Tuesday, 31 May 2005

Making my own sound effects

I like to imagine a little cash register sound going off every time one of these numbers increases. Never mind that cash registers don’t make that sound any more…

In related news, the reader for my intro class this summer is apparently lost in the ether, so I guess I’ll be making use of the library reserve a lot.

Monday, 30 May 2005

Blogger dining

In what seems to be becoming something of a theme, I had dinner this evening with yet another blogger—in this case, Signifying Nothing alumnus Robert Prather. We ended up talking for about three hours at the Steam Room Grille, mostly about graduate school but with some forays into politics and economics.

Like Robert, I start summer school Wednesday, albeit at the other side of the desk. I guess I should be working on getting organized for that, although at this point I’m still not even sure if I have enough students to bother teaching the classes, or, for that matter, to bother writing up syllabi—the per-student remuneration works out to be about minimum wage if only one student enrolls, although if you look at it as additional pay (since I am being paid through September 1st by Millsaps on my 9-month contract) rather than living pay it feels better.

Others are already doing the summer school thing, of course: Jeff Quinton isn’t having much fun so far, which I suppose is understandable given the material.

Solving Gitmo

On the recommendation of Orin Kerr and Glenn Reynolds, I read this Jon Henke post that makes a fairly compelling case that there are systematic problems with detainee abuse in the War on Terror—relying on sources that most would consider to be objective.

Henke also proposes two solutions, POW status and real trials, both of which should be familiar to longtime Signifying Nothing readers—heck, it’s been a recurring theme from Robert and I for over two years now.

John Ford resigns

A day late and a dollar short, I find out that John Ford resigned from the Tennessee Senate in the wake of the Tennessee Waltz arrests. Good riddance, although I think there’s a fair shot he’ll be back—even if it’s after a trip to the Big House. (þ: Wizbang)

Sunday, 29 May 2005

More on Singleness

Sarah Hempel has followed up on our discussion of relationship categories from a couple of weeks ago.

Saturday, 28 May 2005

Grease 1, Starbucks kid 0

An act in two parts. I have to say I slightly sympathize with the kid—when you’re working retail, sometimes your brain goes into something like cash register drone mode—but this kid sounds like he was pretty far gone to begin with.

Plastic of Paris

Daniel Drezner looks at the continued genius of Hardees and Carl’s Jr. in moving from “food porn” to virtual porn (by way of Paris Hilton) as a marketing gimmick in order to gain free ads from oft-quoted “watchdog” groups. I’m not one of those people who thinks Hilton is all that hot, but I guess I’m in the minority on that score.

I am surprised that H/CJ continues to keep a split brand, however… since Federated has now assimilated all of its department store holdings under the Macy’s brand, there really aren’t that many important split brands left—Edy’s/Dreyer’s and Checker’s/Rally’s are the only others that come to mind.


In addition to Robert, another of my favorite bloggers, Timothy Sandefur, has decided to retire from the field. The contributions of both will be sorely missed.

Fahd’s dead, baby

The Moonie News Service is reporting that King Fahd of Saudi Arabia is dead, although the practical implications of this outcome are somewhat up in the air: Jeff Quinton thinks there is going to be a power struggle, while James Joyner thinks Crown Prince Abdullah has already consolidated power in the kingdom.

Amusingly, CNN’s headlines on both the King Fahd story and the al-Zarqawi story (he’s allegedly ailing too) both quote people as saying the protagonists are “well.” Somehow I suspect neither assessment is accurate.

Friday, 27 May 2005

Moving Wright along

American Airlines’ pathetic campaign to protect its monopolistic practices in Dallas-Fort Worth has reached a new low with this jaw-droppingly asinine press release that actually accuses Southwest of monopolistic behavior.

On the heels of two Dallas-area congressmen introducing legislation to repeal the Wright Amendment and evidence that DFW Airport tried to cover up findings by its own consultant that ending Wright would lower air fares, DFW board members like Dallas’ mayor are even recognizing that Wright’s days are numbered—but American still isn’t budging. (þ: Xrlq and Vance of Begging to Differ)

Armchair tourist

Surfing around via Technorati, I found this blog post with satellite photos of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge and a few other Memphis bridges.

Not entirely conincidentally, I started Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America on the flight back from Durham, and probably would have finished it if I hadn’t fallen asleep on the Baltimore-Jackson leg; what I didn’t realize, since I bought the book at least a year ago, but only now got around to reading it, is that the author is a future colleague. Small world and all that.

Tennessee Waltz

While I was off in North Carolina, apparently five current or former Tennessee legislators, including John Ford, were indicted for alleged involvement in influence-peddling after a two-year sting operation by Tennessee and federal authorities. I can’t say I’m particularly surprised that the long arm of the law has caught up with Ford, although I am surprised it wasn’t due to his TennCare or child care shenanigans.

I haven’t really been on the case, but Mike Hollihan has, so just start at the top and keep scrolling.

Thursday, 26 May 2005


I notified Chris last night and we discussed it via email. I’ll no longer pretend to blog at SN. Even when I have the time to do so, I don’t. School has changed my focus to the point that I’m no longer a motivated blogger and my output, when it’s been there, hasn’t been up to my standards.

On my old Insults Unpunished site, I had a quote by Arthur Alan Leff that went something like “I have an axe to grind, and plenty of fury to turn the wheel”. My fury is gone.

Thanks to Chris for providing me with a forum and, if I get what feels like a permanent swell of fury, I might be back. But I wouldn’t count on it. Thanks to all who have been supportive over the years.

Incidentally, today is my three-year anniversary as a blogger. I was a late starter in the aftermath of 9/11 and had plenty to say; today, not so much. A fitting day to put a clean end to this period in my life.

You can check out any time you like, but you can't ever leave

If you go to North Carolina, you’d probably expect you won’t see anything from Jackson there. If you did, you’d be wrong:

More photos from Duke and Durham are over in my Flickr photostream.


Well, I managed to get back from Durham OK today in more-or-less one piece. I don’t think I’m entirely conscious at the moment, since I had to get up at 6:15 Eastern to make my flight, but that’s OK. I think I have an apartment, but all the i’s and t’s aren’t properly dotted and crossed yet. Durham photos coming sometime soon. Last, but not least, huzzah and kudos to the incomparable Kelly (and Friday) for a ride back from the airport.

Monday, 23 May 2005

Great taste, less filibuster

Well, that was fun while it lasted:

Fourteen Republican and Democratic senators announced this evening they had reached a compromise designed to prevent a showdown over President Bush’s judicial nominations.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), speaking for the group of seven Republicans and seven Democrats, announced the agreement at a news conference at 7:40 p.m.

Under the deal, the Democrats agreed to accept cloture votes on three of President Bush’s judicial nominees: Priscilla R. Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor.

In return, the Republicans pledged not to support the so-called “nuclear option” to end the ability of the minority to use filibusters to block nominees.

I suppose it’s interesting that the guaranteed votes are for the three nominees anyone had ever heard of. Now at least Washington can move on to its next kabuki theatre event. (þ: Robert Tagorda)

Update: Steve at Begging to Differ provides a conventional wisdom watch (McCain, Reid win; Bush, Frist lose) that sounds reasonably right to me, while Stephen Bainbridge thinks it was a worthwhile compromise. I tend to agree with BTD Steve that Republicans probably won’t get the credit for being “bipartisan,” but if you’re the sort of person who likes the small-c conservative nature of the filibuster, Bainbridge points out it’s the smart long-term move—although, should the Democrats ever regain the majority, there’s nothing stopping them from going “nuclear” absent some (highly unlikely) pangs of conscience due to further hypocrisy on their part.

None of the above

I have just discovered why horoscopes have that “for entertainment purposes only” disclaimer at the bottom:

If I believed a single word of it, it would be a word too much. Though I have to say that if I’d known before I got here that North Carolina was full of attractive young women, I’d have moved here eons ago.

Apartment hunting

I spent today looking at more apartments than I really care to remember. I don’t know that I accomplished much, but I think the day at least let me narrow down my possibilities a bit.

Now if only I could get over the massive high-speed Internet withdrawal I’m suffering I’d be set—dragging my butt to various places with WiFi is a poor substitute for having my own access at the hotel.

Saturday, 21 May 2005


I finished Moneyball on the flight from Jackson to BWI today. As I mentioned at the other place, the story of people getting ahead by bringing data to the problem warmed my little empiricist heart to no end. Plus, Michael Lewis is a really good writer—the ideas he expresses come across clearly and with good humor (compare, if you will, Jill Jonnes’ horribly-written Empires of Light, about a topic that ought to be at least as interesting; the difference is as between night and day).

I realize I’m probably the last person in America to read the book, but if you haven’t (particularly if you like baseball), do so immediately.


I made it safely to Durham on time and in one piece, thanks (in no particular order) to Kamilla (who got me to the airport), Southwest Airlines, and my rental Pontiac Bonneville. I did a bit of driving around after checking into the hotel, and found my way over to Borders in Chapel Hill (where this entry is being posted from).

Now the tough part—finding somewhere to live next year—which begins in earnest tomorrow.

Friday, 20 May 2005

Hung Litigator

When I told my Civil Liberties class that one way porn producers tried to defend themselves in court was to produce adult films with “serious” artistic and political themes (one of the prongs of the Miller test), it never occurred to me that there might be a porn star who also has a career a lawyer. You learn something new every day… (þ: OTB)

Yo Hablo Inglés

I guess you can say I’m very conflicted:

Your Linguistic Profile:

65% General American English
15% Dixie
15% Yankee
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Midwestern

What Kind of American English Do You Speak? (þ: Sarah Hempel)

More Lochner

Continuing a theme, Tom Traina has a worthwhile post on Lochner and Roe. I don’t have anything to add beyond what I already said in comments to Tom’s post.

Fisher (of men) DeBerry

Ah, there’s nothing like a controversy combining college football and religion to add to the excitement of the upcoming 2005 season. The spotlight, of course, is on DeBerry due to the Air Force Academy’s apparent religious indoctrination problem, but you’d be naïve not to think that the same thing goes on in the locker rooms of other great American public universities and high schools—ask Bobby Bowden for one. And, if you go beyond the formalities, one suspects that it’s easier to be considered a “team leader” in the locker room if you have an FCA membership card in your wallet.

Like Kevin Aylward’s favorite school district, DeBerry and the academy are clearly running afoul of the law, even under the weaker “neutrality” test of religious establishment adopted by the conservative wing of the Supreme Court. If his players really want to be “saved,” I’m sure there are other people who can take care of it for him.

The American Economy

This week’s edition of The Economist is focused on the American economy. They say flatly that it’s the best in the world, but could use some improvement. They end this article (may or may not be for subscribers) as follows:

This last recommendation is one that George Bush will be especially reluctant to accept. Mr Bush is the classic instance of a conservative politician who confuses support for particular businesses with support for enterprise in general. These seemingly similar ideas are in fact directly contradictory. The way to support enterprise—American enterprise, the best in the world—is to be as unEuropean as possible. Mr President, look at France. Notice their economic policies. See how they subsidise this and protect that. Do we have to spell it out?
They list a number of areas where we neeed improvement and I agree with all of them: end the $100 billion in corporate subsidies; reform corporate governance; tax reform; and, tort reform. I can’t disagree with any of these.

Thursday, 19 May 2005

Man bites dog, Hitler edition

You can tell things have gotten bad in Washington when even Democrats are being compared with Adolph Hitler. I think Ed Cone put it best:

Yes, it’s bad, it’s deplorable, a United States Senator should not say such things. But let’s maintain perspective: it’s Rick Santorum. What do you expect?

Original story here for those who haven’t heard enough Hitler comparisons in the past six months.

The Belief-Action Distinction

Kevin Aylward apparently thinks people who violate court orders with impunity should get off scot-free since the people who are calling for enforcement of the court order have, in the past, defended people Kevin doesn’t like. For that matter, I don’t really like those people too, but neither do I particularly like people who confuse public schools with Sunday school.

Publish and/or perish

The debate over the evolving nature of the pre-tenure academy continues today with more contributions from Mike Munger and Stephen Karlson. Again, I have little to add in terms of insight, which may just be the result of my relatively weak socialization into the norms of the academy.

Anyway, I’ve got to pretend to get ready for my trip in 38 hours, so back to work on that.

Revenge of the Sith

Finally, George Lucas has done something that doesn’t fuck up the franchise. Revenge of the Sith is far, far better than the other prequels and I would put it ahead of Return of the Jedi simply because there are no Ewoks. One downside: he places a gratuitous shot of Jar-Jar Binks in towards the end. Anything to frustrate the fans…

Wednesday, 18 May 2005

Friendster follies

I keep fluctuating between having 18 and 20 friends in Friendster, which is very confusing. Database replication is apparently a much more inexact science than you’d think…

Sadness Part I

A bunch of us went out this evening to wish farewell to our friend Chad, who is moving to Atlanta on Thursday. So begins the winnowing (or at least seeding into the wind) of our little circle of friends.

I may or may not blather on more about this later at Signifying Even Less, where I’m trying to move my more personal crud (saving this place for the political and work-related things I post). First, however, I have to watch House on TiVo delay.

Tuesday, 17 May 2005

It's all about the O

The New York Times today attempts to get to the bottom of the question of the evolutionary purpose [or lack thereof] of the female orgasm:

[Lloyd’s preferred] theory holds that female orgasms are simply artifacts – a byproduct of the parallel development of male and female embryos in the first eight or nine weeks of life.

In that early period, the nerve and tissue pathways are laid down for various reflexes, including the orgasm, Dr. Lloyd said. As development progresses, male hormones saturate the embryo, and sexuality is defined.

In boys, the penis develops, along with the potential to have orgasms and ejaculate, while “females get the nerve pathways for orgasm by initially having the same body plan.” ...

The female orgasm, she said, “is for fun.”

Or not, as the case may be. (þ: memeorandum)

Vicente Fox retracts anti-black comments

Tenurable inactivity

Mike Munger and Stephen Karlson are having a bit of a back-and-forth over the evolving nature of work habits in the academy. I don’t have anything in particular to add, although I will say that being passed over for tenure-track opportunities does have some minor advantages in terms of the time commitment (outweighted, of course, by the iterant lifestyle).

Now to dig out those R&Rs and rejects and get some work done on them by June 1st (when students will want to be educated again)...

Update: Additional thoughts from Michelle Dion on the additional problems faced by junior comparativists.

Monday, 16 May 2005

Interrupting the two-step flow

James Joyner links a MarketWatch piece that claims the New York Times is going to put its op-ed columnists behind a subscription wall; the Times has confirmed this in its own article. While comparisons to New Coke may be premature, I have to wonder who’s really going to pay $50 a year to read Paul Krugman, David Brooks, and MoDo.

One also has to wonder why the Times would want to abandon the mindshare that comes from getting linked from the blogosphere; PaidContent.org has an interview that indicates that some sort of “affiliate program” is in the works, but I don’t think the opportunity for right-wingers to make fun of Paul Krugman’s continuing descent into moonbattery—or for leftists to mock John Tierney and David Brooks—is really worth the subscription fee in the first place (presumably some of which would be kicked back to referrers through the affiliate program). Indeed, the point of having an op-ed page is to influence public opinion; the idea that the Times would curtail its ability to influence local and regional elites, and thus shape public debate over the issues, runs directly counter to that goal.

There are other thoughts from Erik Kennedy of Ars Technica, Steven Taylor, and Julian Sanchez.

Stopped clock watch

Eszter Hargittai and Brendan Nyhan point out (as I noticed sometime in the past few days when surfing eJobs) that the American Political Science Association has condemned the AUT boycott of Israeli universities. I’m glad to see the $77 I sent the association last year (not to mention the hundreds of dollars I have spent in the past) has finally produced something of even minor value.

Of course, the complete uselessness of the APSA has been a recurring theme on this weblog…

Deutschland spammer alles

Well, that explains all the German spam messages that have been flooding my Gmail account; I swear I had more spam than real messages in my Inbox today when I checked. (þ: Steven Taylor)

Nighttime Lights of the World Dataset

Interesting discovery here. I was prompted to look it up by an econ text that was making a point about world development, though most people might be interested to see it. The actual data is downloadable here for the statistics geeks among us.

Sunday, 15 May 2005

Redheads headed for extinction?

According to a British outfit called the Oxford Hair Foundation, the recessive gene that causes people to be natural redheads may disappear from the population by 2100, although other scientists dispute this timetable, but not the genetics behind it. (þ: Radley Balko)

Yay corruption

The City of Chicago managed to lose 16,800 tons of asphalt last summer, apparently due to theft by paving contractors or the companies contracted to haul the asphalt to job sites. The weird part is that asphalt really isn’t worth that much; according to the article, a ton can be had for around $10. (þ: Dean Jens)

Berman fatigue

I am in general agreement with Steven Taylor’s assessment of the final two episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise; indeed, I think “Terra Prime” probably would have functioned just as well if it had been the finale. Plus, I really liked the fact they actually found something useful to do with Travis Mayweather—I think he had more lines in the “Demons/Terra Prime” two-parter than he’d had in whole seasons; he certainly had more useful things to do. I still have to wonder what bizarre fashion trend made everyone on Earth abandon normal clothing in favor of jumpsuits between 216x and the TOS era, however.

As for the finale itself, I can’t agree more with this statement:

Unfortunately These are the Voyages underscores Berman’s lack of understanding of what should have been done with Enterprise–here is the chance to focus on the founding of the Federation and instead we get a side-story about Shran’s kidnapped daughter and the ramifications of that event, including the poorly written, poorly acted, gratuitous death of Trip. One tunes in assuming that the story would be about the decommissioning of Enterprise and the signing of the Federation Charter, and yet we don’t actually get to see any of it (save a few minutes in the final act).

The surrounding story on the Enterprise-D made little sense, didn’t fit in with the events it supposedly was a part of, and was really quite unsatisfactory—and I actually like Riker and Troi, unlike a goodly portion of the fan base. About the only good thing about the episode was its showcasing of Connor Trinneer—and the D/TP two-parter did a better job of that too.

In other sci-fi news, Friday also saw Andromeda finally put out of its (and my) misery. The scary thing is that the best sci-fi on Friday night was probably the damn rerun of Battlestar Galactica’s “Litmus,” and it was barely sci-fi at all. I also learned about the Monty Hall Dilemma on Numb3ers, which you’d think I’d have known as an applied stats guy but it somehow never came up.

Of course, I didn’t see any of this live since I was actually in Pearl at the time watching the Mississippi Braves at Trustmark Park, courtesy of friends-of-friends Michelle and David.

Bleg: RDU Edition

Triangle-area readers (or ex-Triangle folks): any advice on neighborhoods and areas to look at or avoid as I prepare for the Big Move would be appreciated. My vague preferences are for an apartment or townhouse that is a reasonably short commute to Duke’s West Campus, about 1000 square feet of living space, and an area where I won’t be the only semi-responsible adult in my building. I’ve seen a few promising possibilities on Rent.com and the Duke Community Housing website, but additional thoughts would be helpful too.

Saturday, 14 May 2005


Thanks to Backcountry Conservative Jeff Quinton for name-dropping our humble blog during his appearance on MSNBC’s “Connected: Coast to Coast” yesterday; he specifically referred to my posts on the BRAC list’s impact on Mississippi. If you didn’t see it live or on TiVo delay, Jeff’s link above has the streaming video; I think the Signifying Nothing mention is in response to the first question from Ron Reagan.

Review of Crash in five words or less

Not Magnolia, but very good.*

Friday, 13 May 2005

Nickname Derby

I nearly busted a gut when Michael Wilbon suggested the name “Golden Whizzinators” on PTI Thursday for the embattled Marquette Gold. Classic, simply classic.

The stupid question in all this is why the Marquette folks can’t just go back to “Warriors” and design a modern, non-Indian mascot, like a white dude wielding an M-16 or something. I mean, it’s hard to divorce yourself from the confederate sympathy brigade with a name like “Rebels” (Colonel Reb or no Colonel Reb), but you’d think “Warriors” would be generic enough that if they changed the logo everyone’d go, “OK, it has nothing to do with Indians now.”

MI-6 reports the obvious, news at 11

You know, I’d be stunned by this lead graf—at least, if it were written about the CIA:

Seven months before the invasion of Iraq, the head of British foreign intelligence reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair that President Bush wanted to topple Saddam Hussein by military action and warned that in Washington intelligence was “being fixed around the policy,” according to notes of a July 23, 2002, meeting with Blair at No. 10 Downing Street.

Accurate intelligence about something everyone in the whole world already knew at the time delivered by a Western intelligence service? Who’d have thunk it? Give them a cookie. (þ: memeorandum)

Yadda yadda Yalta

Long-lost blogger Jacob Levy returns to The New Republic Online with a strong defense of President Bush’s condemnation of the Yalta agreement (and, I suppose, by extension, the Tehran agreement that preceded it) between Britain, the Soviets, and the United States during World War II. Money quote:

Yalta may not be a reference that excites many Americans but it's hardly a forgotten word in Eastern Europe or the Baltics. The historical chords struck by the word "Yalta"—in a week that was, after all, mainly about striking 60-year-old historical chords—continue to evoke for many in Eastern Europe the West's betrayal of their freedom. Twenty years ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski, hardly a right-wing nutcase, wrote in Foreign Affairs that the symbolic, as opposed to the historical, meaning of Yalta had come to serve as "the synonym for betrayal." This may be an obscure thought in America. It is certainly not in Poland or the Baltics.

Levy’s argument strikes me as rather more convincing than the dopey “coded slam at FDR” nonsense peddled by David Greenburg and others. Then again, one wonders how Levy managed to write the phrase “Bush’s skillful diplomacy” with a straight face—even I got a chuckle out of that one, although in this case he’s right.

(þ: Will Baude and Pejman Yousefzadeh)

Elliptical trainers are evil

I spent all of five minutes on an elliptical trainer yesterday and my calves still hurt today. Not fun. I guess I’ll stick with the bike and treadmill.


I had lunch today with fellow Jackson blogger Shawn Lea at Char… the food was excellent (very good fried catfish and pecan pie) and the company delightful. We shall have to do it again sometime.

Shelby Thames making his own press

If you’re a college president who doesn’t like your public image, there’s always the solution of getting your PR flacks to come up with a 32-page puff piece about your “leadership” at taxpayer expense. Download it here in all its glory.

BRAC list not as bad as anticipated

James Joyner and Jeff Quinton have links to the real BRAC list, which wasn’t quite as sweeping as anticipated here. The only meaningful casualty in Mississippi is NS Pascagoula, which co-blogger Robert Prather points out is little more than a 20-year-old Trent Lott pork project.

Columbus AFB will actually gain jobs, Keesler will lose about 400 positions (about half contractor positions), and NAS Meridian only loses 16 jobs total.

Thursday, 12 May 2005


Sarah Hempel wonders why many people classify “committed relationships” as something other than being “single”:

I am not sure what this means exactly. I understand dating exclusively, but since you are not yet married or betrothed, serious dating relationships are still comprised of two single people. Plus, I find the word “committed” to be vague and, quite frankly, rediculous. So, you haven’t pledged life-long fidelity to one another, so “committed” means what? Committed until someone better comes along, until we have a huge blow-out and break up, until we tire of one another? Marriage promises “until death do us part;” what does a “committed relationship” imply?

I’m not sure one can fail to draw the distinction between “single” and “betrothed” and not recognize “committed relationship” in the middle; after all, betrothed (or engaged) means “until death do us part unless I come up with a good reason before the marriage ceremony why we shouldn’t stay together,” which doesn’t seem to be very different from the definitions provided for “committed relationship” except there’s now a slightly stronger promise to keep (and more people get annoyed if you break it).

Nor am I really sure “divorced” is a meaningful separate category either. Single, married, and widowed seem to cover all the bases pretty well, and even “widowed” is troublesome and could easily be lumped in with “single.” So, here are the two types of relationship:

Married: I’ve promised to spend the rest of my life with someone else and am still following through on that commitment.
Single: I’ve done no such thing.

All your base belong to the BRAC list

Jeff Quinton has a post with a list of military bases allegedly (and I stress allegedly) on the Base Realignment and Closure list to be announced tomorrow. Among the casualties include Mississippi’s Columbus AFB, NAS Meridian, and Pascagoula NS, leaving (by my estimation) just Keesler AFB and the Sea Bee base in Gulfport in service.

Professorial dirty secrets

Stephen Karlson dressed down today to administer his final exams. I actually got a bit of joshing from the gallery when I showed up to give my intro final a couple of weeks ago in a polo shirt and jeans; apparently it never occurred to them that the main reason I wear a shirt, slacks, and a tie on days I teach is so I look older than they do.

Firefox 1.0.4 now on the street

Firefox’s software update feature doesn’t seem to be finding it yet (at least on my box where I’m running a 1.0.4 release candidate), so download it here. (þ: Asa Dotzler)

Remembering Barry Goldwater

Goldwater had a philosophy that came from his upbringing, if I remember his memoirs correctly, and he held on to it quite stubbornly to the end. His defeat in 1964 was crucial to the emergence of Reagan sixteen years later. The Economist has a great article that contrasts today’s Republican Party with Goldwater’s views and the GOP comes off looking bad.

It’s a subscriber only article, but I’ll provide a quick excerpt here:

THE Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think-tank based—where else?—in Phoenix, Arizona, contains a striking photograph of the young Barry Goldwater, dressed in girlish clothes and accompanied by a tame monkey. The precise meaning of the photograph—was the monkey borrowed, or a permanent part of the maverick Arizonan’s household?—is lost to history. But for those with a taste for symbolism the photograph raises an intriguing question: is Goldwaterism anything more than an eccentric side-show in today’s Republican Party?

Although he went down to a huge defeat in the 1964 presidential election, Goldwater did as much as anybody to launch the modern conservative movement. Yet everywhere you look, the Republican Party is abandoning his principles.

One reason why Ronald Reagan had such an invigorating impact on his party is that he never allowed the Christian right to gain too much power at the expense of the Goldwater right.

The senator’s conservatism was rooted in small government. But today’s Grand Old Party has morphed into the “Grand Old Spending Party”, as the libertarian Cato Institute dubs it. Total government spending grew by 33% in George Bush’s first term. Goldwater’s hostility to big government also extended to government meddling in people’s private lives. He thundered that social conservatives such as Jerry Falwell deserved “a swift kick in the ass”, and insisted that the decision to have an abortion should be “up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the religious right”. For Goldwater, abortion was “not a conservative issue at all”. For many Republicans today, it often seems to be the only conservative issue.


This love affair with big government has been inflamed by the experience of power. Ten years ago, the champions of conservatism were anti-government radicals such as Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey. Today they are patronage-wallahs like Tom DeLay. The congressional Republican Party, once a brake on spending, is now an accelerator. Congress trimmed Mr Clinton’s budgets by $57 billion in 1996–2001; in Mr Bush’s first term, it added an extra $91 billion of domestic spending.

Despite this, it would be a mistake to dismiss Goldwaterism as a side-show. The Arizonan would have applauded at least some of Mr Bush’s policies, including his tax cuts, his strong defence of gun rights, and Social Security reform, a cause that Goldwater embraced in the 1960s. He would also have found something to like in some of Mr Bush’s conservative judges-in-waiting, particularly Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown, who have both been vigorous supporters of property rights.

Goldwaterism is also flourishing at the local level, particularly in the west. Thanks in part to the Goldwater Institute, Arizona has taken bigger strides towards school choice than any other state in the union. Last year, Seattle rejected overwhelmingly a do-gooder coffee tax. Florida recently passed a “right to shoot” law, giving citizens the right to shoot people who attack them in the street.


One reason why Ronald Reagan had such an invigorating impact on his party is that he never allowed the Christian right to gain too much power at the expense of the Goldwater right. Messrs Bush and Rove may have to pay more attention to that balance if they are to realise their dream of turning the Republicans into America’s permanent ruling party.

This is all another way of describing the possible split in the Republican Party: some say immigration is the issue and others say a distaste for the religious right’s influence. I see it as being split along the Goldwater lines. I favor immigration, like President Bush, but I'm increasingly uncomfortable with the RR's influence in the party. The Left immediately gave credit to the "values voters" and tried to denigrate the country because of it. Members of the RR were happy to accept credit because it would give them more influence. Don't get me wrong: I'm not one of the hysterics who thinks we are headed for "theocracy", but I do see the Party pandering too much to the RR.

I'm not in total disagreement with the religious right, but my disagreements are real and matter at the voting booth. Again, though, I'm not in total disagreement. For instance, I happen to agree with the religious right that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, but it ends there for me. Returning the issue to the states where it belongs is my goal. I suspect that the RR would be thrilled with a SCOTUS ruling that made abortion illegal in all states, whereas I would not be happy; not at all.

Bush's non-defense, non-homeland-security spending during the first term is still an embarrassment, along with the steel tariffs and the huge farm bill. In this respect, Bush looks a lot like Nixon. Not a flattering comparison, to say the least.

Bush signed McCain-Feingold though it was against his own stated principles (Nixonian also). He massively increased spending on the Department of Education and it’s so large now (over $50 billion) that the only way to get rid of it would be along the lines of welfare reform. He could propose that the Department be abolished and the huge budget spread among the states as block grants. I would be thrilled if this could be done.

If the alternative weren’t so hideous—the Democrats—I would have a hard time voting Republican these days.

If loving you is wrong, I don't wanna be Wright

The Wright Amendment is back in the news, as Southwest Airlines (my new favorite carrier—$220 round-trip tickets from JAN to RDU will give you the warm fuzzies, as will non-stop flights to my favorite city in North America) is stepping up its lobbying effort to get the flight restrictions on Dallas’ Love Field repealed.

Vance of Begging to Differ links a study that shows Dallas has the highest airfares of any major U.S. city, and the lack of competition with American Airlines at DFW, particularly now that Delta has shut down its Dallas hub due to its financial problems, is pretty clearly the cause.

American may have also dug itself a bit of a hole in trying to protect its fortress hub at DFW: the Kansas City Star reports that American reneged on promises it made Missouri lawmakers when it took over TWA, and the new chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee is none other than Kit Bond of Missouri.

Nobody beats the Whizz

Vikings RB Onterrio Smith was apparently caught in possession of a device known as “The Original Whizzinator,” apparently designed to help people beat drug tests.

If I were particularly bored, I’d launch into a long invective about the fact the only reason anyone would need such a device is due to the widespread paranoia about drugs in America. Good thing I’m not that bored. (þ: OTB and PTI)

Wednesday, 11 May 2005

More Confidence Tricks

Stephen Downes (both in my comments below and at his blog) disputes that the motion voted on yesterday by Canada’s parliament is really a confidence motion; he instead characterizes it as “nothing more than a recommendation to a committee.” This radically understates the nature of the motion.

In parliamentary procedure, a motion to recommit with instructions is more than a mere “recommendation”; it is a message from the floor that the committee must amend the legislation in question and then report it back to the floor as amended. Both Canadian and U.S. parliamentary rules state that anything ordered by a motion to reconsider is mandatory.

The most charitable interpretation—one denied by the Liberals—is that the amendment requires the immediate reporting of a confidence motion by the committee on public accounts. Canadian political scientist Andrew Heard argues that, in fact, the vote was a confidence motion and should be treated as such.

Truly disturbing

I didn’t realize “Oops! I Did It Again” was a cover. Amazing what you can learn in the blogosphere. (þ: OxBlog)

Update: Another cover by Britney also gains disfavor.

How to kill a C-130

Veronica Mars finale

I kinda expected most of the outcome of “Who Killed Lilly Kane?” after last week—at least, the killer didn’t particularly surprise me—but the whole thing with Logan and Weevil seemed like it was supposed to be resolved by the end of the episode, and it wasn’t—though, I suppose, resolving that might have given away who showed up at the end.

My other critique: not enough Wallace; even his mom got more screen time. Gotta love Wallace.

Tuesday, 10 May 2005

Not that you asked, but

Fun with morality

Tyler Cowen links a quiz that seeks to determine your position on three dimensions of morality. Here’s how I scored:

Your Moralising Quotient is: 0.27.
Your Interference Factor is: 0.00.
Your Universalising Factor is: 0.50.

Mildly amusing and not particularly surprising. You can play here. Jacqueline Mackie Massey Passey had similar scores to me, while Stephen Bainbridge’s scores reminded me why I often find his politics annoyingly meddlesome.

Three and a half men

Funny and probably true relationship advice for women:

1. It is important that a man helps you around the house and has a job.
2. It is important that a man makes you laugh.
3. It is important to find a man you can count on and doesn’t lie to you.
4. It is important that a man loves you (and tells you so!) and spoils you.
5. It is important that these four men don’t know each other.

I think I might pull off 3½ of these on a good day… I’m afraid I’m useless at housework, although the last person I had over was under the delusion that my apartment was clean.

Confidence tricksters

When is a vote of no confidence not a vote of no confidence? When it takes place in Canada, apparently. As Mustafa Hirji of Points of Information explains, Westminster parliamentary rules don’t obligate the executive to resign when they lose a confidence vote, but nonetheless the traditional response of resignation is key to parliamentary sovereignty:

[R]esponsible government’s preservation requires that the Executive honour votes of no confidence. Otherwise, the Executive ceases to be responsible to the legislature and is, instead, responsible only to the unelected monarch or representative thereof.

Responsibility to Parliament is absolutely key in our system of government. Unlike the United States, we lack checks and blances to constrain the power of the Executive. Parliament is the only meaningful constraint on the Executive and their widespread powers. When this constraint ceases to exist, the Governor-General, effectively chosen by the Prime Minister and likely therefore beholden to him/her, becomes the only check on the Prime Minister. That check is neither realistic nor desireable, let alone democratic or accountable.

Of course, if the role of the governor-general (or, in the case of Britain, the monarch) was taken by an official responsible to the electorate or parliament—most other parliamentary regimes use the largely ceremonial president in this role—the conflict of interest would be greatly diminished. Either way, it seems to me that if parliament does vote in favor of a no confidence motion, and the executive refuses to resign, the governor-general has an obligation to dismiss the executive.

Update: More via InstaPundit: perspectives from Ed Morrissey and “ferret” of Conservative Life, as well as liveblogging from Stephen Taylor (not the PoliBlog guy). Kate also has a post at Outside the Beltway, with a link to another news story on today’s events.

All for the nookie

Somehow I missed Orgasm Day yesterday (þ: Glenn Reynolds). Amber Taylor claims that this event would be the “polar opposite” of International Kissing Day; I tend to think these events are rather orthogonal, myself.

However, it’s still Masturbation Month, so everyone’s got that to, er, celebrate at least.

Firefox 1.0.4 release candidates out

If you run Mozilla Firefox, you probably want to upgrade to a 1.0.4 candidate build to fix the arbitrary code execution vulnerability discussed at OTB and elsewhere.

UnReal ID

There are a few things around the web of interest on the “Real ID” Act today:

Orin Kerr thinks Bruce Schneier is overstating his case against the Real ID provisions,although Kerr is unconvinced of the merits of the proposal (þ: Glenn Reynolds).

Lamar! is among the senators opposed to the Real ID provisions… but they’re going to be law anyway, thanks to a 100–0 Senate vote on the supplemental appropriations bill they were contained in.

“Hannibal” of Ars Technica says there’s more to be concerned about in the bill, although I have to say I’m somewhat less upset than he that Congress suspended part of NEPA for the purpose of improving border security.

Shack up and go to jail

John “Don’t Call Me Juan” Cole notes that the ACLU is challenging a 1805 North Carolina statute forbidding cohabitation by unmarried couples in court. For those considering living in sin elsewhere, the Tar Heel State is not alone in its opprobrium toward cohabitors:

North Carolina is one of seven states that still have laws on the books prohibiting cohabitation of unmarried couples. The others are Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi and North Dakota.

As a longtime opponent of such “uncommonly silly” laws, I offer the ACLU my unqualified support in this matter.

Monday, 9 May 2005

More lies

Well, the real evaluations—rather than the fake ones here—are in, and they’re much better than those from last semester, by well over a standard deviation. (I’d sit down and do the independent samples t test, but I’m not that bored. t test below the fold…)

I’m just chalking this one up as yet another in a series of little ironies that have been running around for the past couple of months.

Call me back when something happens

Another day, another compromise over filibusters allegedly in the works. Yawn. (þ: PoliBlog)

Settle this

Well, the state’s budget crisis was fun while it lasted… but apparently it’s now over after a $100 million settlement with the corpse of MCI over back taxes owed to the state. As always when large sums of money are being tossed around and lawyers are involved, Mike Moore manages to work his way into the plot:

Negotiations were stalled until two months ago, when MCI contacted former Attorney General Mike Moore. His law firm has represented MCI.

“They just called me up when they decided they wanted to get serious about negotiations,” Moore said.

Yeah, whatever. More on the fallout here.

Da Prez

Drudge says ABC has greenlit a series called Commander-in-Chief starring Geena Davis as the nation’s first female president.

Somehow I don’t expect her performance in the role to hold a candle to that of Mary McDonnell in more-or-less the same role in Battlestar Galactica, but I’ll give Davis the chance to surprise me.

Sunday, 8 May 2005

My life in a nutshell

From a recent email exchange at an ungodly hour (slightly paraphrased from memory):

Me: I’m listening to Avril now.
Student: I like Avril’s stuff. Her music isn’t bad either.
Me: Avril has stuff?

Never did get an answer to that one…


I think I’ve given up on Empires of Light for now… maybe I will become sufficiently bored in the coming weeks to resume reading, but given that I have a few other books to read around the apartment, I probably won’t.

It may prove my geekiness that the first book I picked up was The Design and Evolution of C++, which I rediscovered while searching my shelves for books to sell on Amazon.com.

Saturday, 7 May 2005

Why I do what I do

Every time I have some little complaint about my job, I should remind myself of today—or at least days like today, for today was commencement at Millsaps, and my first commencement as a faculty member (here or elsewhere). While I didn’t know these seniors as well as I might have liked, I hope I touched at least some of their lives in the way that professors past have touched mine.

Of course, it was a bittersweet day for me and a few other colleagues, including the oft-mentioned Kelly, as it also marks the official end of our employment by the college.* To all the friends, colleagues, and students (not mutually-exclusive!) I have encountered, it’s been a blast, and I’d do it all again… well, as long as I got a tenure-track contract next time!

My new career as a bookseller

In preparation for moving, I’ve decided to get rid of most of my collection of computer books, including a large chunk of O’Reilly’s catalog. If I could figure out how to make a link to the list at Amazon.com, I would… in the meantime, here’s my lameass storefront where you can at least search my listings…

Update: Here's the full list of what's for sale.

Northern Ireland short on future sons of God these days

One of the more disturbing results of Thursday’s general election in Britain was the heavy support for hardline Nationalist and Unionist parties in Northern Ireland, where hardliners captured 14 of the 18 parliamentary seats up for grabs. Among those losing his position in Parliament was David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist party leader who negotiated the Good Friday peace agreement with retiring SDLP leader John Hume.

Then again, perhaps the hardliners can have an “only Nixon can go to China” moment… but I’m not holding my breath.

A real ho-down

From a recent 7th Circuit opinion:

The trial transcript quotes Ms. Hayden as saying Murphy called her a snitch bitch “hoe.” A “hoe,” of course, is a tool used for weeding and gardening. We think the court reporter, unfamiliar with rap music (perhaps thankfully so), misunderstood Hayden’s response. We have taken the liberty of changing “hoe” to “ho,” a staple of rap music vernacular as, for example, when Ludacris raps “You doin’ ho activities with ho tendencies.”

Sounds a lot like my paper grading over the past week. (þ: BTD Greg)

Thursday, 5 May 2005


Apropos of the U.K. election, Stephen Bainbridge plays ‘predict the election’ and notes Labour’s massive (predicted) lead in seats isn’t matched by its lead in vote share:

It’s an interesting example, by the way, of just how skewed the British electoral system is against the Tories. If I’m right, a 3 point difference in the national polls leaves them almost 200 seats behind Labour.

The British electoral system isn’t skewed against the Tories—at least, not any more, as Scotland’s overrepresentation in Parliament has finally been done away with; it’s skewed in favor of whoever wins the plurality of the national vote. It’s almost (but not exactly) the exact same effect as we see in the U.S. electoral college: “landslides” in the electoral college are easily manufactured by relatively small differences in the popular vote.

The effect is also a partial consequence of Britain’s nonpartisan redistricting system; gerrymandering in the U.S. depresses the number of districts that are likely to “swing” from one party to the other, while the British process tends to produce a larger number of districts close to parity. (However, unlike post-Wesberry America, there is no requirement of strict population equality for constituencies in Britain.)

Shugart and Taagepera’s Seats and Votes explains things far better than I can, if you can find a copy.

I like to watch

There was a time when I was enough of a politics junkie to watch election returns live. These days I’ll settle for reading the BBC results on the laptop while I watch the NBA playoffs on TV.

At the moment, it looks like Labour is running slightly behind its 2001 seat total (a net loss of 21 seats), with the Tories benefitting the most (+14), but there’s real no risk of Labour losing its majority unless the polls are really wrong—the current 3.2% swing to the Conservatives would have to become a 6.5% swing for Labour to lose its majority, according to the awesome Swingometer. (þ: Raffi Melkonian for the Swingometer link.)

Hey jealousy

Jacqueline is seeing Serenity tomorrow. I’m stuck at home watching Enterprise.* Life isn’t fair.

Damn lies

My students are apparently laboring under the delusion that I am “hot.” Oy vey. I could buy that rating for Ms. Mueller or Dr. Galicki, to say nothing of the legendary Dr. Tegtmeier-Oertel, but not for me.

Elsewhere: Dr. Huffmon’s students love him (except the student who fails to properly recognize that he is the Messiah), but inexplicably fail to award the coveted chili pepper. Mass delusion, I tell you. (þ sorta-kinda: Mungowitz End)

Movie afternoon

Yesterday, a few of the first-year faculty (Suzanne, Kamilla, and Peter) and I went to see The Interpreter with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn; most thought it was a very good film. Although I don’t specialize in African politics, it seemed to be fairly faithful to the themes of sub-Saharan Africa—the semi-obvious inspiration for the film’s fake country of Mobutu is Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe was once viewed as the savior of his people but has spent much of the past three decades terrorizing his own population, but aspects of other central and southern African countries are present as well.

The broader point raised by some in the war party of the blogosphere (e.g. ☣ Little Green Footballs), that the choice to set the story in Africa instead of the Middle East somehow is a denial of the existence of Islamic-inspired terrorism, strikes me as rather stupid. For one, the terrorist attack in the story is a political assassination—not the preferred tactic of most Middle Eastern terror groups. More importantly, I think it’s easier to think seriously about the issues raised in the film if they’re not tied up in the 9/11 framework, especially since the film doesn’t want to make it as easy as “people with guns and bombs bad.”

Wednesday, 4 May 2005

Is it just cold in here?

Good news for Debian fans: the archive freeze in preparation for release has taken place. If all goes according to plan, Debian 3.1 will be out by the end of the month.

Tuesday, 3 May 2005

Somewhere Brock is smiling

The sales of David Bernstein’s oft-plugged tome You Can’t Say That! are apparently flagging. It certainly doesn’t reflect a lack of marketing effort by the author…

Meet the new boss, not quite the same as the old one

Well, the fat lady is now singing: with 90 of 95 precincts reporting, I’m ready to call this thing for Frank Melton.

Monday, 2 May 2005

Opposition research

While searching for a PBS show on psychology I promised to record for my friend and colleague Suzanne (which I never found), I stumbled across this program listing:

Electric Orgasm: An anesthesiologist uses pain relief technology to trigger the brain’s pleasure zone in three women.

Ah, but will the anesthesiologist remember their birthdays? I think not.

And I thought I was a doormat

The groom-to-be of the runaway bride still wants to go through with the wedding. I guess this proves both of them are insane. (þ: OTB)

Plan Bee

I know of which Russell speaks all too well—and one of my best friends, not a political scientist, is going through the same hell at the moment… as, for that matter, was I not so long ago (not to mention, as I keep reminding myself, I didn’t even have a job offer until this time last year). There but for the grace of God, or at least the grace of KGM.

Incidentally, I made myself two promises last year: that I’d quit academia (or at least go and get an M.S. in statistics or survey research or maybe even a J.D.) if I didn’t get a tenure-track job for 2005–06, and that I’d get myself that social life I’d been putting off for the past decade-plus. I went 0–2—or maybe 1–1, depending on how you evaluate my social life (much better than in Oxford, but from a pretty negligible baseline)—but I’m not all that convinced that the first promise was the right one, since there’s nothing else I’d rather do than what I do now, even if the job security sucks. Thus I contribute to the collective action problem that leads to the proliferation of non-tenure-track jobs even at institutions that can afford them.

The blogging Dukies

My future boss links an interesting article in today’s Duke Chronicle about the curricular and extracurricular use of blogs at Duke.

I’m still pondering to what extent I want to use blogs in my classes; I had a really good idea for using blogs in a State and Local class, but it only would work in a state capital. I probably will decide to work blogging into intro in the fall, at least in a limited fashion, instead of requiring a term paper—the Culture War papers this semester were OK, I guess, but I think there may be a better way to work with that idea in a “journal” type format as opposed to the term paper. (þ: Nick Troester)

Time after time

Someone is trying to organize a “time traveler convention” this weekend at MIT. I’ve read and seen enough science fiction to know this is a really, really bad idea—particularly if it works. (þ: Alex Knapp)

Sunday, 1 May 2005

My Martin Luther moment

Why Geeks and Nerds Are Worth It…. I need to slap this bad boy up on my office door… except it would look really pathetic, even by my standards. (þ: Joy)

Movie trivia of the day

The new version of Walking Tall says it’s 86 minutes long. Well, it is if you count the closing credits. The movie ends at the 73 minute mark and there are an additional 13 minutes of credits on a black background. I could have probably gotten a credit if I asked. I had to watch the movie twice to make it feel like a real movie.

Not necessarily a bad movie, just too little of it.

Simile of the day

Orson Swindle on Notre Dame’s new sweet deal with the BCS:

This is like giving Mongolia a seat on the UN Security Council in tribute to Genghis Khan.

Well, there are those French and British chairs in the room…