Sunday, 31 August 2008

On journalism

You’d think the first thing a journalist would do if hearing 17th-hand that the McCain campaign didn’t search the archives of Sarah Palin’s hometown newspaper would be to find out whether or not archives of that paper exist at other locations besides the one the Democratic opposition researcher allegedly used. I’m told that public and academic libraries (a search here says at least five of them) tend to keep back issues of newspapers, for example. I’d also think the entire exercise of trying to keep one’s veep pick secret might be undermined by waltzing into a newspaper office in the middle of nowhere and saying “hey, I’m a random person from out of town you’ve never heard of, can you please dig up all your articles on Sarah Palin? Thanks!”

This is a basic undergraduate-level research skill. Is anyone this year even trying?

Granted, if the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman is anything like most small-town newspapers, I doubt you can believe a word that was written in it anyway (particularly since a fair percentage of them will be misspelled or appear in sentences in more-or-less random order), and I’ll submit that there’s a fair chance the McCain campaign didn’t think the archives of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman would contain anything worth reading, but you’d think the Democrats could come up with a better line of attack. Then again if their imagination is limited to questioning the parentage of one of Palin’s children, maybe such stupidity is par for the course—and if they don’t yet have a perceived misogyny problem, they soon will.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

A profit-seeking entity released this?

I give you what is objectively the worst song ever to gain commercial release. I’d rather listen to white noise at 110 decibels than ever hear this song again.


Gustav is Cat 4 and strengthening. Hurricane evacuation information is online for Texans, Louisianans, and Mississippians. Contraflow for the New Orleans area begins at 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning affecting I-59 south of Poplarville and I-55 south of Brookhaven.

Reviving the experience argument

John McCain’s choice of little-known Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate at first blush does somewhat undercut the McCain’s campaign’s effort to go after Barack Obama on his lack of experience. Nevertheless I think there is a way to keep attacking Obama on inexperience without it rebounding against Palin.

I think McCain’s best argument with moderate voters—who, since Palin has now shored up the GOP social conservative base, are the only voters he needs to worry about—is that he’s the best positioned candidate to deal with a Congress that is, and will be after this election, well to the left of the average American voter. Even assuming Obama is willing to govern from the middle and represents something other than “politics as usual,” his inexperience—surrounded by a vice president even more liberal than he is and Democratic congressional leaders with more experience and savvy—will lead to an orgy of congressional spending and incompetent lawmaking not seen since the first two years of the Clinton presidency, when a similarly naïve Clinton who promised to govern from the center was steamrolled by a corrupt Congress, his wife, and every liberal interest group in Washington. Without any GOP resistance in the White House, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, and Hillary Clinton—not Barack Obama—will be setting the domestic and foreign policy agenda. And can we really afford another four—or eight—years of an inexperienced presidency hijacked by an ideologically-committed, far-more-experienced vice president primarily concerned with foreign affairs, a vice president who took—some might say plagiarized—political inspiration from one of the weakest left-wing political party leaders in modern memory?

All that said, I basically agree that the Palin pick is born from the same desperation that led Walter “49–2” Mondale to the door of Geraldine Ferraro; it didn’t work for Mondale and it probably won’t work for McCain either, but then again nothing is working for McCain now, so why not take a shot?

Friday, 29 August 2008

Americanists unbound

IHE reports on an APSA panel debate over whether the American politics field has outlived its usefulness. I generally (but mildly) agree with the proposition, but then again I’m one of the relatively few “Americanists” who would self-identify as a behaviorist/applied methodologist with a dash of neo-institutionalism, primarily interested in the politics of North America and Western Europe.

Revisiting the archive

Jason Kuznicki gives further consideration to the theme of “psychohistory” in Asimov’s Foundation series—although, I have to say that Asimov himself seems to have basically stopped taking the concept itself seriously by the end of Second Foundation (the, uh, third book), so I’m not sure how seriously the reader can take it either.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Miller missing no more

A (regrettably final) update for those of you interested in the Arthur Miller saga: a correspondent emails that Miller’s body has been discovered and that campus authorities have ended their investigation into his alleged indiscretions. My sympathies go out to Miller’s family and his current and former students.

Make Your Own Damn Boycott

Jacob Levy reports on efforts by some conservative APSA members to organize a boycott of the 2009 APSA Annual Meeting, to be held in Toronto, Canada, not-very-proud home of Human Rights Commission Kangaroo Courts ‘R’ Us.

I, as always, support all boycotts of APSA in body, although not in spirit—in spirit, I agree with Jacob that this boycott is at least as dumb as “NO-LA 2012.”

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Nerd rap

If the Large Hadron Collider doesn’t destroy the universe first, this might:

þ Timothy Sandefur.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Miller missing

Iowa political science professor Arthur Miller,* recently accused of attempting to trade students sexual favors for grades, has apparently gone missing with his family fearing the he has taken his own life (I got the link via the rumor mills). While I had a little fun with the case here earlier this week, and think Miller’s conduct was reprehensible assuming the allegations are true, nonetheless it’s hard not to feel at least some sympathy for him and particularly his family, even if the horrible situation Miller was in professionally was entirely self-inflicted.

* Whom I do not know personally, although I did cite a short essay he wrote on schema theory in my dissertation.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008


The policy syllabus is done and the website is more-or-less up-to-date; I’ll probably update the CV and teaching philosophy/research interests statements over the weekend, but that doesn’t need to be done for a couple of weeks yet.

In the meantime, I get to wear fancy regalia tomorrow, although I’m really not sure it’ll be that much fun given tomorrow’s weather forecast.

Giving yourself a backhanded compliment

Even Sully apparently realizes his current schtick is becoming tedious.

I wish I could go hide in an abandoned nuclear missile silo until November 5th. Alas unsubscribing Sully from Google Reader (where he joins a merry bipartisan dustbin of waaay-too-enthusiastic McCainites and Obamaites, who all seem deeply convinced that this presidential election is The Most Important EVER in some bizarrely-exaggerated sense) is about as close as I’m likely to get…

Muy muy es olympioso

I got sucked into the Olympics today, although in fairness for an hour I was flipping between reruns of The Office on TBS (which included some of my favorite bizarre Dwight behavior from the series, as he decides to inspect the CFO‘s house during a cocktail party rather than mingle with the guests).

Maybe I’m just getting old and/or acquiring some rudimentary paternal instincts, but I wonder whether all that individual pressure—I’m thinking in particular of the gymnastics contests, which seem to attract the youngest competitors—is really good for teenage kids. I’m all for putting tough challenges out there for young people to meet (if I wasn’t, I’d probably not be much of a college professor), but the idea of dealing with the potential of being the best X in the world at 15 or 16 just seems a bit too daunting. Then again, maybe it’s better to go into those things with a touch of naïveté, not really knowing just how monumentally “big” the challenge of being the best is.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Murdering trees

Two syllabi down, one (the graduate public policy seminar) to go. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I want the students to do in the policy class, although I think I have it narrowed down to three relatively brief papers plus a take-home final.

Monday, 18 August 2008

HR follies

I preface all of this by saying this is nothing personal against the HR folks here, who were actually quite pleasant today; I just feel the need to rage against the machine.

My day began way too early with a 22-year-old video with the production values of a small-market cable TV ad detailing the fun and excitement of the Texas Hazard Communication Act, which explained that huffing paint fumes and drinking benzene for the next 30 years probably wouldn’t be smart. Later on I spent waaay too much time doing five separate training modules online on things that either would be blindingly obvious to someone with a postgraduate degree or wouldn’t be so obvious if I hadn’t been already subjected to training in such matters at all of my previous employers as well. All of the training, needless to say, was presented in such a way that none of the examples were actually relevant to the work situation that professors find themselves in—instead of “don’t take bribes from the textbook companies” and “don’t fondle your students in exchange for grades,” it was “don’t use the on-campus physical plant facilities to fix your buddies’ cars.”

Also needless to say, none of these training modules included the only one that would be useful—namely the one I have to do to get IRB approval to sneeze in the direction of data collected from people I’ll never meet, because without the training I’d apparently be the first political scientist in history capable of abusing human subjects backwards through time.

And to top things off I think the thunderstorms killed my the state’s computer over the weekend.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Bad taste in men explained

Via Glenn Reynolds and Costa Tsiokos, I finally connect the dots to obtain a satisfactory explanation of why she* wasn’t that into me.

* Well, at least for the one value of “she” where I know she was on the pill.

QotD, Skip Bayless and Woody Paige suck edition

Alan Sepinwall on Pardon the Interruption:

It is the first, best, and really only tolerable one of ESPN‘s “Angry Middle-Aged Newspapermen Yell At Each Other for 30 Minutes” shows.

I only have one suggested improvement: replace “Newspapermen” with “Media Whores” and you also exclude the odious Jim Rome, the negative-talent younger sports talk radio clone of Jim Gray. For reasons I can’t fathom, Rome has somehow parlayed a combination of obsequiousness and being shoved by a mediocre quarterback into a two-decade media career.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Memphis voters wise up for a change

The voters of Tennessee’s 9th District, whose checkered past includes decades of support for the corrupt Ford family, are to be congratulated for rejecting Nikki Tinker’s challenge to incumbent representative Steve Cohen. Tinker’s low-rent Cynthia McKinney impersonation, which included implying that Cohen (a Jew) was a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan, thankfully only commanded 19% of the vote in the Democratic party primary. Then again, maybe we should be disturbed that her share of the vote was that high.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

QotD, blow-off-the-panels-and-go-surfing edition

Orin Kerr on boycotting-but-attending academic conferences:

Whoever thought up a boycott that requires you to be in San Diego in January but forbids you to attend the panels has a keen sense of how to appeal to the academic mind.

Like this is some sort of innovation. By this standard, I’ve been boycotting conferences (at least the panels I’m not supposed to be participating in) for years.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Green light specials

Today’s Signifying Nothing public service announcement follows.

Unless you plan to keep your clothes on, or are in the process of producing your one-person dramatic reenactment of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, don’t sit in front of your MacBook if the little green light above the screen is on.

This concludes today’s Signifying Nothing public service announcement.

Monday, 4 August 2008

QotD, everyone is clueless on energy policy edition

Kevin Drum on Barack Obama’s effort to out-flank John McCain in the race to advocate the dumbest energy policy proposal:

[B]etween the two of them, McCain and Obama have now pretty much written the handbook on idiotic energy pimping: a gas tax holiday, offshore drilling, opening up the SPR, a windfall profits tax, and nukes for all. I don’t think either one has come out for a massive coal liquification [sic] program yet, but since that’s about the only thing left that’s worse than what they’ve offered so far, I assume it can’t be more than a few days away.

QotD, 2008 from the apathetic libertarian perspective edition

Steven Taylor on GOP efforts to get “spoiler” Libertarian candidates to withdraw from fall election contests:

[I]f the Texas GOP is truly that concerned about losing votes to the Libertarian Party, then perhaps they ought to try harder to please libertarian-minded voters who might be persuaded to vote Republican if the party was made more palatable to them.

Although, I have to add a caveat: that ain’t going to work unless the GOP can come up with someone less batshit than Rоn Pаul. But nobody ever said building a big tent was easy.