know…

Tuesday, 12 April 2005

Art I didn't see in Chicago

I apparently missed the big excitement in the Chicago art scene last week; the Secret Service, however, didn’t:

Organizers of a politically charged art exhibit at Columbia College’s Glass Curtain Gallery thought their show might draw controversy.

But they didn’t expect two U.S. Secret Service agents would be among the show’s first visitors.

The agents turned up Thursday evening, just before the public opening of “Axis of Evil, the Secret History of Sin,” and took pictures of some of the art pieces—including “Patriot Act,” showing President Bush on a mock 37-cent stamp with a revolver pointed at his head.

When isn’t a death threat a death threat? When it’s an artistic statement, apparently. Thankfully, exhibit curator Michael Hernandez de Luna has his priorities straight:

“It frightens me… as an artist and curator. Now we’re being watched,” Hernandez said. “It’s a new world. It’s a Big Brother world. I think it’s frightening for any artist who wants to do edgy art.”

Hernandez said he hopes the public sees the exhibit as a whole—and not just about one man or even one country. Some works Hernandez thought would be more controversial challenge Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church. Others look at Nazi Germany and the killing fields in Cambodia.

He refused to talk about the 2001 incident, when he was suspected of being involved in a fake anthrax stamp that shut down an area of Chicago’s main post office. Hernandez and another Chicago artist routinely sent fake stamps through the mail, then sold them for thousands of dollars.

Man, I can so feel my free speech rights being trampled even from here.

Update: Jeff Quinton, who inexplicably hasn't trackbacked, has a roundup of posts.

Meanwhile, this guy doesn't seem to get the point; if I create an image of the president (George Bush, Bill Clinton, whoever) with a gun to his head, I'd pretty much expect a visit from law enforcement; there's this little thing called incitement to imminent lawless action, you know. If the image were of John Kerry or Hillary Clinton, I’d imagine the David Niewarts of the world would be screaming for the feds to investigate—and I’d agree with them.

Ain't nothin' but a horndog

While not entirely fair, I have to admit Jacqueline’s title for this post about the Battlestar Galactica miniseries gave me a good chuckle.

Plus, I want to find this gym where I can watch my own DVDs while I’m on the treadmill…

Must be nice

Gordon Smith writes:

When I entered academe just over a decade ago, almost every law school had a standard teaching load of four courses or 12 credit hours per year. In the past decade, the norm among top law schools has shifted to three courses or 10 credits per year.

The average political scientist teaches a 4–4 (or eight courses per year); at the moment I teach a nominal 3–3,* but with directed readings every semester and an honors thesis to supervise it’s more like a 4–4. Perhaps the most direct equivalent to law school teaching, in departments with MA programs, usually only nets a 3–3; it’s only in the somewhat rarified air of Ph.D. programs that the 2–2 load that Smith says is typical for law schools is common. Even in Ph.D.-granting departments, however, faculty rarely teach just graduate students.

Don’t know if this means anything important, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Monday, 11 April 2005

Loose lips sink ships

Just what we need: Plame redux. Or, as the Associated Press put it, “[s]enators may have blown the cover of a covert CIA officer” at the confirmation hearings for U.N. ambassador nominee John Bolton on Monday. Yay.

Update: False alarm.

Dinner is not (always) a date

Dan Drezner links a New York Times Style section piece that Will Baude rightly characterizes as “bizarre” on something called a “man date”—or, at least, something that isn’t really called that, since the reporter made up the term. (Compared to Mitch Albom, Ms. Lee is a piker.)

Perhaps the most bizarre part is the coinage of calling it a “date”—the only sort of non-romantic dates I’ve ever heard of before involve people under the age of 10, and even the term “play date” sounds fundamentally stupid to me. I’ve certainly had dinner with people and been confused about whether or not it was actually a date, but I have never experienced that confusion at dinner with someone I wasn’t interested in romantically.

Milton Friedman even provides interviews to small Mississippi papers

My department head passed along an interview by Milton Friedman for a Mississippi paper. I’m sure you’ll read the whole thing, being it’s Milton Friedman and all. I’ll have to skip it for the moment due to the torments of grad school.

UPDATE: OK, my co-blogger has informed me it's a Jackson, TN paper. I told you I hadn't read it!! Imagine all of the appropriate changes to the post being made, with TN replacing MS.

Sunday, 10 April 2005

That old Ferengi legal tradition

Monday’s Telegraph carries a report that the Saddam loyalists in the Iraqi insurgency may be willing to give up their fight in exchange for Saddam not getting the death penalty. (þ: memorandum)

Meanwhile, the real Olympic bomber, Eric Rudolph (not to be confused with Richard Jewell), avoided the death penalty for his mid-90s bombing spree in Alabama and Georgia this week by revealing information, including the location of weapons caches, to federal authorities.

Of course, if monsters like Saddam and Rudolph aren’t going to get the death penalty (even if they deserve it—an argument that could easily be made for both men), I’m not at all convinced that anyone else should get it—even putting my philosophical problem with the death penalty aside.


It’s occurred to me recently that there seem to be basically two different types of people: the sychronous and the asynchronous. Synchronous people like to have conversations; they want to deal with things “in the present,” then move onto other things. Asynchronous folks, on the other hand, want to correspond and have some time to think things over; at the extreme, they won’t use the telephone even for simple matters due to the risk of bothering someone when they’re otherwise disposed.

Then again, maybe these are just manifestations of the broader traits of extroversion and introversion; I suspect most introverts (like me) prefer email to phone calls and IMs, while most of the extroverts I know aren’t much for email—they might read it, but good luck getting a response amounting to more than one sentence. Of course, these days you can’t really be just one or the other—although I do long for a return of the days of the handwritten letter sometimes.

Back in the high life again

Well, I made it back safe and sound from Chicago, despite initially forgetting (1) checkout was at 11 am instead of noon and (2) my flight was at 1:10 pm instead of 1:40 pm when I decided to sleep in this morning—I figured if I was spending $164 a night for a bed (and surprisingly little else, beyond gratis high-speed internet that was only free because of my newfound Silver HHonors status), it had better be used as much as possible.

The flights were uneventful—I dozed through much of the flight from O’Hare to Atlanta, and managed to read all of Lewis Black’s book Nothing’s Sacred during the rest of the trip, since I felt unmotivated to continue with Empires of Light for now. Despite the storms the day I left, everything was just fine at home.

Saturday, 9 April 2005

Ole Miss-Memphis series ending?

The SEC FanBlog passes on speculation that Ole Miss may favor ending the annual series with the University of Memphis, which (at least the Tigers believe) is contractually required to continue until 2011. While the matchup has been quite compelling in recent years, it’s clearly more of a benefit to the Tigers, who benefit from the national exposure and $45 ticket prices (a three-fold increase over regular pricing for Tiger home games) a home date at the Liberty Bowl with the Rebels brings, than a rebuilding Rebel squad that will need all the help it can get to be bowl eligible in 2005.

Carpet hurling

This is some pretty damn hideous carpet, even by institutional standards—my grad student office at Ole Miss had hideous carpet too, but at least it was more-or-less one color.

Actually, there was also some hideous solid orange (well, modulo the bits with various stains) carpet at the Museum of Contemporary Art today, but the little sign claimed it was a deliberate choice of an artist so I guess that makes it pardonable.

More than a mouthful is a waste

Jackson isn’t the only city that’s dealing with honoring a civil rights legend by renaming its airport; Maryland legislators are currently working on legislation to rename Baltimore-Washington International Airport (which more serves Baltimore than Washington, since it’s a pain in the butt to get to downtown Washington from the north, but that’s neither here nor there) to honor deceased supreme court justice Thurgood Marshall.

Which is all well and good, but the current compromise name, “Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport,” has the word “international” in exactly the wrong place; it modifies “airport,” not “Thurgood Marshall.” Heck, if Newark and Washington National survived their name changes to include geographically-nonspecific nonsense, I think BWI would get along just fine as Thurgood Marshall International. Besides which, TMI would be a really great airport code.

More playing tourist

As anticipated, I spent the afternoon goofing off: I had lunch at the Goose Island Beer Company on Clybourn, then walked back downtown and visited the Museum of Contemporary Art before returning to the hotel for the MPSA President’s Reception (key highlight: the open bar). Like yesterday, my feet are tired, but I suppose all the walking makes up for my general laziness in Jackson the last week or so.

Now I’m looking forward to getting back home tomorrow so I can get organized for the final two weeks of classes and see my “normal” friends again.

Friday, 8 April 2005

Free at last

I finished up the discussant gig this morning, so now I’m free to finish having fun. I think I’m going to get some lunch somewhere nearby, then wander north on Michigan Avenue for a while; gotta be back for a reception at 6:30, but beyond that I’m free for the day.

Thursday, 7 April 2005

More fuel for the Duke-Chicago political science rivalry

After adding fuel to the Munger-Drezner blogging feud (rather lopsidedly decided for Drezner, I might add), I’ve discovered more evidence to back up the rivalry: namely, that the latest US News rankings have Duke and the U of C tied for 8th place in the “political science” rankings. You’ll have to go and read the copy at your local bookstore to verify this yourself, unless you want to drop $14.95 for online access to the full list.

Of course, the standard caveats about the US News rankings being complete garbage apply. These rankings, based on refereed journal publications, are probably a bit better (and put Chicago well ahead of Duke), but omit effects such as book output, Ph.D. placement, and the like, as well as publications in journals outside of political science.

Butt Dance

I don’t know what’s sadder: that Jenna Bush was at a party doing the “butt dance,” or that this is the first I’d heard of this phenomenon, which according to the New York Post is performed “when the deejay plays the 1988 hit ‘Da Butt,’ by E.U.”

Come to think of it, it might also be sad that this is the first I’ve heard of this 1988 “hit.”

Update: Those of you jonesing for a copy of this classic hit need look no further than the soundtrack of School Daze, for the low-low price of $5.99 at

Wednesday, 6 April 2005

Dinner, dessert, but no detox

Dinner with Dirk was at the MPSA-legendary Berghoff; I thought the meal was fine, but I’m not quite sure why people who come to Midwest rave about the place—I’ve eaten better elsewhere in the city.

Also today, I finally finished reading The Lady Tasting Tea; I may or may not have a review soon. I just started Empires of Light; I’m enjoying it so far, but I agree with the reviewers that complain about the author’s overuse of adjectives and flowery language.

Conference blogging

I finally made it to Chicago after missing my connection in Atlanta due to the nasty storms out by the Jackson airport delaying my flight to Atlanta. In five minutes in the lobby, I ran into five different political scientists I know (four of whom actually recognized me), two of whom are named Chris. For a change, the folks at the Palmer House actually honored my request to be near the elevator (I guess finally making Silver HHonors membership has its privileges), but then again that may have just been a coincidence.

Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up with Dirk tonight; then I can get organized for my panel tomorrow morning and my discussant gig Friday morning, so I’ll be free to work on the “things to do in Chicago” list Kelly gave me Friday night most of the rest of my time here.

Agenda setter in denial about own agenda setting

You have to admit that The New York Times has quite a bit of testicular fortitude to publish the following paragraph with a straight face:

Two years ago, the Masters tournament was ensnared in a debate over the absence of women in the Augusta National membership, a debate spearheaded by Martha Burk, the chairwoman of the National Council of Women’s Organizations.

Then again, maybe the Grey Lady is just hoping its readership will forget that Howell Raines was ever employed by the paper.

Tuesday, 5 April 2005

The next big election

The BBC is among those reporting that British prime minister Tony Blair will call a general election for Thursday, May 5th, one month from today; at the moment, the Conservative Party is trailing Blair’s Labour Party by about five percentage points in the polls, although the Tories are running ahead among those “certain” to vote (þ: PoliBlog).

Top Ten questions not asked of seniors at oral comps

  1. What’s the deal with Lindsay Lohan?
  2. So… how about them Dodgers?
  3. Complete the analogy: George Bush is to chimpanzee as (blank) is to Lurch.
  4. Would Ashlee Simpson be famous if her sister weren’t Jessica Simpson?
  5. If you were the president of Haiti, how would you increase your exports of baseball players to match that of the Dominican Republic?
  6. Explain the song “Dip It Low” by Christina Milian in one sentence.
  7. How does theft of silverware and glassware from the Caf affect the international system? Give examples.
  8. “If PBS doesn’t do it, who will?” What is “it”?
  9. Under the CAN-SPAM Act, what is the maximum prison sentence that the assistant director of intramural athletics can receive for mailbombing the campus population with four announcements of a 3-on-3 Dodgeball tournament?
  10. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

Monday, 4 April 2005

PM Dawn

Today is the first of five consecutive days that I have to be up at an ungodly hour (today and Tuesday due to oral comps, Wednesday due to my flight to Chicago, Thursday and Friday due to my morning panels at MPSA). I get the odd feeling that I may not be a happy camper as this week progresses.

Sunday, 3 April 2005

Weather is evil

I think the weather gods are conspiring against me… check out the forecast for my trip to Chicago this week:

Wednesday: Showers and thunderstorms likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 64. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Wednesday Night: Showers likely. Mostly cloudy, with a low near 44. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Thursday: A chance of showers. Cloudy, with a high around 50.

Thursday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 35.

Friday: Partly cloudy, with a high near 57.

Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 32.

Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 65.


Dinner, dessert, and detox

I cooked spaghetti for dinner with the lovely, talented, and pointy-eyeballed Kelly Friday night; she brought chocolate ice cream and I supplied a bottle of 1996 Gossamer Bay cabernet sauvignon that I’d somehow acquired a while back (and was very good). It was a thoroughly pleasant evening, although I spent most of Saturday recovering from the wine intake—not to mention the two pints of Bass I had earlier at Fenian’s with some other colleagues.

Update: Just to clarify (for any concerned readers): all I was really suffering from on Saturday was a lack of sleep; alcohol seems to interfere with me falling asleep.

Saturday, 2 April 2005

Pope John Paul II has died

Even though I haven’t been to Mass in a couple of years, I’ll be going tomorrow out of respect for this man. He wasn’t perfect—he didn’t respond well to the rise of Islamofascism, nor did he respond well to the pedophile priest fiasco a couple of years ago—but he was a good, even great man. His leadership provided moral support, even encouragement, for dissent in the Soviet Union, which played a large role in its collapse. He also remained consistent in his opposition to both the death penalty and abortion, a view that informs me to this day.

Part of my love for him is just sentiment, since he was the only Pope I knew growing up. May he rest in peace.

Spoons has more.

Friday, 1 April 2005

Chris Lawrence: Columnist

Well, the long-awaited column has finally arrived in print, and I only just learned it was there with an email from a reader. Serves me right for not checking the Clarion-Ledger website today.

It’s on judicial filibusters and a possible compromise between the Democratic and Republican positions on the “nuclear option.”

News flash

Gmail has started upping its storage size to two gigs. It seems to be happening gradually, but if you look at your main screen and choose new features, you should see it.

Here's what the help screen says:

G is for growth Storage is an important part of email, but that doesn't mean you should have to worry about it. To celebrate our one-year birthday, we're giving everyone one more gigabyte. But why stop the party there? Our plan is to continue growing your storage beyond 2GBs by giving you more space as we are able. We know that email will only become more important in people's lives, and we want Gmail to keep up with our users and their needs. From Gmail, you can expect more. We're not in the plains anymore Fonts, bullets and highlighting, oh my! Gmail now offers rich text formatting. And over 60 colors of the rainbow. Discover a land of more than just black and white.
Apparently they're also allowing messages written in rich text.