Friday, 30 September 2005

Friday nonsense

I guess there’s a “casual Fridays” rule in the blogosphere too (not one I respected today in class, mind you); to that end, my (short) list of albums I enjoy listening to all the way through:

I have deliberately excluded albums that I skip more than one song on.

Wednesday, 28 September 2005

WSoP observation of the day

After watching the World Series of Poker coverage last night on ESPN, I have to say that I’m incredibly impressed that Jennifer Tilly somehow managed to find an equally ditzy boyfriend in fellow poker player Phil “The Unabomber” Laak. Surely a match made in heaven.

Previous discussion of Leak and Tilly here.

Today is a good day to indict

Tom DeLay just got his ass indicted, and while that’s a far cry from him getting convicted (the old phrase about most prosecutors being able to get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich springs to mind), it’s still not promising for his future political prospects. Otherwise, what I said nearly nine months ago still applies, so I’m not going to belabor those points again.

þ: PoliBlog and Scipio; James Joyner has a roundup from around the ‘sphere.

Monday, 26 September 2005

The perfect shill

Hei Lun of Begging to Differ was equally unimpressed with the hidden quid pro quo connected to the free passes to see Serenity. Quoth Hei Lun:

I’m not saying that I’m highly principled and not-for-sale at any price, but it’d sure take more than $9.75 for someone to tell me what to write on this blog.

It’s not quite $9.75 in this neck of the woods (Southpoint, which I assume is the most expensive place in Durham, is $8.25 after 6 p.m., and $6.25 before 6), but, yeah, my price is a bit higher than that too. Plus I really didn’t want to drive to Raleigh during rush hour tomorrow afternoon…


Stephen Karlson has some thoughts on the viability of intercity rail travel in response to Jeff Harrell’s skepticism over further Amtrak funding. My two cents:

Outside the Northeast Corridor and a few regional operations, Amtrak is a classic example of GNDN. I know exactly one person who has ever ridden the City of New Orleans, despite having lived in two cities that are served by the route. The only advantage of Amtrak over auto travel is that you don’t have to drive… and that one is largely negated if there’s hassle at either endpoint, such as inconvenient modal transfers, long layovers, etc. The only advantages over Amtrak over flying is that (a) you don’t have to deal with getting from the airport to the central business district (assuming the CBD is your destination) and (b) the security hassles are significantly reduced (but by no means nonexistent). And, the only advantages of Amtrak over riding Greyhound are (a) reduced travel times and (b) marginally better comfort.

It seems to me, then, that viable passenger rail needs to be designed to complement other modes of transportation. That means, for starters, more intermodal connections like at BWI and MKE airports, and direct connections to local mass transit (that means, when I get off the train in Chicago, I shouldn’t have to walk several blocks to get on the L). That also means making it easy for people to rent cars at train stations… many general aviation airports (in addition to every commercial airport in the country) have car rental counters, but good luck trying to find one at most Amtrak stations. While you’re at it, include safe, secure, long-term parking lots.

Amtrak probably hasn’t helped its case in “flyover country”—particularly with Republican politicians—by only operating its flagship Acela Express service in the Northeast Corridor. If other parts of the rail system had been upgraded to a similarly high standard (notwithstanding the problems Acela has had), the political case for continued Amtrak subsidies would probably be much better, even if the economic case for building high-speed rail in other areas is weak-to-nonexistent—the existence of Southwest Airlines, for example, makes a Houston–Dallas rail link a sure money-loser, even though tens of thousands of people make that trip daily. Ironically, because of Amtrak’s brief flirtation with economic rationality, Amtrak has virtually no constituency other than its employees outside the NEC states.

Friday, 23 September 2005

Your Cake lyric of the day

At the other place: I consider the difference in student attire between Duke and Millsaps, and the nature of the causal mechanism involved.

The Carnival of the Unserious

Nope, it’s not another weekly blog roundup… instead, it’s Matthew Stinson’s moniker for this weekend’s anti-war festivities, organized by the neo-Stalinists at International ANSWER and the anti-Jewish bigots at the Nation of Islam, and headlined by Mama Sheehan; the local branch office here at Duke decided to join in the festivities by making a 15-foot “missile” and sticking it in the middle of the West Quad on the pedastal where James Duke’s statue normally stands.

Matt proposes a drinking game for the C-SPAN coverage… which would be a nice idea, but I can’t afford that much liquor. Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds thinks the press ought to stop whitewashing the anti-war movement; while I do actually believe there is a “authentic antiwar movement” in America (unlike, apparently, Glenn), and there are serious people I respect who disagree with me about the merits of the war in Iraq (Hi Scott! Hi Dad!), I’m not at all convinced that the “authentic” elements of the antiwar movement are doing themselves any favors by associating themselves with left-wing hate groups like the NoI and ANSWER.

More to the point, if (say) anti-immigration or anti-busing protests were being organized by the Klan or its front organizations, and “mainstream” folks were at risk of lending their support to those protests, I strongly suspect the media coverage would be deafening compared to the distinct lack of outrage that genuine public concern about Iraq has become a free recruiting tool for bigots and radical anti-capitalists. The sad thing is that a lot of Americans probably will join these protests because they don’t really know who’s behind them—and the press is doing these people a disservice.

My name in print

My first real publication (broadly defined) in political science is now officially “forthcoming”; while it’s only a short piece in The Political Methodologist, the biannual newsletter of the Society for Political Methodology, I figure you have to start somewhere. It’s a brief overview of Quantian, a “Live Linux” DVD that’s geared toward use by social, behavioral, and natural scientists.

My co-author and Quantian’s developer, Dirk Eddelbuettel, has the current version of the piece up at his website, for the morbidly curious. The article probably will appear in the Fall 2005 issue, whenever that emerges.

Thursday, 22 September 2005


The fine folks at Universal Studios are giving out free passes to preview screenings of Serenity to bloggers. Pretty sweet, if you ask me.

þ: Glenn Reynolds and Dan Drezner.

Emory, Wash U go to war

I have to say, this is pretty funny, although the logic of establishing a rivalry with a school that isn’t even in the same time zone is lost on me. Rivalries generally thrive on casual interaction; a rivalry that involves setting out on a cross-country trek doesn’t seem likely to succeed in the long run.

In other words, maybe Emory should have gone for something easier… like battling Furman.

þ: Jeff Harrell, who has more.

Tuesday, 20 September 2005

There but for the grace of Duverger

The German elections have come and gone, and the results are Inconclusive; as expected, nobody got an outright majority, but less expected was the inability of the “natural” CDU–FDP coalition to gain a majority, thus leaving Germans with a series of rather unappetizing coalition possibilities:

  • The rather-unlikely “red-red-green” coalition, combining the SPD (Gerhard Schröder’s Social Democrats) with his current coalition partners, the Greens, and the whole lot making nice with the Left Party splinter group (itself a motley collection of ex-Communists and malcontent Social Democrats, including Schröder’s main rival on the left, Oskar Lafontaine).
  • The “traffic light” coalition including the SPD, FDP, and the Greens; also unlikely, as the FDP‘s leader has rejected it according to The Economist.
  • The “Jamaica” coalition of the CDU (the Christian Democrats, led by Angela Merkel, along with their Bavarian sister party, the CSU), the FDP (the Free Democrats, “liberals” in the European sense of the term), and the Greens. Somewhat plausible, if the Greens are willing to put aside their materialist values in favor of the postmaterialist ones they share with the Free Democrats.
  • A “grand coalition” of the SPD and CDU, with either Schröder or Merkel as chancellor. As Pieter Dorsman and Matthew Shugart point out, this is probably the worst of all possible worlds, albeit the most likely outcome.

And, to top things off, things aren’t really settled yet since a neo-Nazi candidate in Dresden died, requiring a postponement of the vote in that constituency; under Germany’s version of the additional member system, this will probably affect the final seat tally for both the CDU and the SPD, even if neither wins the seat.

Where to next? Pieter Dorsman thinks holding another vote may be the most sensible course of action, although I’m not really sure it would change much. My guess is that Germany will try to muddle through, with the CDU and SPD advancing some rather half-assed reforms that please no one… which, more likely than not, will bring us back to this point with another inconclusive election sooner, rather than later.

The comparative angle is advanced by Stephen Karlson, who notes that America’s coalition building is rather less explicit than that of Germany—of course, the muddled result in Germany, I’d argue, is largely because the SPD has failed to maintain its internal coalition. All effective governing parties are coalitions of interests—even in Israel, with easy entry into parliament for any disgruntled splinter group, both major parties (and many of the smaller ones) represent a range of opinion, not a single point in policy space. Here, I think Betsy’s Page gets the causality backwards:

Can you imagine some situation in America when we would have to have a coalition government of Republicans and Democrats running the government together. I’m not talking about divided government between Congress and the president. I’m talking about running the executive branch together. It is just unimaginable. The reason we have two parties is because they disagree fundamentally on how the government should run. And thinking of some coalition between a major and minor party would just move that party more to the extremes. [emphasis mine]

Leaving aside whether Democrats and Republicans “disagree fundamentally” about the operation of government (they don’t… try distinguishing the last four years of Republican rule from the Great Society, and you’ll find remarkable overlap), the two parties don’t exist because of this disagreement—at best, voters disagree, and the two parties try to maximize their number of votes by appealing to likely winning coalitions of voters.

More formally, the U.S. has two parties because of two major factors: our plurality (first-past-the-post) electoral system, and the loose federalism of the party system. Plurality elections do not inevitably lead to two-party systems (ask Canada or the U.K.); however, the added factors of having a relatively nationalized, largely unidimensional policy space (the key issues in America don’t radically differ between New York City and Philadelphia, Mississippi, even if the political position of the median voter in those places does, and people tend to dispute politics on a “left-right” dimension that is just similar enough to that of continental Europe to confuse observers on both sides of the Atlantic) and substantial local and state party autonomy (allowing the NYC and Neshboa County GOP establishment to largely define “Republican” for themselves), effectively ensure a two-party system—even where the barriers to ballot entry are low for new parties.

If the incentives for a two party system melted away, more likely than not our existing Republican and Democratic parties would melt away with them (or at least be transformed beyond recognition). And if you think our parties are bad now, wait until you see the parties led by Maxine Waters and Pat Robertson (or their acolytes) and comprised solely of their true believers. You’ll be begging for a grand coalition then…

Saturday, 17 September 2005

Not much of a legacy

Vance of Begging to Differ thinks airline bankruptcy reform is needed to fix the problem of legacy carriers hanging around on life support (and dragging the other legacy carriers along with them); The Economist suggests that pending bankruptcy law changes may do the trick, even if short-term that means more legacy carriers filing to beat the deadline.

That election in Germany

Ex-Mr. Liza Minelli in Tunica

This clipping from an ad for the Horseshoe in the Commercial Appeal a couple of weeks ago is priceless:

I guess I now know who plays $100 slots. (þ: Mom, for sending it in the mail to me.)

Friday, 16 September 2005

College sports betting thought of the year

If I were (a) stupid enough to bet on sports and (b) stupid enough to bet on any game the Rebels were involved with, I’d take Ole Miss (+3) over Vandy and the under (44). Reasons:

  • Ole Miss can defend the pass. The pass is, well, Vandy’s entire offense (except that whole option thing).
  • Vandy isn’t as good as Memphis. Ole Miss, er, beat Memphis. Ergo, Ole Miss should beat Vandy.
  • Vandy’s home field advantage is nonexistent.
  • Vandy loses to Ole Miss, even in years the Rebels suck (see: 2001, 2002, 2004). So, even if Ole Miss does suck this year (something yet to be determined—we’ll see in mid-October), they should still beat Vandy.
  • Intangible 1: I’m quite certain that Vandy being 3–0 is a sign of the apocalypse. I don’t think universal armageddon is quite here yet.
  • Intangible 2: Coach O will probably call the entire team a “bunch of pussies” if they lose to Vandy. The team doesn’t want a tanned shirtless guy calling them pussies. So they will win. And not wear any earrings.

Disclaimer: taking my betting advice is probably a bad idea under any and all circumstances. I am not responsible for any monetary losses incurred as a result of this pick.

Take my coins away

Ars Technica takes note of a new deal between Coinstar and that will let you exchange your pesky coins for gift certificates at face value. Where was this service last month, before I lugged all my change from Jackson to Durham in Ziploc bags?

SPSA makes decision

For those following the SPSA saga who are not on the association’s mailing list: an update has been posted, indicating that the conference will meet in January in Atlanta at the Hotel Intercontinental in Buckhead.

Wednesday, 14 September 2005


I now have the smiling faces of all 68 of my students (34 in each class) in my grubby little hands. At this rate, I might be able to put names with the faces by the end of the semester…

Research methods exercise of the day

I had seven groups in class today do the following: come up with a way to test whether peoples’ blaming of the government for an inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina was affected by media coverage.

I think I had about ten answers. Which is as it should be, letting many flowers bloom and all that, and which goes to show that a seemingly simple question can be answered by social science in lots of different ways—sometimes with different answers. One strongly suspects the group that would have exposed different experimental groups to Shep and Anderson Cooper would have found a bit different results than the group that measured self-reported media attentiveness in a sample survey.

Tuesday, 13 September 2005

Fiddling while Rome floods, SPSA edition

Your SPSA non-update update of the day. Quoth the SPSA website, as of this posting:

On Monday, we expect to announce the signing of a contract with the new host of our January 2006 conference.

Perhaps SPSA is using a different value of “Monday” than the rest of us. I thought it was over nearly 17 hours ago, myself…

The quants are now taking over the blogosphere, too

New to “Chris’s blogroll” (distinguished from the “Active blogroll” on a basis I’m not entirely sure of, and probably a vestige of SN’s brief life as a group blog): Charles Franklin’s Political Arithmetik and the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science’s blog, both of which I first became aware of via Paul Brewer.

Can a blogospheric Perestroika movement be far behind?

Incidentally, I’ve had the distinction of having been taught by Prof. Franklin (albeit for only four days, during the Advanced Maximum Likelihood Estimation course at ICPSR in 2001), at a time when he was sporting a beard and looked like the spitting image of my father.

Saturday, 10 September 2005


Louis Farrakhan came to town this week, and our illustrious mayor gave him the key to the city. Maybe I should have lived in Chapel Hill after all…

Defending Nagin from the right

For what it’s worth: a counterpoint to my cheap shot at Ray Nagin comes from Cobb (þ: Xrlq).

Should FEMA be a uniformed service?

Bryan of Arguing with signposts asks whether reorganizing FEMA along military lines would make it more effective; this would not be unprecedented, as there are already several federal government agencies with primarily civilian responsibilities that are organized like the armed forces: the Coast Guard, the U.S. Public Health Service (hence why its head is the “surgeon general”), and NOAA.

SPSA bails on New Orleans, plays solidarity card

The meat of the latest update from the Southern Political Science Association website:

Intercontinental North America has excused us from the 2006 commitment without penalty. They have also asked their other properties in the South to try to step up and host our 2006 meeting under the same contract terms that we would have enjoyed in New Orleans. Detailed discussions are underway today (Friday, September 9th) with three beautiful Intercontinental properties. On Monday, we expect to announce the signing of a contract with the new host of our January 2006 conference. You can help in this process by honoring your commitments as we honor those that the association has made. Those of you who have attended The Southern since Savannah 2002 know that attendees will have a fabulous time and an excellent conference. You risk nothing by standing by the association while we stand by our corporate colleagues.

The candidate properties would appear to be three of the following four: Buckhead (Atlanta), Dallas, Houston, and Miami.

Given the givens (geography, air and road access, and the location of the association offices), Atlanta seems to be the most likely prospect, and perhaps the allure of Buckhead to potential attendees will be higher than that of the relatively uninteresting neighborhood surrounding the Sheraton that has been the site for several past SPSA meetings. With reports of attendees already bailing, SPSA had better have the situation resolved soon.

One of those “Is the pope” questions

Paul Brewer asks Are Political Scientists Boring? Duh. Anyone who’s been to ICPSR knows that sociologists have all the fun.

Now I know why Dukies like basketball

Here’s everything you need to know about the Virginia Tech–Duke game today:

Duke finished with 35 total yards on 53 plays[.]

If it’s possible, the game was worse than that stat. Now I know how Vanderbilt fans feel (except usually they at least score). About the only thing worthwhile about the game—besides the impromptu first down celebration a few of us had over in general admission in the third quarter and the game announcer’s almost-British level of understatement*—was the scenery.†

Now my debate for next week: do I use my (paid for) ticket to see Duke play VMI (which at least should be a competitive game), or do I stay home and pay twenty bucks to Time-Warner to watch Ole Miss–Vandy on GamePlan?

* Almost verbatim, after a 3rd and 23 screen pass that barely made it past the line of scrimmage: “the pass is complete, but short of the first down.”
† And, if my arms and legs are anything to judge by, most of the scenery is now sunburned. I never got sunburned at Ole Miss games; weird.

Friday, 9 September 2005

Group work

I made my intro class do a group discussion exercise today; I had intended it as a debate over Beard’s “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution” thesis, but I guess my questions were general enough to become a debate over non-economic self-interest too. The kids seemed to enjoy it—for the first time, they seemed as engaged as the methods kids—and it saved me from having to lecture as much.

The class also picked up one of our 50-or-so refugees from New Orleans today, a student from Tulane. I had planned to get the class to discuss the Katrina situation next week—we’re covering federalism and state/local government, so it seemed pretty apropos—but maybe that would be a bit insensitive. Thoughts?


Michael Brown is apparently being pushed aside at FEMA in favor of his deputy. There’s more thoughts from James Joyner at OTB, who points out the lack of experimental control here:

One presumes Brown has put in incredibly hard hours and done his best here. Clearly, he wasn’t particularly well trained for the position; it’s not knowable whether someone with better credentials could have done any better, though.

Nominally, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has better credentials… let’s go to the tape on her handling of the situation. Shall we say pas bien? And let’s not forget Ray “Underwater Schoolbusses” Nagin either. A pretty shameful showing all-around, methinks.

þ: Glenn Reynolds. I really don’t get the Norman Mineta vitriol, though…

Thursday, 8 September 2005

What I should have had my methods class do

A columnist for the Cornell Daily Sun rips on ESPN and brings some statistics to the table:

I recorded a normal hour-long SportsCenter and watched it, stopwatch and notepad in hand. I took record of how many of the 60 minutes were spent actually showing highlights. I defined highlights as any game footage, any top plays, any actual sports — no talking, no analyzing, just the visuals. This excludes time well spent on post-game interviews and relevant statistics, and the necessary evil that is the commercial — so I accept that the entire hour will not be used for highlights and highlights alone.

The results weren’t pretty…

þ: The Road From Bristol, who are now conducting an NIT of non-ESPN personalities that seems to comprise mostly baseball people I’ve never heard of.

The Ed Orgeron fan club

Joey of Straight Bangin’ continues the “Ed Orgeron is batshit crazy” meme and hilarity ensues.

þ: EDSBS; more here.

Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Yet another "only acceptable form of bigotry"

While I’m not a huge fan of the canard that “the only acceptable form of bigotry these days is against so-and-so,” largely because there are enough values of so-and-so that it’s invalid—fat people, Southerners, whites, straight people, smokers, short people, ugly people, ad nauseum. Nonetheless Matt Stinson has a point:

A sizable number of those who relentlessly mock Southern speech and culture do so because they enjoy the thrill of “superiority” which comes from being bigoted without the stain of seeming prejudiced against a racial or ethnic minority.

Your backdoor SPSA update

Following up on yesterday’s post, David Bernstein of the Volokh Conspiracy reports:

The head of the New Orleans convention bureau told NPR today that he is canceling all conventions scheduled to be held in New Orleans through March 2006.

The CVB site claims that this cancellation only applies to large conventions or those using the convention center space, but realistically if the Crescent City won’t be in good enough condition to host a large convention in April it probably won’t in good enough condition for any convention in January.

Tuesday, 6 September 2005

I thought ESPN seemed quieter

ESPN has sent College GameDay analyst Trev Alberts packing after the latter apparently complained about the diminished role the studio hosts were playing in the network’s college football coverage. After seeing Rece Davis and Mark May working as a duo this weekend, I hope (probably against hope…) that ESPN will see fit to not replace Alberts with another no-account Big XII homer meathead analyst—though, unfortunately, Jason White’s departure from the NFL makes him a prime candidate for Alberts’ seat.

þ: EDSBS, who previously noted Trev’s further descent into meatheadedness this weekend.

If in doubt, piss off the French

Gotta love Lance Armstrong, who is considering coming out of retirement—not to try to win a ninth an eighth Tour de France, but just to piss off the Gauls:

“I’m thinking it’s the best way,’’ to anger the French, he told the newspaper. “I’m exercising every day.’’

I think it’s more likely that a Lance return will piss off his heirs-apparent like Ivan Basso, Alexander Vinokurov, and Jan Ullrich, but if it annoys the French too it should be a nice bonus.

Lyrics that don’t make sense

Steven Taylor doesn’t understand the lyrics of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” a song by one-hit wonder band Deep Blue Something (the remainder of their album sucked, by the way).

Meanwhile, I’m trying to be on the cutting edge by deciphering the lyrics of Rihanna’s “Pon De Replay.” Apparently going for the bizarre lyrics trifecta, Rihanna incorporates incomprehensible lyrics from Christina Milian’s “Dip It Low” in addition to the hook:

Come Mr. DJ song pon de replay
Come Mr. DJ won’t you turn the music up
All the gyal pon the dancefloor wantin some more what
Come Mr. DJ won’t you turn the music up

Incidentally, I think I have officially become “old.”

SPSA to members: grow gills

Via PoliBlog: the Southern Political Science Association thinks it will hold its annual convention in three months in New Orleans. Steven Taylor is unconvinced:

I certainly would not want the association to make a move that would take money out of the city, if, in fact, the meetings can take palce in January. However, I really don’t see that happening. The hotel, given its location and pictures I have seen is probably largely fine. However, what about the electrical grid, the phones, the water system, the roads, the police, the general support struture for tourists (restaurants, other hotels, etc.)? I just don’t see the city being able to host any events by the first week or so of January.

Considering that all that’s likely to be close to functional in New Orleans in three months (and, more than likely, for the forseeable future; the SPSA can only be delayed so long before it becomes moot) are the higher parts of the Jefferson Parish suburbs and some of the downtown area—bear in mind the Hotel Intercontinental, while on high ground, is only a few blocks from areas that are still flooded around the Superdome—I am forced to echo Steven’s skepticism.

A conference the size of SPSA should have no trouble finding suitable convention space elsewhere in the southeast, but these decisions need to be made sooner rather than later.

And the legend continues (or at least begins)

Well, it was fugly to the max (although not quite as bad as the FSU-Miami game), but the Rebels eked out a 10–6 win over the University of Memphis on Labor Day in Memphis’ Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Defensively, the Rebels looked like they were in pretty sound form, effectively shutting down outside Heisman hopeful DeAngelo Williams and racking up the game-saving pick.

On the other hand, the offense remains something of a question mark, although Micheal Spurlock looked surprisingly competent under center; Mario Hill looked to be the class of the receiving corps, while Mike Espy and Taye Biddle remained somewhat spotty performers. I think the Rebels will be able to handle Vanderbilt on the 17th, but the rest of the SEC schedule (particularly at Tennessee and Auburn) could be highly problematic unless the offense is able to get in gear soon.

More waah

I wish I were doing something more productive this morning than waiting for the cable company to show up to (a) install two more outlets in the apartment and (b) replace my digital cable box, which has this interesting habit of switching itself off at random intervals.

Meanwhile, one more for the “where art thou, Mungowitz?” file: a Duke Chronicle opinion piece that seems ripe for the Mungowitz treatment, combining a fair helping of scorn with a fair dollop of “the author has a point,” an art form I have sadly yet failed to master.

Saturday, 3 September 2005

William Rehnquist dead

Via Hei Lun Chan: Chief Justice of the United States William Rehnquist is dead at the age of 80.

The interesting open question is whether Democrats on Capitol Hill will attempt to play games with the court’s composition (currently, there are four “liberals” and three “conservatives” on the Court) by delaying the Roberts vote into the Court’s October Term; presumably, the president could counter with recess appointments (or Republican senators could invoke the “nuclear option”). One hopes that both sides will resist the urge to further escalate the conflict over the court’s composition.

What little I have to say about Katrina

Randy Barnett explaining why faith in government is a dangerous thing:

[G]overnment at all levels has obviously not lived up to its promise of being able to anticipate and react to disasters and other social calamities better than nongovernmental institutions. This should not be surprising. Governments are comprised of ordinary human beings with the same limitations of vision and self-interests as those in the private sector (and often, but not always, with far worse incentives)—that is, these human beings confront pervasive problems of knowledge, interest, and power. I have the same reaction every time there are calls for increased government oversight in the aftermath of some failure in the private sector. What gives anyone confidence that government institutions will act with any more prescience? Moreover, it seems often the case that the core functions that are most often used to justify the existence of governments—such as public safety, national defense, and public infrastructure—are often the very tasks that are given short shrift by real world politicians in search of more “elevated,” seemingly less pedestrian goals than these. This seems especially the case when the failure to provide these “essential social services” can so often be obscured from public view or, when revealed, responsibility for failure can be shifted to others.

Incidentally, anyone who can’t acknowledge that the fuck-ups that led to tens of thousands of New Orleans residents are the combined fault of a Republican-controlled federal government and Democrat-controlled state and local governments is responding in a fundamentally unserious manner. See, for example, Eric Muller and Glenn Reynolds, two smart men who (a) I didn’t previously believe were fundamentally unserious (hence why I am not calling out nitwits like Kos and Atrios—their behavior is par for the course) and (b) should know better.

Oh, and brava to Sela Ward for laying the smackdown on Kanye West’s idiotic "FEMA hates blacks" meme (speaking of the fundamentally unserious) on Larry King Live tonight.

College football thought of the day

You know, a year ago the statement “Brandon Cox is no Jason Campbell” wouldn’t have been an insult.

Huzzah and kudos

Congratulations to the U.S. mens’ soccer team on qualifying for the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany as a result of their 2–0 victory over Mexico in Columbus this evening. This is the fifth consecutive World Cup that the U.S. has qualified for, suggesting that the American squad is rapidly becoming a serious contender on the international scene.

Thursday, 1 September 2005

Pimping Mungowitz

Since Mungowitz End is, well, ended, I suppose I’ll have to do a Will Baude-style “MungowitzWatch.” To that end, read Mike Munger’s column on ballot access in North Carolina from today’s Raleigh-Durham News-Observer.


Well, I’m here, physically if not mentally. If you are too, drop me an email if you want to engage in the traditional (i.e. alcohol-soaked) conference activities.