Friday, 31 March 2006

Duke under siege, day five and a half: the drivebys start soon

Apparently the local gang community has made what are believed to be credible threats of drive-by shootings targeting Duke students living off East Campus, according to the Chronicle and a Duke press release.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this is not a good sign.

Update: Another link for the insomniacs: TalkLeft also takes note of the timeline inconsistencies.

Duke under siege, day five: pondering the timeline

(I initially drafted this as a comment to a post at Brendan Nyhan’s blog, but it’s gotten pretty unwieldy so I’ll just post it here. Note that it is somewhat speculative, but I think it fits the established facts. “Woman 1” is the alleged victim of the rape, “Woman 2” is the other exotic dancer.)

My plausible timeline works something like this:

  • Party happens, although it’s not exactly established when. The neighbors could put a rough time on the “cotton shirt” comment, at the very least. This should be in the witness statement to police.
  • Women leave, lax players skedaddle afterwards. This has to take some time.
  • Woman 2 decides to make first 911 call from somewhere in Durham to get lax players in trouble with police, not knowing lax players are on Franklin Street (or who knows where) by now. Maybe Woman 1 has told Woman 2 she left stuff in 610 house, and figures if cops are competent they’ll look around and find it. (Knowing the exact address—even if the numbers were actually removed between the incident and today—does seem a bit odd for a mere passerby; I doubt you could read the address at night in the dark from the street even if the numbers were still there, as Buchanan is not a very well-lit street.)
  • Police show up immediately, are mystified that nobody is there, find evidence of a party earlier, interview neighbors, then leave.
  • Women venture out to Hillsborough Rd Kroger, in West Durham near 15-501, the opposite direction in town from where most African-Americans live, to do something (I can’t imagine they were there for groceries). Woman 2 goes inside Kroger, leaving Woman 1 in car parked in fire lane. Kroger security guy finds Woman 1 in car, calls 911. Woman 2 comes back to car, finds Kroger guard on phone, has to tell what happened.

This timeline doesn’t preclude the possibility of an assault, but it does put it quite a bit earlier than the first 911 call. Or it puts it somewhere other than the 610 house (Edens Quad?).

Unsolved mysteries: why leave everything in 610 house for 2 days—clearly one player was there when the warrant was served (he’s listed as the person receiving the inventory)? What did the police find in the room in Edens Quad and the Edens student’s car? (Related: What lax team members live in the specified room in Edens, if any?)

The victim claims she scratched one of the alleged rapists on the arm, so which (if any) of the 46 lax players had abraisons on their arms? I can’t believe the cops didn’t check this when they were all called in for the DNA testing—which, given the latest out of Nifong and DPD, may have just been a ruse to get everyone in so they could look for the scratches.

Why are two women who allegedly don’t know each other driving around Durham together for at least 20 minutes? Kroger on Hillsborough is 5–10 minutes from Buchanan and Markham at 1 am, and a straight shot west on Markham until it turns into Hillsborough. If you were looking for a drug store or grocery store, there are closer ones (Food Lion on Hillsborough near Erwin Mill Tower, Rite Aid and Walgreens further west nearer Kroger).

This whole thing is damned peculiar. Not that everything needs to add up for the rape allegations to be true, but if there’s no DNA and the women aren’t credible on the timeline, Righteous Townie DA Mike Nifong’s going to have some real trouble prosecuting this thing, particularly once Nifong narrows down the suspects and they get good high-priced lawyers who can start poking holes in this investigation and his jury pool tampering and borderline unethical conduct—for example, I’m pretty sure it’s against the rules for a prosecutor to assert that people who have been targeted by an investigation and hired lawyers must have something to hide.

Elsewhere, Timothy Burke ponders the “cotton shirt” comment, while Doug Wright thinks other important issues may be lost in the shuffle if the rape allegations turn out to be false (or at least unproveable). Out in the dead tree media universe, the Chronicle reports on the media circus; there’s also a good op-ed by Boston Cote in today’s paper. Last, but not least, UD offers the following suggestion:

The school needs to shut down most of its other operations for awhile and reopen as a rehab unit.

Lacrosse morons have moronic sycophants too

You know, if I were going to go out of my way to plaster the 610 house with signs showing my support for the lacrosse team, at the very least I think I’d switch on spellcheck in Word:

It’s not my photo, by the way; I found it in Flickr under a CC-license.

Elsewhere, the proprietor (I think) of a blog called “Happy Toilet” sent me this link to his/her post belittling the lacrosse teams’ high-powered ambulance chasers attorneys. Well, high-powered might be a bit of a stretch, but then again Righteous Townie DA Mike Nifong doesn’t exactly strike me as Durham’s answer to Eliot Spitzer either…

Update: Friday’s Herald-Sun reports that two Durham cops were at the scene of the alleged rape investigating a reported disturbance 16 minutes before the Kroger 911 call:

Police arrived at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. just two minutes after a woman called 911 to report she and her black friend had been verbally accosted by men outside the house yelling a racial slur early on March 14, according to computer dispatch records.

"Officers responded to the call at 610 N. Buchanan within a minute of the dispatch. The complainant was not on the scene and no one seemed to be at the house, according to the officers, so they cleared the scene after checking the area for several minutes," said police spokeswoman Kammie Michael.

The dispatch records show officers were on the scene for more than 11 minutes.

In the immortal words of Jagged Edge and Nelly, “Where The Party At?” The News-Observer version of the story indicates that police found evidence of a party earlier in the evening, but no sign of anyone at the house. Police believe the first 911 caller was not the victim, but neither story says whether or not it matches the voice of Dancer Number Two, and Durham 911 dispatch apparently has no record of any caller ID information.

The Herald-Sun account also indicates that Righteous Townie DA Mike Nifong is beginning to downplay the significance of the DNA testing, and may not even reveal the results of the testing to the public. When’s that Democratic primary again?

While I’m adding links anyway, here’s a post from dcat that makes a lot of good points, found via UD.

Thursday, 30 March 2006

Attorney for lacrosse co-captain speaks

This article from WRAL has a pretty good roundup of today’s developments (or lack thereof) in the Duke lacrosse scandal, including ambulance chaser attorney Joe Cheshire, who represents one of the team captains who was not named in the warrant, hitting back at Righteous Townie DA Mike Nifong. Also mentioned are a form letter from President Brodhead to all of the parents of current Duke undergraduates, and the Mystery of the First 911 Call.

Speaking of backlash, for the most part neither dukeobsrvr nor his/her commenters are laying down for the dominant narrative in the case, reflecting the impression I got from my unscientific observation of the chatter on a full east-west bus this afternoon.

George Mason: appearing in the Final Four at taxpayers' expense

I’ve already asserted that George Mason University’s basketball team shouldn’t be held up as some sort of exemplar of the triumph of classical liberalism. Another data point in this critique arrives from Indianapolis Star writer Mark Alesia, whose paper surveyed all of the public colleges and universities in NCAA Division I and found that the average public institution subsidizes its Division I athletic program to the tune of $5 million per year.

Those plucky underdog classical liberals at George Mason’s athletic department reached the Final Four on $1.1 million of “direct institutional support” and an additional $7.57 million in mandatory student fees, much of which were picked up indirectly by the taxpayer through grants or loan subsidies. Good old George would be proud. (þ: UD)

Duke under siege, day four: the buses are burning

Surprisingly, the bus that caught fire at the West Campus turnaround yesterday apparently wasn’t arson committed by a Righteous Townie, but instead just the result of routine crappy maintenance by Duke Transit.

In rape investigation news, a dorm room at Duke was searched on Monday, by Durham PD apparently without the foreknowledge of Righteous Townie AD Mike Nifong, the lacrosse team allegedly continues to show (White) Brother Solidarity by wearing their lacrosse team T-shirts around campus and otherwise behaving boorishly (some members having the temerity, for example, to buy lunch from campus hot dog vendor Pauly Dogs and discuss the topic everyone else is talking about with other people in line), DSG surprises nobody by doing nothing, and the local Students for Academic Freedom ringleader went and cried to police about a professor being mean to David Horowitz (which, of course, has nothing to do with the rape investigation, except for wasting the time of prosecutors and police that might be better spent on other things, like, I dunno, the rape investigation). Sadly I was not named in the SAF’s complaint.

In the blogosphere, Duke alum Ralph Luker reacts, while University Diaries links a Washingtonian Magazine story on a cheating scandal at the Landon School, one of the DC-area prep schools that serves as a feeder to the Duke lacrosse team. And, you can go read the original search warrant courtesy of The Smoking Gun (þ: UD and Alfie)—incidentally, the item taken from the house that stands out on the list (the K-Y jelly bottle) is the one thing that isn’t named as an object of the search at the beginning of the warrant.

Elsewhere, Amber Taylor dislikes appeals to conscience based on the alleged victim’s having male (or female) relatives, and Brendan Nyhan notes that, since the second “exotic dancer” has finally surfaced and talked to police, some inconsistencies between the accounts of the evening have emerged.

It’s also not entirely clear to me that the first 911 call, alleging the use of racial slurs by the partygoers, wasn’t made by one of the two women in question—most likely the woman who wasn’t allegedly raped—although it has been presented as being a call by two black women who happened to be passing by the 610 house on foot around the same time as the incident. Today’s Herald-Sun looks at this angle, which I’d been pondering on my own over the past two days or so, since I learned of the 911 calls. (þ: BN)

NewsRadio QotD

Dave (to Bill): Would it be impolite at this point in the conversation to just run away from you?

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Today's new word: “'thesdan”

University Diaries provides a window into the preppy origins of many of the men’s lacrosse team members in the leafy green suburbs of Washington and the other northeastern corridor cities.

Meanwhile, everybody’s favorite poet, Duke president Richard Brodhead, somehow managed to defuse some of the on-campus tensions in his meeting with students this morning (much to my surprise) while up-for-reelection DA Mike Nifong continues to bask in the glow of free publicity as a ringleader of Righteous Townie Anger.

And, oblivious to it all, dozens of Duke students decided to spend the afternoon loitering on the rooftops and balconies of their overcrowded, overpriced, slumlord-owned rental properties along Buchanan Blvd, just a stones’ throw away from the site of the alleged rape, blissfully unaware that their neighbors, if they had their druthers, would have them all lined up and shot in a heartbeat.

Stupidity, lacrosse style

If this account is true—and I have no reason to believe it isn’t—I think I’ll be putting a few bucks on extreme (negative) outliers on the IQ scale.

þ: UD, for alerting me to a piece I tuned out after experiencing information overload.

Duke under siege, day three: The surreal life

I just witnessed a camera man and some sort of technician chase a black female student (who clearly wanted no part of it) across the lawn in front of the Duke Chapel; I couldn’t tell at a distance whether this was a vain attempt at an interview or just an effort to collect some footage for later voiceovers.

In other good news for the university, we made A-1 in at least one edition of the New York Times today. Lucky us. Needless to say, it wasn’t because the womens’ basketball team beat UConn.

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Red Bull + vodka = uh oh

bigjim links links this piece on the Red Bull-vodka combo that I expect tells you nothing anyone who’s ever consumed this concoction didn’t know already—I think I can safely attribute my last five years’ of insomnia to having two Red Bull & vodkas in Ann Arbor in the summer of 2001 (plied on me by a young woman, no less).

Lacrosse games suspended until further notice

Nothing much new here, but since some of you seem to be coming here for news on the Duke men’s lacrosse rape allegations, there you go. The press conference itself was nothing earth-shattering; it was one of those deals (admittedly like most) where there was something for everybody who wanted to reinforce their preconceived notions.

More interesting perhaps is the team captains’ categorical denial of the charges in the face of DNA evidence. Since Duke students—even lacrosse players, by stereotype—aren’t stupid and presumably understand the rudiments of how DNA works, they’re either extreme outliers on the IQ scale or extremely confident that nothing happened. My money? As far away from this wager as possible.

Skip this

George Mason’s president has taken it upon himself to excuse those students who decided to blow off class on Monday after GMU’s (and, lest we forget, classical liberalism’s) victory over UConn. If I were a GMU faculty member, I’d likely have invited the president to take over all of my other duties at that point, or perhaps to go fornicate with himself. Under my breath, of course.

þ: Deadspin and PTI.

Um, I thought you guys were libertarians?

Go read the cover of this month’s issue of Reason and then report back to me on the most egregious problem with it. Besides my concern that Reason had finally surrendered to the neo-Malthusians, that is.

Dreamers. Thinkers. Doers. Cheapskates

I figure if I keep publically linking to the ads where the University of Memphis advertises its craphole instructor positions, maybe they’ll be shamed into paying a living wage:

The University of Memphis invites applications for a non-tenure-track position in political science at the rank of instructor for the 2006–07 academic year. The main responsibilities of the position are in the area of Comparative Politics, International Relations and American Politics, and include lower division courses in these areas plus an upper-division course in International Relations Theory. The teaching load is five courses per semester; the salary is $30,000—$32,500, depending upon experience and qualifications. The Instructor will teach three on-ground courses for the Department of Political Science, and two on-line (RODP) courses for the University College. The University of Memphis is a comprehensive, research institution with an urban mission. The Department of Political Science offers the B.A. and M.A. degrees.

For the record, my undergraduate alma mater is classified as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation; it charges out-of-state students $14,836 per year to attend the institution. In 2004–05, according to the AAUP survey, its median salary for professors at the assistant rank was $53,100.

Duke under siege, Day Two

The blaring headline on today’s Duke Chronicle is “Unrest hits Main West.” I hate to think how they’d report a riot.

Meanwhile, for those of you out in the real world beyond Duke, go read Timothy Burke’s response to the Kenyon debacle.

Update: Actual news on the rape allegations is here, including the not-very-shocking revelation that there are lacrosse team members who have faced alcohol-related charges in the past (your Claude Raines moment of the day) and the news that what really made the dancers run for the door wasn’t the alleged racial slur about the provenance of one of the players’ shirts but instead that “one of the men watching held up a broomstick and threatened to sexually assault the women,” presumably using said broomstick. (þ: UD)

Monday, 27 March 2006


I like to think that most people, at heart, try to do the right thing. Moreover, I have to wonder how people can get along in their daily lives operating under the assumption that people who don’t agree with them do so out of malice or spite. It seems like having that attitude would destroy one’s soul after a while.

Then again, maybe I’m just in a melancholy mood from putting together a bunch of IRB paperwork and finishing up my lecture notes on multiple regression, or perhaps just from stopping Love Actually at the emotional low point of the film.

George Mason: ridiculous poster boys for libertarianism

Will someone explain to me exactly how George Mason’s run to the NCAA Final Four is supposed to be a victory for libertarians? Yes, the economics and law faculty have a few more libertarians than the average (although this is offset by the political science faculty), and yes, George Mason wasn’t much of a federalizer, but I’m unconvinced how a team full of “scholar-athletes” (read “partial qualifiers”) who I doubt can even spell “libertarian” at an institution that receives millions of dollars of subsidies from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the federal government every year represents some big victory for classical liberalism.

Y Discriminate

The apologia by Kenyon College’s dean of admissions for her college’s policy of discriminating against female applicants in favor of promoting campus gender balance has raised hackles from traditional opponents of affirmative action and proponents alike. Closer to my regular reading lists, Laura of 11D also reacts.

My sense is that Ms. Britz’s argument, like most supporting affirmative action of any kind as an end in and of itself (or those justifying it in any terms other than as a narrowly-focused effort to redress past discrimination at institutions that engaged in such discrimination in the past), falls on its face, but that Kenyon—as a private institution—ought to be able to pursue whatever admissions policies it thinks are appropriate, no matter how misguided the college may be. Of course, whether or not taxpayers ought to subsidize those policies directly or indirectly, which they do at Kenyon and most other institutions of higher education in this country, is another question entirely…

Sunday, 26 March 2006

My friends and neighbors

The fun and excitement level of living in Trinity Park seems to be leaning more in the “excitement” direction lately—and not in a good way. The two big highlights: they found a dead guy in a ditch just across from East Friday morning, and a recent party at 610 Buchanan Blvd involving members of the men’s lacrosse team resulted in rape allegations against 3 unidentified team members and a few neighborhood folks seeming to cross the line from holding a vigil to becoming vigilantes—assembling outside private residences and hurling insults at the occupants doesn’t strike me as particularly productive behavior, although perhaps it is understandable given the bad blood between the university and wider community on a variety of issues. (Standard conflict-of-interest disclaimer: I have taught and am teaching members of said team at Duke; I have no idea if any of the students I have taught were involved in this alleged incident, or even at the party in question.)

More thoughts on the latter incident from University Diaries.

Update: See also Brendan Nyhan and the notorious dukeobsrvr .

Friday, 24 March 2006

An all-Veronica post

Over on UPN‘s Veronica Mars, creator Rob Thomas has put most of the pieces on the table for figuring out all of this season’s key mysteries (the identities of those who caused the bus crash and PCH‘er Felix’s killer), as well as side-mysteries like what the Casablancas are really up to. Now if I could just figure out the deal with Logan I’d be set.

Meanwhile, if your only problem with Avril Lavigne is that she’s a solo act, consider Australian sister act The Veronicas, who have smartly figured out that the real money in hit music is in songwriting and clever lyrics (see, e.g. Ludacris), although having good voices and a lot of artistic range helps too.

Thursday, 23 March 2006

Voter rationality in action

Priceless: DSG forum attracts no attendees:

High hopes were not met as candidates for Duke Student Government’s 2006–2007 executive offices crowded around an empty lecture hall in the Terry Sanford Institute for Public Policy Wednesday night.

The contenders arrived at Sanford prepared to share their platforms with members of student organizations, who traditionally choose candidates to endorse.

No students were present, so the forum was cancelled.

Perhaps Duke students are more Downsian than I give them credit for being at times.

What your Ivy League tuition dollars are paying for

If you go to the Ivies, you’ll get taught by grad students and contingent faculty. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, but nonetheless it is to some. (New factor in the U.S. News ratings, anyone?)

Confidential to parents: drop the 40 large per annum on a liberal arts college education for your kids instead.

Wednesday, 22 March 2006

More revealed preferences

Prof. Karlson notes that the budgetary situation at NIU is such that “enrollment impacted” departments (that’s jargon for “all our classes are full”) cannot secure additional faculty, but nonetheless the university has found the money to do a bit of landscaping.

At Duke, meanwhile, the administration has found $240 million (yes, that’s one quarter of a billion dollars, give or take, and that’s just Phase I) to make Central really tie the whole university together, but can’t scrape together the cash for sabbatical replacements in numerous departments. As I commented to the bossman, I suppose money really isn’t fungible after all.

Leggo of my Lego

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that Legos could become a flashpoint of political debate. Live and learn, I suppose.

Tuesday, 21 March 2006

Online dating for geeks

Laura of 11D recommends Consumating to those seeking “a tattooed man from Austin or a 15 year old, bass-playing chick.” I can’t say I’m in the market for either, but I suppose it beats giving fifty bucks to that eHarmony guy.

Show Me State hello

I am very pleased to announce that I will be joining the faculty of Saint Louis University (in St. Louis, Missouri) for the 2006–07 academic year as a temporary assistant professor of political science. I don’t have a lot of specific details to share yet, beyond mentioning I will be teaching three undergraduate courses a semester in the fields of American politics and research methods.

From what I’ve heard from friends and colleagues, St. Louis is a very nice place to live and I am really looking forward to spending at least a year there. I expect to be going to St. Louis in the coming weeks for an orientation visit and to make a research presentation, so I expect I’ll have more to say then.

Monday, 20 March 2006

The collapse of the probability function

Bryan of Arguing with Signposts today is wrestling with rejection letters. Been there, done that. Got another one of those today, in fact. I have no real advice, besides taking the same approach to the job market a prostitute takes towards her clients—no matter how good you are, in the end you’re going to get screwed.

I’ve managed to parlay my offer into exactly bupkiss thus far (beyond a few congratulatory emails), which is probably a sign I should take it. At this point, I’m about two loose ends away from doing so.

Sunday, 19 March 2006

A cut above

This week’s Economist has a bit of fun with the escalating stakes in the razor blade wars. (þ: Division of Labour)

Saturday, 18 March 2006

NewsRadio Quote of the Day, Adam Morrison edition

This one’s from Jimmy James, after Matthew returns from vacation with a moustache (“President,” season 3 episode 1):

Jimmy: Every man has the right to sex himself up however he sees fit, but you… you look like you belong at an amateur porn convention.
Matthew (enthusiastic): Thank you!

QotD, rural Mississippi edition

Radley Balko, commenting on his field trip to Prentiss County, Mississippi:

There are lots of reasons to be upset by the Cory Maye case that have nothing to do with race. And I’ve tried to avoid injecting race into my own analysis of the case. But it’s impossible to visit the area and come away with any feeling other than that race pervades nearly every facet of life down there.

Delusions of the U.S. pro-IRA lobby

I think we may have a winner for dumbest statement by a politician in 2006 already, and it’s only mid-March:

“Gerry Adams should not have been on a terror watch list,” said [U.S. Rep. Brian] Higgins [(D-NY)].

Just because the guy and his best pals in the IRA don’t advocate blowing up Americans (well, at least not Catholic Americans, or Americans who don’t make the mistake of going to London) doesn’t make him à priori not a terrorist and therefore exempt from the Full Osama treatment.

Apparently, American politicians of both major parties get a free pass when they’re running political cover for the IRA's cheering section—even when they’re the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Just in case you were still wondering if Washington was actually serious about the War on Terror in All Its Forms…

Sports musings of the day

Congratulations to the Dallas Cowboys on acquiring the locker room cancer known as Terrell Owens. I suppose if there’s an NFL coach that can handle Owens’ ego, it’s Bill Parcells, but I can’t see this working out over even the medium term.

Congratulations also to the Blue Devils on making it back to the Sweet 16; the only category of the contest where George Washington bested Duke was in the attractiveness of their cheerleading squad (admittedly a matchup in which the Blue Devils frequently falter).

Finally, after praising WRAL for their telecasting work the first two days of the tournament, I have to issue a major demerit to our CBS affiliate for not airing the first five game minutes (and possibly more) of the Florida/Wisconsin-Milwaukee matchup on one of the umpteen available digital channels, instead of making us all sit through the interminable foulfest at the end the Duke–GW contest.

Friday, 17 March 2006

12:29 away from a really good weekend

As of this moment, 16-seeded SUNY Albany is leading #1 seeded UConn by seven ten seven ten eight points.

Update: Curse Albany and all they stand for.

Offer'd again

I (finally!) have another job offer. if I were a Bayesian, I’d place my prior on accepting the job at somewhere near 75% in the absence of any other information. Now to go and collect the information necessary to make a final decision…

Thursday, 16 March 2006

Rhetorical NCAA question of the day

Would it kill CBS Sports to buy a couple of HD cameras for their New York studios? Considering they could ammortize the cost across their NFL and NCAA operations, this seems like a no-brainer.

That said, I am somewhat impressed that WRAL and Time Warner are giving us two HD feeds (which may be the only HD feeds they’re transmitting, knowing CBS’ cheapskate ways) and all four regions in SD. If only I really cared about basketball…

Actually, it’s a HD sports bonanza today: World Baseball Classic on ESPN HD (although I could have lived without seeing Bud Selig in hidef), the NCAA tournament on CBS, and an NBA double-header on TNT. No hockey, but what can you do?

Bush-league umpiring

Matthew Shugart has the goods on the most recent example of the World Baseball Classic’s most glaring weakness (besides the lack of live English-language television coverage for most of the games)—the horrible officiating.

Incidentally, for all the discussion of how embarrasing it would be for the U.S. to not win this tournament, consider that (a) the British invented virtually every individual and international team sport, and they now suck at almost all of them (the English Premier League in soccer is the world’s best club league, but the English national team is just one of a half-dozen elite teams in European soccer; the cricket and rugby teams routinely get their butts whipped; British people never win Wimbledon), and (b) it’d probably be more embarrasing for Japan to not make the semi-finals than it would be for the U.S.—baseball is pretty much the only major sport Japan is good at on the international stage.

Speaking of soccer, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the U.S. win a World Cup within 30 years. I think the current world #5 ranking is probably a bit high, but the ascent to the U.S. team from nowhere to the top dozen in the world in the past 20 years has got to be one of the most meteoric rises in the history of the sport. Consider that in the 1986 World Cup, North America (CONCACAF) was represented by the host team Mexico, who did not have to qualify, and Canada; the latter team was a motley collection of indoor-league and ex-NASL players. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that the U.S. will win a World Cup before England’s next win.

The symbolic misuses of politics

Sometimes when you vote in a legislative body, the smart move is to vote for final passage of something that’s not entirely perfect—not, mind you, because your vote matters in the final outcome, but because whatever symbolic value your stand will have will be lost in the muddle of the discussion (see Cleland, ex-Senator Max for the prototypical example).

The administration made exactly this mistake when it chose to vote against the establishment of the new U.N. Human Rights Council yesterday, and went down to ignomious defeat by a 170–4 margin (with three abstentions, two from current human rights cesspools Belarus and Iran, and one from probable future human rights bad boy Venezuela), despite some quite legitimate objections to the new body’s election rules, which had been watered down since the original proposal by Kofi Annan.

So, instead of registering these complaints through some procedure other than voting against final passage of the resolution, the administration instead generated negative public relations fodder like a headline blaring that this represents a ”[h]uman rights defeat for [the] US” and a lede that states that the no vote was an effort to “derail” the formation of the new body, when in fact the administration did not try to derail it at all, instead (further going against “type”) supporting the original proposal from Annan (by the way, that is not an atypical read on the vote).

Bear in mind that, unlike the Kyoto situation (where many of the signatories and ratifiers have no ability to abide, and/or no intention of abiding, by the spirit or letter of the text, and thus not making a fraudulent U.S. commitment was the correct decision) this vote was a purely symbolic exercise—one that, probably wouldn’t have bought the U.S. any real goodwill had it gone the other way, but nonetheless wasn’t worth generating additional gratuitous animosity toward the U.S.

As for the domestic politics angle, the constituency for a “no” vote in this particular instance was about six people, all of whom were going to vote for Pat Buchanan or some Constitution Party lunatic anyway; the mainstream anti-UN crowd in the GOP coalition already was placated by the Bolton appointment, and this vote wouldn’t have made any real difference with them.

Revised and resubmitted

I can no longer feel guilty about having no scholarly accomplishments over spring break, as I finally got the R&R of The Damn Impeachment Paper™ out of the way, along with my measly contribution to July’s issue of PS. Maybe tomorrow I’ll do something with either the strategic voting paper or do something with the silly economic voting idea I have floating around in my head.

In other news, I found out that I have at least a week’s worth of gainful employment for the summer. Now to see if I can con someone else into hiring me for another month or so; although I could pretend I was going to get a lot done over the summer on my scholarship, the reality is that nothing in my life ever gets done without some degree of time pressure—idle hands and all that. Employment would probably make me get something done, as opposed to sitting around the apartment watching World Cup games.

The way things ought to be

University Diaries, on the increasing interest in Loren Pope and Colleges that Change Lives, his guide to 40 of America’s great liberal arts colleges:

As more and more Americans realize how many excellent colleges there are—many of them in settings more inspiring than New Haven—the Ivies run the risk of becoming drab asylums for the status-obsessed.

Run the risk? I’d say they’re mostly post-shark already.

Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Anamorphisize this

You know, if you were going to go to the trouble of remastering a movie for DVD, including adding 5.1 Dolby Surround sound, you’d think it would be trivial to master the DVD in anamorphic mode so I’d get more than about 300 lines of effective vertical resolution on my 16:9 HDTV. Grr.

Missing the cartel

The failure rate on the bar exam appears to be rising, although the absolute number of individuals passing the bar seems to be nearly constant nationwide over time.

Multiple-choice question: which of the following explanations for this pattern is most plausible?

  1. Although more students are graduating from law school today than a decade ago, they are nonetheless dumber, at least as measured by the bar exam.
  2. Affirmative action is churning out large numbers of law school graduates who subsequently cannot pass the bar.
  3. The body of knowledge necessary to practice law in America has substantially increased in the past decade, thus requiring greater knowledge by new attorneys; thus the bar exam has become harder.
  4. The bar exam is designed to limit the supply of lawyers, not to test whether potential lawyers have sufficient knowledge to practice law.

Free hint: the bar exam is set by existing members of the profession who have a state-granted monopoly on the practice of law.

þ: Glenn Reynolds and Amber Taylor’s comments.

The future is already here

Division of Labour links a Reuters piece that says ”[t]he day is coming when carriers will require special fees even to check a bag.” That day has already arrived in Europe, which you’d think Reuters (of all news agencies) would already be aware of.

NCAA tournament thoughts

A couple of disconnected thoughts about the NCAA basketball tournament thus far:

  • If the NCAA wants us to treat the play-in game as part of the “real” tournament, they’re going to have to do better than producing “Opening Round” bunting for the scorer’s table. At the very least, they need to call ESPN and tell them that they’re not allowed to do bush-league phone-in blowout material over the game action. More realistically, the “opening round” needs to be a real round, with four play-in games—one for each region. And the games need to be played in front of a crowd that gives a shit about the outcome, which you’re not generally going to find in Dayton, Ohio.
  • I’d never accuse the selection committee of showing favoritism toward generating good product, but it’s a mighty convenient coincidence that a lot of good, name-brand major conference teams are free to play deep into the now NCAA-owned-and-operated NIT rather than facing a second-round “big dance” exit against like likes of UConn or Duke.

My brackets, incidentally, are pretty boring; I’m not at all sold on Gonzaga or Tennessee doing much in the tourney. I picked Duke to win it all, over North Carolina (in my Yahoo! bracket) and Boston College (in my ESPN bracket)—I think otherwise the two brackets are identical.

TiVo Series 3 HD speculation

PVRblog links a post by Dave Zatz that takes note of a new TiVo contest in which the grand prize is the long-awaited Series 3 HD TiVo; Zatz has started a side contest in which readers are asked to speculate on a release date and price for the unit. Although the official word from TiVo is “second half of 2006,” the betting money is apparently on “early September” at this point.

QandO posts so I don't have to

Over at QandO, Dale Franks mocks James Miller’s idea that what the voters are clamoring for is a space elevator—for starters, the name “space elevator” needs to go, since who wants to spend a week listening to The Girl from Ipanema while they trundle towards geostationary orbit?—and McQ does a post-mortem on the DP World ports deal.

The latter of course points out the futility of trying to ask the American public questions about Middle Eastern politics; if the average American has the emirate of Dubai (which has been a consistent U.S. ally for its entire existence) equated to al Qaeda in their heads, what hope could he or she possibly have of meaningfully distingushing between Saddam Hussein (a known bad guy) and al Qaeda?

I am ready to pronounce this experiment a failure

NRO has gallantly lept into the debate about the academy with a blog that, at the very least, should be as worthy of being relentlessly mocked as “The Corner.” Case in point would be this nonsensical post from Joel Malchow, who can’t even figure out what particular phenomenon (co-ed dorms? co-ed dorm rooms? co-ed bathrooms?) he is complaining about, only to make the statement that “like unisex showers, co-ed dorms are generally met with very little interest among students.” Proudly spoken like a man who’s never seen Undeclared. Or gone to college.

If that weren’t enough, the decision to grant posting privileges to the terminally vapid Kathryn Jean Lopez is surely the death knell for this project as any worthwhile contribution to debate over the current state of the academy.

þ: Orin Kerr and Stephen Karlson.

Monday, 13 March 2006

Trapper Markelz on the BSG finale

One of the benefits of the ever-expanding blogosphere is that someone else will take care of the heavy lifting for you; case in point, Trapper Markelz posting his thoughts on the BSG season finale saves me from having to put together a six-page-long post covering the same territory.

I just wish I could delegate my scholarly activity in the same way…


If I were a Republican strategist, I’d be doing everything I could to help the Democrats play Don Quixote by trying to censure—or even better, trying to impeach—the president. Start the impeachment hearings today and load them up with Bush-bashing witnesses like George Galloway, Cindy Sheehan, Scott Ritter, and Ramsey Clark.

The absolute worst thing that can happen (and I put the odds of this at about zero) for the Republicans is that the impeachment effort succeeds and the GOP can get rid of an unpopular lame-duck whose approval ratings are dragging down the whole party. The best? Well, remember the 1998 mid-term elections, when Bill Clinton had 80% approval ratings after all his dirty laundry was aired in public.

Sunday, 12 March 2006

Edged out

Colts HB Edgerrin James has signed a free-agent deal to play for the Arizona Cardinals, which will probably either (a) put the Cardinals back on the NFL map or (b) relegate James to football oblivion. Given that decent backs are dime-a-dozen in the contemporary NFL, my money is more on option b.

Logic, Democratic style

Only the Democratic Party could conclude that their main problem in the 2004 election was that the people who nominated John F. Kerry were too white:

An influential Democratic committee on Saturday endorsed the idea of adding as many as four state primaries and caucuses to the early presidential nominating season, now dominated by Iowa and New Hampshire.

The goal, they said, was to add more racial, ethnic, regional and economic diversity to the process of choosing a Democratic nominee.

Iowa, whose caucus marks the opening of the nominating season, and New Hampshire, which holds the first primary, have long been criticized as far too homogeneous and atypical to exercise such a powerful influence over the process.

Back-to-back victories in those states can set a candidate on a glide path to the nomination — as they did for Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts in 2004 — before the bigger and more diverse states weigh in.

And, just to prove that the DNC is in complete disarray, they can’t even figure out what the problem is in the first place:

The commission also debated using bonus delegates to reward states that move their contests back in the season. This is an effort to deal with another criticism of the nominating process — that it is too “front-loaded,” with too many states bunched together in the early weeks.

So, the problem is that the nomination process is too front-loaded, so the solution is to have six states decide nominees before February 5th, instead of two. My mind truly boggles at the concept.

I hesitate to give advice on this matter to either major party, but the party that figures out first that the primary and caucus process is a giant waste of time and money and goes back to using the conventions to select nominees will probably end up nominating much more credible candidates.


Orin Kerr links an Independent on Sunday article that claims the administration is planning to shut down the prison camp at Gitmo. Color me skeptical, to say the least.

Your IPTV primer

Ars Technica explains IPTV to the masses. In theory, IPTV will be the telephone companies’ (i.e. AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon’s) response to the cable companies’ offering of “bundled” services, although it seems like with the exception of Verizon (and, even in Verizon’s case, only in limited areas) the phone companies don’t seem to be all that interested in rolling out these services. At least from my perspective, the phone companies are going to have to do a much better job in pricing and bandwidth to get me back from the cablecos.

Saturday, 11 March 2006

Saddam lied, people died

Sunday’s New York Times returns to its recent modus operandi of serving as an advertising platform for its reporters’ books with an article revealing Saddam Hussein’s thinking on the eve the U.S. invasion of Iraq, derived from Cobra II by reporter Michael Gordon and army Marine Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor (Ret.).

There’s not much terribly new here if you were paying attention, and I’m not really sure it adds anything to arguments on either side of the conflict—although it does perhaps give further credence to the argument that intelligence agencies worldwide were obviously going to have a hard job figuring out that Saddam Hussein didn’t actually have WMD when he was trying his darnedest to make everyone think he did. Of course, the obvious followup question, left unanswered in the article, is why Saddam would dismantle his WMD arsenal while maintaining the fiction he hadn’t—wouldn’t it have been wiser for him to simply to keep the WMDs and stonewall the inspectors?

þ Orin Kerr.

Words that don't mean what you think they do

This ad was seen in the ACC Tournament preview in the Duke Chronicle:

A fully bilingual company

These people must work for ESPN in some capacity.

The recovery room

I’m afraid I’m being thoroughly useless today as I try to recover from about four weeks of sleep deprivation; all I’ve really done today is check my mail, listen to the Battlestar Galactica finale podcast from Ron Moore, and crank up iTunes in the living room.

The good news is that this coming week is spring break, so at least I should be able to get some research done, including finishing up the R&R I have from PRQ so I can get it back to the editors.

Frak me

Well, I have to say that (the season finale of Battlestar Galactica, for those who don’t get the reference) came pretty much out of left field. There are definitely a lot of very interesting directions they can go in from here—and curse Sci-Fi for making us wait for seven months to find out where they decide to go with this!

Elsewhere: Steven Taylor has some additional bullet-point thoughts, while Timothy Sandefur ponders the question of whether Laura Roslin’s effort to steal the election was “right.”

Friday, 10 March 2006


As Duke recovers from the visit of David Horowitz, freshman Oliver Sherouse writes about the best post-mortem of his visit that one could hope for, featuring among other observations this gem:

SAF wants free speech, but only if you agree with them. They want to tell us about this secret conspiracy that involves our professors shouting liberal dogma in every class, ostensibly without us noticing. They want to “educate” their professors on how to profess.

At least a portion of the Duke community acquitted themselves rather poorly at the event as well, although the promised partial nudity from members of the crowd failed to materialize (alas). It makes me almost sad that I was wedged inside a full MD-80 during the event.

Giving good phone

I ended up having 1½ phone interviews for one-year jobs on Wednesday morning, when I was only expecting one (the ½ was about 10 minutes of Q&A on my cell phone with a department chair in a neighboring state); I think they both went well, although neither institution has as of yet committed to giving me a campus interview.

At this point, though, I suppose any news is good news; I don’t think I was a particularly good fit for the needs of the department that interviewed me in person this week—I think they are looking for more of a public law guy, and while there’d be the opportunity to teach in my research areas, it probably wouldn’t be every semester—and I have yet to hear back from the interview a couple of weeks ago after having been assured that a decision would have been made by now—which, in the academic world, usually means at the very least that you’re not the most preferred candidate, consistent with my expectations.

Thursday, 9 March 2006

My secret life as a Condorcet voter

As of this posting, I am one of 290 Debian developers who have thus far bothered to vote on the first General Resolution of 2006, which will state Debian’s position on the GNU Free Documentation License and decide whether (and under what conditions) GFDL-licensed documents will be allowed in Debian’s “main” distribution.

My sense is that the spirit of the Debian Free Software Guidelines is most consistent with the interpretation embodied in Amendment A—I seriously doubt the Free Software Foundation will go after people who distribute GFDL-licensed documents on DRMed media and the “transparent formats” issue is probably a non-issue in practice, judging from the distinct lack of interest by the FSF in going after people who violate the GPL’s “you must make source available for three years” rule, but the invariant sections rule is clearly non-free and cannot be ignored.

Unfortunately (or, fortunately, depending on your perspective) this means Debian users will not have access to most of the documentation that uses invariant sections—primarily those documents distributed by the FSF themselves. On the upside, it will at least spare our users from having reams of Richard Stallman’s political rants foisted upon them and their hard drives in exchange for the privilege of having the Emacs manual available.

So, anyway, here’s how I voted, since it will be public at the close of the vote anyway: 2143—or, in other words, Amendment A [GFDL allowed if invariant sections not used] > Original Resolution [GFDL not allowed at all] > Further Discussion > Amendment B [anything GFDL'd goes].

Next up: the elections for Debian Project Leader, featuring a smorgasbord of seven candidates.

Wacky prof follies of the day

Via email from FCS, a story on a professor at Suffolk University who apparently can’t work Fn-F4 (the internal/external display switch) on his laptop properly:

A Suffolk University professor is under investigation by university officials following accusations of alleged pornographic misconduct.

According to Emily Macdonald, a student in the class, [the professor] allegedly watched porn on his computer, which was unknowingly connected to a monitor that was behind him.

The class ended half an hour following the display, and the students never tried to intervene.

All sorts of intriguing questions arise here: was he multitasking at the time, both lecturing and watching Hung Jury 17 simultaneously? How does one “unknowingly” hook up one’s own computer to a monitor? Perhaps most importantly, from a pedagogical standpoint, did the porn in the background hurt or help students’ comprehension of the other material presented in class that day?

Update: The boss has additional thoughts on this matter.

Update (19 July 2007): At the request of the individual involved in this unfortunate incident and after some reflection, I have removed his name from this post; his identity was really not all that important to the point of this post.

Wednesday, 8 March 2006


Jane Galt reponds to a post from Steven Teles on the effect of affirmative action on the academic market with an interesting observation:

[T]he academic job market, as described here, is very close to what most academics think labour markets are like outside the [academy]: a sharply binary process in which there are clearly delineated winners or losers, the outcomes are somewhat arbitrary, and a very slight run of bad luck can land you in a place from which there is literally no hope of escaping. This might go a long way towards explaining academic leftism, in two ways: first, going through the academic job market might make you more left-wing; and second of all, people who think that the entire world works this way might be more predisposed to pursue jobs in academia.

An aside: does anyone have a citation for the Rick Hess article in PS that Teles mentions? A search of JSTOR and the Cambridge Journals site has drawn a complete blank.

Monday, 6 March 2006

On the road linkfest

Since I am off on an interview today, posting may be restricted to this linkfest:

  • Hei Lun Chan of Begging to Differ dissects the NFL labor dispute to the bare essentials; if only he were as hot as Rachel Nichols, I might never need to watch ESPN again.
  • Clint Ecker of Ars Technica reviews the Intel Mac mini for those who have not experienced for themselves the bliss that is Core Duo.
  • The Solomon Amendment case was another 8–0 slam dunk for those right-wing extremists on the Supreme Court, and probably the right decision on precedent (in my mind, it would be hard to strike down the Solomon Amendment but uphold much of the Civil Rights Act of 1964); overall, I tend to agree with Will Baude’s assessment that policymakers (explicitly excluding, being the attitudinalist I am, the Court) on all sides of the issue are wrong. Baude also ponders the possibility that private universities might choose to divest themselves of their law schools to avoid any adverse effect should they chose to continue to bar military recruiters.

That’s all I’ve got for now.

Sunday, 5 March 2006

Titular thoughts

In the blogosphere, any old conversation can become new again; the case in point is Eszter Hargittai’s post on the various and sundry titles used to refer to her (þ: Daniel Drezner).

I’ve said my piece on this before—indeed, over time, I’ve become rather more enamored of the title “doctor,” perhaps because (a) I won’t actually lose that title in May—unlike “professor,” which will go on haitus until at least August, and perhaps permanently—and (b) I continue to spend time in the South, where people with doctorates are typically so-addressed.

The difference between Jay and Dave

A commenter at the TiVo Community Forum nails the difference between The Tonight Show and The Late Show:

Letterman's show is not a Talk Show .... it's a *SATIRE* of a Talk Show. It's just a big giant goof on the whole talk show genre. That's why they have Stupid Pet Tricks and Larry Bud Melman and Mujibur and Sulaiman and Does It Float and canned hams for prizes, and indeed even why Letterman's interviews are so un-interviewy. All that was initially designed to make fun of how talk shows had always done things before.

Paul's role is to be the satirical Talk Show Band Leader. His role is NOT to be a professional band leader on a talk show .... his role is to MAKE FUN of (i.e., spoof) professional band leaders on talk shows. So, e.g., the "cheesy" songs, the intermingled laughter, his look, etc. all satirize what a professional band leader (like whoever the latest lackey on Leno is or Doc Severinsen) would do - that's why the songs are so one-dimensional and corny.

On the other hand, Leno's show plays it straight - it's not a satire of a talk show at all ... it's an actual talk show.

It's not surprising that the two camps (Letterman supporters and Leno supporters) are so diametrically opposed. Letterman supporters can't stand what they perceive as the staleness of the talk show genre and love watching it be goofed on. Leno supporters on the other hand still like the traditional talk show format, and don't "get the joke" that Letterman is playing on it.

See, now it all makes sense!

Saturday, 4 March 2006

Blog transition complete

The blog is now running on the Mac mini, apparently without incident. The blog seems a little zippier in responding to requests now that it’s not running over the wireless network; the dual cores on the Mini may also be helping the zippy feeling, as the computer is compiling an Emacs 22 prerelease from fink in the background.

Friday, 3 March 2006

Harry Browne, RIP

I’ve been remiss in noting the news of the passing of Harry Browne, the indirect recipient of my first two votes for presidential electors (in 1996 in Florida and in 2000 in Mississippi). Like Timothy Sandefur, I only met Browne once—in my case, at the LP’s 2000 post-election gala in Atlanta. That, of course, was prior to my conversion from idealism to neoinstitutionalism.

Thursday, 2 March 2006

I've been mini-ized

Meet the new addition to the Lawrence household, an Intel Mac mini (1.66 GHz Core Duo, 512MB RAM and 80GB hard drive):

Mac mini, installed

See all of the photos here.

Thus far, it’s been pretty spiffy. I can’t really sit all the way across the room and use it, except when in Front Row, and I’m still getting used to the slightly different key shortcuts for things with the Belkin MediaPilot wireless keyboard/thumbmouse I bought to go with it, but those aren’t problems with the computer per se. I haven’t sat down and done much Unixy stuff with it yet; all I have really done is a brief foray into Terminal to copy a file from my work machine to email to someone this evening, during which I found that the backspace keybinding acts funny in ssh sessions to my Debian boxes (undoubtably a simple setting I’ll have to Google for later on).

Anyway… back to watching NewsRadio Season 3…

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

Perchance to dream

It is generally a bad sign when I get home and fall asleep on the couch watching Pardon the Interruption around 6 or so, because inevitably what happens is after a 30-minute nap I’m nicely rejuvenated to the point I can’t fall asleep again until the wee hours of the morning.

I guess the upside is that at least I can sit in front of the computer and work on some job applications to kill the time I’d otherwise be spending staring at the ceiling trying to fall asleep.

Cranky student alert

It’s just as well that I have labs on Thursday and Friday for my methods students; I think they may be too traumatized to understand the lecture on the difference of proportions and chi-square tests. Hopefully they will recover for next week.

Vaguely-related NewsRadio quote of the day (paraphrased):

Catherine: Good job, Dave! It takes a big man to fold under pressure so quickly.

Story of my life…

Catching up with… Whit Stillman

Greg of Begging to Differ provides an update on the whereabouts of writer-director Whit Stillman, whose films Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco (which seems to be out of print) rank among my favorite films of the 1990s; I’d have to agree with Greg that Barcelona is my absolute favorite of the three, but all three movies are definitely worth renting.

Integrate this

Well, at least now I feel better about the news that the Intel Mac mini has an integrated graphics chipset (þ: Ars Technica).

Mind you, since I wasn’t really planning to run games on it—that is, after all, why I have an Xbox—it didn’t really bother me in the first place. I may end up upgrading the RAM from the default 512MB sooner rather than later, depending on how much of a memory hog fetchmail, Apache, and the blog end up being, but waiting around for Apple to install a memory upgrade before shipping it didn’t exactly appeal to me.

Fun with stats, Supreme Court edition

Stephen Jessee and Alexander Tahk, two Ph.D. candidates at Stanford, have put together a website that attempts to estimate the ideological positions of Samuel Alito and John Roberts from their votes on the Supreme Court this term.

Perhaps the most interesting result thus far is that Roberts’ estimated ideal point (position in the unidimensional ideological space) is virtually indistinguishable from that of his predecessor as Chief Justice, William Rehnquist, although that is of course subject to change as more cases come along. (The Alito estimates seem to solely reflect the uninformative prior that Jessee and Tahk have placed on him thus far.)