Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Sports law expert: no more major leagues in New Orleans after 2020?

The Times-Picayune has a lengthy interview with departing Tulane sports law prof Gary Roberts, in which he predicts the New Orleans Hornets will be leaving the Crescent City in the next five years, soon to be followed by the New Orleans Saints. Roberts also talks about the continued viability of Tulane’s intercollegiate sports programs, the BCS, and the effects of the newly-introduced NCAA Academic Progress Rate.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

The core, requirements, and enrollments

Timothy Burke, in a post I’ve been meaning to link and comment on for over a week, makes an interesting point about curricula: just because something isn’t in the requirements for a degree or major doesn’t mean it won’t be de facto required because of other structural features of the curriculum. I think this is valid in relatively small departments/colleges, or where the offerings are otherwise constrained for odd reasons—both SLU and Duke offer a relative paucity of American politics courses, for vastly different reasons; the offerings in my field at SLU are probably in practice slimmer than they were at Millsaps!

That said, there are some issues to be confronted. I think much of the disappearance of required courses can be laid at the feet of faculty members; many of us—myself included—would rather not teach a gen ed or disciplinary survey like Introduction to American Politics, favoring either a “fun” course or something that coincides more closely with our research interests (or both). And I think it’s fair to say that our evaluations are better in non-mandatory classes, “fun” or not—the mean evals in my Congress course in the spring were probably a full point better than in my other two classes, despite Congress being a significantly harder course—which I think reflects student preferences for more focused and narrow classes on “sexy” topics and creates further incentives for faculty to dismiss the core. Unfortunately, the end result is that you can easily end up with seniors who are trying to wrestle with the big questions but don’t have the basics down—one infamous example was a political science major who, on a senior capstone exam, apparently had no conception of what the United Nations was.

And while I broadly agree that in a liberal arts curriculum (which is what undergraduate political science programs aspire to be part of, whether we’re at a community college, a state university, Berkeley, or Williams College) the mastery of skills is probably more important over the long run the mastery of knowledge, I think we’re shortchanging our students if they escape our curricula without understanding the basics concepts and debates in their major and minor fields.

If a hurricane comes, get the hell out of Dodge

In case you need more than just the headline, the New Orleans Times-Picayune has thousands of words to reiterate that point for you.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

What do anti-war Democrats and Ron Paul have in common?

If you believe Billy Hollis, not much, although his practical positions on trade and immigration policy might appeal to some trade unionist elements of the Democratic coalition.

Part II in the Ron Paul series.

Southern politics stuff

I’ve spent more time today than I meant reading through some books I checked out at the library and fiddling with (read: completely overhauling) my Southern Politics syllabus.

The primary challenge of the exercise is keeping the readings manageable after adding two recent books (Woodard’s The New Southern Politics and Lassiter’s The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South) and adding readings from the new edition of Bullock and Rozell’s The New Politics of the Old South; I probably have 2000 pages on the syllabus, even after some chopping. I still need to add some stuff on the 1866 riot, 1874 White League coup attempt, and the 1900 Robert Charles Riots in New Orleans—and not get too bogged down in history while I’m at it.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Ron Paul: Pat Buchanan in libertarian clothing

Hit and Run links a New Republic profile of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, popular with the right’s equivalent of the Netroots but apparently not attracting as many fans from libertarian ranks. Michael Crowley explains why:

But libertarians are a fractious bunch, and some hardcore activists have mixed feelings about the man now carrying their banner. For instance, libertarian purists generally support a laissez-faire government attitude toward abortion and gay marriage, as well as “open border” immigration policies and unfettered free trade. Yet Paul opposes gay marriage, believes states should outlaw abortion, decries high immigration rates, and has called himself “sort of” a protectionist. (These divergences may be explained by Paul’s socially conservative East Texas district, which lies adjacent to Tom DeLay’s former district and which President Bush last carried with 67 percent of the vote. Being pro-choice simply doesn’t fly there.)

As a result, Paul’s candidacy leaves some of his erstwhile libertarian fans cold—particularly the intellectuals who congregate in Washington outfits like the CATO Institute or Reason magazine. “He comes from a more right-wing populist approach,” explains Brian Doherty, a California-based Reason editor and author of Radicals for Capitalism, a history of the libertarian movement. “Culturally, he strikes a lot of the more cosmopolitan libertarians as a yokel.” (Doherty himself is a Paul admirer.)

And, while some libertarians criticize Paul from the left on social issues, others are swiping at him from the right over the war. “Will Libertarianism Survive Ron Paul?” asked one article on the America’s Future Foundation website, before continuing, “Paul’s prominence threatens to make his blame-America instincts the defining characteristic of libertarianism in the public imagination. If libertarianism becomes inextricably associated with radical pacifism, will young people with classically liberal instincts be discouraged from serious political engagement?”

The question facing this libertarian-minded voter who’s likely to vote in the GOP presidential primary: if I wasn’t inclined to vote for Pat Buchanan, why would I vote for Ron Paul, given that on almost all the issues that matter their positions are virtually indistinguishable?

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Spam reduction in effect

I just added reCAPTCHA to the blog, which should cut back on some of the comment spam issues around here immensely; this solution means your commenting also has the nice side-effect of helping to digitize old books that can’t be OCRed reliably by computers.

Since this should eliminate the spam problem, I’m also going to allow comments on posts up to four weeks old; the previous limit was 10 days, which might have been a tad short. Please send me an email if something is broken; my testing was reasonably thorough (considering it only took me about 45 minutes to add the code, since there wasn't much to do at my end), but you never know on these things.

Thanks to Adam Rossi-Kessel (via Planet Debian) for the tip.

Replication and extension

An anonymous commenter on the rumor mills posted a link to EconJobMarket.org, which seems like a semi-promising attempt to create a service that partially bridges the gap between online job listing sites and credentials services like Interfolio.

To my mind, the ideal site would function more-or-less like Interfolio from the candidate’s point of view: you submit a virtual “packet” for each job, which can be accessed by the receiving department as a web page, an email with every item in the packet as an attachment, or (for departments in the dark ages) a paper file sent to the department.

Indeed, Interfolio functions like this now, but hardly any political science departments are registered to receive packets on there (only one job I applied for last year, at New College of Florida, accepted electronic applications via Interfolio). My expectation is that EconJobMarket.org will have similar problems achieving buy-in from departments, as would any political science equivalent not coordinated by APSA.

Meanwhile, APSA‘s eJobs system has about 80% of the needed infrastructure, but as far as I can tell the association has no interest in saving job candidates and departments time and money by finishing the job, even though I’m sure they could get people on the market to pony up $50+ a year for such a service.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Less smug jackass, more filling?

I belatedly took the advice of Frequent Commenter Scott and changed the photo on my professional page while I was doing my regular updates. It’s not quite this casual, but I do have to maintain at least a modicum of dignity.

House majority party treats minority party like crap, news at 11

Probably the most prominent feature of the past 30–40 years of American politics has been the near-simultaneous rise in party unity in the House and the evolution of aggressive majority-party control of the chamber.

To wit, the Democrats under Nancy Pelosi are behaving more-or-less identically with the Republicans under Newt Gingrich. John J. Pitney, Jr., chronicles the “old-boss, same-boss” dynamic here, with special demerits for Pelosi’s would-be right-hand-man, Jim John Murtha, who was given a pass on violating House rules on decorum after threatening retribution against a GOP lawmaker who proposed stripping funding from a pork project in Murtha’s constituency.

That isn’t to say that the majority party controls everything, even in the House; the bipartisan backers of bringing home the bacon appear to be behind this move to relocate pork-stuffing to conference committees, which will immunize pork provisions from being amended out of legislation. The Porkbusters Weenies™ are nervous, but as a political scientist, I’m just surprised it took the House that long to decide to lard up appropriations in conference.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Incentive structures

There’s nothing like the impending showing of one’s apartment to motivate some long-overdue spring cleaning.

Now if I could only figure out a way to create myself some similar incentive structures for doing research I might actually have a productive summer.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Pomp and circumstance

As it is commencement day at SLU, it is an appropriate time to say congratulations to all of my former students at Millsaps, Duke, and SLU who have received their degrees this month. I hope that none of my former Ole Miss students were still working on their degrees—but if so, congratulations to them too!

Regaling in stories of regalia

One unanticipated side-effect of wearing academic regalia in public (and having a relatively youthful appearance, to boot) is being congratulated for having graduated—three times, in total.

Perhaps I should have just basked in the glory rather than insisting on correcting everyone, particularly since to the layperson the distinction between a doctoral gown and the vestments of new graduates is mostly invisible (and in the case of new PhDs, nonexistent save for the hood coloring and designs, which represent SLU for the graduates but the degree-granting institutions for faculty).

The legacy of Vincent Kennedy McMahon

Those big brawls in the Taiwanese parliament? As fake as Jan Levinson’s new breasts.

þ: Battlepanda, who suspected it all along.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Swivel (search) on this

Dave Zatz posts on TiVo’s new “Swivel Search” feature that broadens the built-in search for upcoming shows to also look for downloadable TiVoCast and Amazon Unbox programming that meets your interests. The use of tagging in particular looks potentially very interesting.

Add yourself to the priority list here or just wait a while and it will show up on your TiVo too.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Not-really-naked man causes havoc on Hill

Ah, if only this had happened two weeks ago I’d have had something worthwhile to talk about during the last week of my Congress course.

þ (via email): My former student Jim Swift, who now works on the south side of the Capitol.


Except all the dress-up bits, which are fun anyway, and packing up all the books in my office so I can ship them all using the postal service’s library rate to Tulane.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Small world watch

I knew Samuel Kernell had taught at Ole Miss (I had the very pleasant experience of meeting him at a poster session at APSA about seven years ago—he was one of only a handful of people to look at my poster, so we chatted for a few minutes), but I had no idea he was a Millsaps political science graduate. If I’d have known that, I’d have made my intro students there use The Logic of American Politics just on principle.

It's also amazing what completely random stuff that has nothing to do with what you were actually searching for can come up in Google.

QotD, ex-bosses edition

“What most professors want is for students to validate their pathetic life experience.” — Michael C. Munger, as quoted in the film Indoctrinate U., via Margaret Soltan’s University Diaries (who is less than enthused by the film overall).

As a contingent faculty member, all I can say is that quotes featured in QotD do not necessarily represent the views of Signifying Nothing, its owners, advertisers, or the potential tenure-track faculty-member who generates all of the content. But it’s still funny…

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Having students is nice

According to the Times-Picayune, Tulane is on-track to enroll 1400 freshmen in the fall, some of whom will doubtless fall into the clutches of my nefariously evil Introduction to Political Science seminar. The course is still very much on the drawing board, although I think it’s going to include big chunks on electoral systems and democratic competence*—and maybe not much else, since it’s apparently not supposed to be a field survey but more of a “wrestle with a few big questions while you write a bunch of stuff” course.

* This class will be a nice counter-balance to Politics of the American South; I get to teach one class that says “democracy sucks, and Ken Arrow proved it” and another that says “it's really important for everyone to have the right to vote, because that's what makes democracy work.” Woe betide anyone trying to take both classes at once; the cognitive dissonance would be painful. How I manage to survive simultaneously believing both of these things is left as an exercise for the reader to figure out.

Degrading grading

I think I’ve become lenient on grading in my young age. Maybe it’s just the non-tenure-track faculty member’s equivalent of senioritis (perhaps vistoritis?), but I’m pretty sure I’m a softer touch in the spring than in the fall. I’m just waiting on a few stragglers and my Congress class’ final exams before I can officially put a nice bow on this semester, except for the bits where I dress in fancy regalia.

Tomorrow’s project: figure out what to submit for my useR! proposal. It’s scheduled at a positively icky time for me, as I expect to be moving right around August 1st, but if I can squeeze it in it’d be both a good experience and nice CV fodder. Ideally I’d figure out a way to repurpose my methods meeting proposal, but I’m not sure it’ll work for useR! (boy that punctuation is annoying) very well, so plan B is to get my R package with epcp and friends into working order and write a paper on that.

I also owe a 900-word encyclopedia entry to Ken Warren by next Tuesday.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Strange tale

Frank Stephenson links a front-page WSJ article on disappearing from Google, which leads off with this tale of woe:

Before Abigail Garvey got married in 2000, anyone could easily Google her. Then she swapped her maiden name for her husband’s last name, Wilson, and dropped out of sight.

In Web-search results for her new name, links to Ms. Wilson’s epidemiology research papers became lost among all manner of other Abigail Wilsons, ranging from 1980s newspaper wedding announcements for various Abigail Wilsons to genealogy records listing Abigail Wilsons born in the 1600s and 1700s. When Ms. Wilson applied for a new job, interviewers questioned the publications she listed on her résumé because they weren’t finding the publications in online searches, Ms. Wilson says. [emphasis mine]

So when Ms. Wilson, now 32, was pregnant with her first child, she ran every baby name she and her husband, Justin, considered through Google to make sure her baby wouldn’t be born unsearchable. Her top choice: Kohler, an old family name that had the key, rare distinction of being uncommon on the Web when paired with Wilson. “Justin and I wanted our son’s name to be as special as he is,” she explains.

First, I’m not sure that naming your son after a faucet company is a good move, no matter how unique the name is. Second, I think Ms. Wilson’s travails might have easily been averted by giving full citation information for her publications on her CV, including her maiden name.

The lesson I draw from this: people (mostly, but not exclusively, women) with established publication records shouldn’t adopt married names for their professional careers. The lesson I don’t draw from this: I should name my firstborn “Moen Delta Lawrence.”

Friday, 4 May 2007

The end of analog

Craig Newmark helpfully links to a website that does a good job of explaining the coming (in February 2009) shutdown of analog over-the-air television transmission in the United States.

Things I didn't miss, volume 300 or so

Apparently there was a debate among the Republican contenders for the presidential nomination tonight.

If more states keep following Florida’s lead, we may soon thankfully reach a point at which a state sets its primary date to be before the present time, the nomination will be decided (since the primary will have already taken place), and this whole process will be mercifully over. Or maybe I just watch too much science fiction where this sort of causality is commonplace (like this episode of Futurama).

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Jaime Hyneman: Stone Cold Pimp

EDSBS’ Mustache Wednesday this week features Mythbuster Jaime Hyneman and his impressive ’stache… although the comment thread is more a discussion of “build team” co-star Kari Byron, who thankfully doesn’t sport a Walrus-style mustache (although she would probably be cute in a beret).

Incidentally, in this post-Imus world, are we allowed to call people who don’t work in the sex industry “pimps” any more? Ruling from the commenters, please.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Goin' down south

I am happy to report that I have accepted a visiting position for the 2007–08 academic year in the political science department at Tulane University in New Orleans. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be teaching next year, but I know it involves an introduction to political science course and some additional mid-to-upper-level courses in American politics at the undergraduate level, which hopefully will include my seminar in Southern politics in the spring semester.

I’m particularly looking forward to living about nine degrees farther south. St. Louis may very well be a great place to live… but not between November and March, at least for this cold weather wimp.

The fun part of my semester

The best thing about teaching research methods is that I get to talk to students about all sorts of different research questions: everything from the relative effectiveness of economic and racial integration policies in public education to the incidence of split-ticket voting.

I’m almost looking forward to a semester (maybe even a year) of not teaching methods—if nothing else, it’d be good not to be pigeon-holed as the “methods guy” for a while. But I’ll miss the methods papers nonetheless.