Saturday, 29 November 2008

Bowled over

One picture is worth a thousand words. I was generally supportive of Croom’s hire at the time, but—like The Orgeron—he failed to produce on the big stage. Or even, sometimes, on little ones.

We are the champions

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Democracy in Minnesota

Minnesota Public Radio has an interview with the person who claims to have voted for “Lizard People.”

þ: Rick Hasen.

Monday, 24 November 2008

The bailout is overdetermined

Steve Verdon partially answers why Citibank is getting bailed out:

Simple: the executives and large stake shareholders in Citigroup have the personal phone numbers of most politicians in their roll-a-dex. They are probably on a first name basis with Senator Harry Reid, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Secretary Henry Paulson, and Senator Mitch McConnell.

Voters on the other hand do not have these numbers. Voters are a large and diverse group. Voters are hard to organize and can be a fractious group at best. So when it comes to supporting large scale donors, possible future employers, over screwing the voter it is a no-brainer. Any attempt to look for additional logic/reasons in this is futile. We have here an extremely blatant case of rent-seeking.

There is certainly a diffuse-versus-concentrated interests issue at stake here, as well as an issue of asymmetrical expertise, an issue of the incestuous relationships between the financial sector and beltway insiders, and a healthy dollop of “Do Somethingism”—politicians, aka single-minded seekers of reelection and/or higher office, must be seen to be Taking Action to Avert Crisis even if said Action does not ultimately Avert said Crisis. In part, Citibank isn’t too big to fail; it’s too politically connected for its patrons to allow it to fail.

More on the broader economic nonsense afoot, including cautionary notes on using Depression-era policies to “fix” what’s going on now, from Megan McArdle.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

In print again (sort of)

One of my photos of the Sarah Duke Gardens at Duke University appears in the new edition of Moon Handbooks’ North Carolina guidebook by Sarah Bryan. Alas if I start looking at the free copy of the guidebook I received I may get homesick* for the Carolinas.

* I’m not sure one can get “homesick” for a place that hasn’t really ever been a permanent home, although I’d certainly be happy to go live there—for the right price, of course.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Voters are stupid

That is the only valid conclusion I can draw from these ballots from the Minnesota recount. (þ: Democracy in America) All hail our new overlords, the Lizard People, or at least the folks who vote for them—which may be worse.

Mind you, Frequent Commenter Scott and I used to cast write-in ballots for one of our professors for Lafayette County (Miss.) Sheriff, and I’ve run half-assed campaigns for public office twice, so I’m hardly in a position to complain about people not taking the democratic process seriously.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Putting the southern politics hat on

As James Joyner posts today a recent Strange Maps entry has produced a bit of buzz by showing the overlap between cotton production in 1860 and Democratic voting in 2008. Of course, a map of cotton production in 1860 and Democratic voting in 1908 would also look very similar, but for very different reasons, as Key points out in Southern Politics in State and Nation:

In its grand outlines the politics of the South revolves around the position of the Negro. Whatever phase of the southern political process one seeks to understand, sooner or later the trail of inquiry leads to the Negro.

For those not familiar with Key’s argument, he essentially argued that understanding the politics of the south (at least through the late 1940s, the time Southern Politics was written) required an understanding of how the political structures of the cotton belt states were designed to reinforce the supremacy of “black-belt whites,” the plantation owners who would have been outnumbered politically if blacks had a meaningful right to vote. Democratic single-party rule in the south, and the Democrats’ fortunes nationally, rested on this core of rabid support which saw Republican rule in the south or federal interference as nothing less than an existential threat. Obviously things have changed a great deal due to generational replacement and the changes wrought by the Civil Rights Movement, but it remains an interesting correlation as James points out.

Meanwhile, Kevin Drum argues that the South has lost influence in Washington due to the return of unified government under the Democrats, although a look at the chamber median (I haven’t run CJR on the latest House data, but I assume the results are likely to be similar) suggests that the “Blue Dogs,” most of whom are moderate-to-conservative southern Democrats, will have far more influence over what passes and fails in the 111th Congress than Drum might like.

Also of potential interest, Andrew Gelman looks at the relationship between county-level returns and race in various regions of the country.

Incidentally, I usually juxtapose two similar maps (one from Key, one from Gavin Wright’s work on southern economic history) in my Southern politics course—although I’m damned if I know when I’ll ever get the opportunity to teach it again, which is one of the drawbacks of teaching outside the “real” South.

Slience is golden

My stepfather passed away over the weekend so I probably won’t be blogging (or corresponding) much over the next few days while I travel to Memphis to be with my family for the various memorial services.

I really appreciate the condolences I’ve received from those I’ve heard from so far.

Update: The obituary is online at the funeral home’s website.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Continuing on the Latin America policy theme

This Greg Weeks post has been on my “need to blog about” list for a while. In response to a broadside from then-not-president-elect Barack Obama aimed at Hugo Chávez, Weeks writes:

[I]f democracy is the key precondition to good relations with the U.S., then how will we deal with China, Saudi Arabia, etc.? The answer, of course, is that democracy isn’t the litmus test for anything.

I’d dissent in part here; I think it’s clearly been a key part of the U.S.’ post-Cold War agenda (and, arguably, a priority on the U.S. agenda going back to at least the Carter administration) to promote democracy and human rights more broadly, particularly in the Western Hemisphere. But there is certainly a Maslowian dimension to that agenda; we obviously have greater, higher-priority strategic interests at stake in the Arabian peninsula and China, and arguably less leverage, to promote our preferred form of governance in those places. More to the point, there is a clear, emerging consensus of the governments of the Western Hemisphere in favor of democratic practice that does not exist in the Arabian peninsula or East Asia.

Would Chávez and Morales be getting more of a free pass from Washington if they were attempting a right-wing equivalent (whatever that might be) of the Bolivarian revolution? Obviously this counterfactual doesn’t exist to any meaningful degree, but I suspect today the tolerance for a new Allende would be low among Republicans and Democrats alike.

Further adventures in international diplomacy

On Wednesday, TAMIU hosted Todd Huizinga, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey. I enjoyed his talk, which touched on a variety of issues of mutual concern for the U.S. and Mexico, as well as (at least in passing) the likely continuity of policy in the face of the current presidential transition, quite a bit.

I also had the opportunity to ask what I think is the $64,000 question when it comes to U.S. relations in the Western Hemisphere—how can the U.S. successfully promote its foreign policy goals in Latin America when, even though most of those goals are aligned with the domestic interests of those countries (improving the rule of law and developing state capacity, reducing economic and social inequality, replacing the failed models of import substitution and central planning with a more free market economy, etc.), those actions may be perceived as “imperialist”? I think it was a pretty tough question but Huizinga handled it very well—which, I suppose, is what he’s paid to do.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

“This beehive needed whacking”

Day two of the TAMIU plagiarism saga hits Inside Higher Ed with such pearls of wisdom from the (now terminated) instructor who apparently instigated the controversy.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The ass end of the campus grapevine

At least now I know why we all suddenly had to complete a training module on FERPA last week, although in fairness it was the only required training module thus far that actually seemed minimally relevant to my job.

Without wading into the specifics of the case at hand (all I know is what is printed in the local paper), I will say that I have no problem in principle with the idea that students ought to be entitled to due process regarding charges of academic dishonesty, just as they are entitled to due process in the determination of their grades in other circumstances, provided that those entrusted with the duty of reviewing these charges take violations seriously and operate with the presumption that the burden of proof in a grade dispute is on the student rather than the faculty member.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Raining on the realignment parade

John Sides posts a necessary and timely corrective to those commentators hyperventilating over some alleged “realignment”:

For a realignment to occur, there has to be a dramatic and permanent shift in the party coalitions. That shift then ushers in an extended period of party control, which in turn brings with it a notable shift in policy. ... [T]here is little evidence that the 2008 election constitutes a realignment. Why?

* First, even if it did, we wouldn’t know for a while. Years, in fact. As Andrew Busch writes here, “No one can tell whether a particular election is a realigning election until the long-term arrives and one can look back.”

* Second, things didn’t change that much. This is why I posted the maps below. Yes, Obama won states that Democrats hadn’t won in a while, and perhaps demographic trends suggest Democrats will have a chance to win those states in the future. But these small shifts in state-level vote margins don’t signal any wholesale change in partisan loyalties or party coalitions.

* Indeed, if you look at the exit polls (see Phil’s earlier post), Obama does better than Kerry among most every demographic. His vote share among the young and Latinos stands out, but the results don’t suggest a reordering of the party’s coalitions. Instead, it looks more like voters of all stripes were displeased with the economy and President Bush and so voted for the opposing party’s nominee.

* The final nail in the coffin is this analysis from Larry Bartels. He compares the 2008 results in each state to the 2004 results. He finds remarkable continuity across these two elections. His further comparison of 2008 to 1932, where you in fact do see big shifts, is further evidence.

Sides also points out that “the concept of realignment isn’t in such good standing anymore,” which is true, although largely because (a) not everybody has been willing to concede that the 1960s saw a realignment in electoral politics due to the reenfranchisement of African-Americans and the connected emergence of the two-party south and (b) the whole concept of “dealignment” had to arise around the same time and substantially muddy the waters.

Based on the data so far, the only possible candidate groups to have motivated “party coalition shift” are young voters and Cuban-Americans; the latter group, while significant in borking up our policy towards Cuba over the post-Soviet era, are insubstantial outside Florida making them weak agents of realignment. There may be a stronger case for youth voting, but my suspicion is that this has more to do with differential partisan activation (GOP-inclined young voters were not motivated by the McCain-Palin ticket, and turned out at lower rates than Democrat-inclined young voters) rather than a definitive pro-Democratic break in the demographic group.

A further corrective: take the graph in Josep Colomer’s post about the election and replace “Obama 2008” with “Carter 1980” or “Mondale 1984” and is there anyone who seriously thinks that it would be wrong? Realignments result from dimensional shifts (parties and candidates capturing a new majority-winning position that was unavailable in the past due to a reconfiguration of voter preferences) that just aren’t in evidence in this election. Colomer seems to believe that this election is “realigning” but there is no more evidence for that than in any presidential election since Nixon.

Friday campusblogging

Per request, here are some photos of the TAMIU campus I took over the summer; I don’t have any javelina pictures (they seem to mostly come out at night), but there are some of our whitetail deer in the pictures like the one below:


Wednesday, 5 November 2008


So I assume the usual suspects at APSA will now be calling for a boycott of all future meetings in California.

The sad thing is that I agree with the boycott ringleaders on policy but it’s hard to take their specious arguments against the 2012 New Orleans meeting as being motivated by anything other than uninformed or outdated stereotypes of how New Orleanians would behave, as if there are absolutely no gay and lesbian couples in New Orleans today who have successfully dealt with the lack of a legal right to have their relationship with their life partners legitimized by the state. If, as a social scientist, you want other social scientists who aren’t fully committed to your personal crusades to take your public policy arguments seriously, you need to present at least some sort of data in support of your arguments.

Only at TAMIU

From my inbox:

Members of the Campus Community -

This Fall, campus wildlife is especially prevalent, with a substantial increase in populations of both whitetail deer and javelina.

Seeing both on campus on a regular basis often leads members of the University community and visitors to consider our wildlife tame and approachable.

This is NOT the case. The animals remain wild and, if provoked, may respond.

Construction projects underway have temporarily cordoned off some favorite feeding areas and animals have been wandering more frequently into general campus areas. Mating cycles may also be in play, creating additional tensions among the populations.

Please avoid all contact with the animals and do not engage with them. Exercise caution on campus and if animals are gathered in your path, select an alternate route.

If you feel threatened by any animal population, contact University Police at [xxx]. Provide your location and request assistance.

Please exercise all relevant precautions so that all residents of our campus, both two and four-legged, can share this special environment.

Being the center of attention

Given that the networks didn’t call the election until 10pm CST, things worked out last night at the event organized by the US Consulate General to Nuevo Laredo well from a “keeping people at the event” perspective, although the evening was somewhat less festive than it should have been due to the plane crash that claimed the life of Mexican interior secretary Juan Camilo Mouriño Terrazo and seven others Tuesday afternoon. Despite the tragedy and my very limited command of Spanish, however, everyone was very gracious and I think a good time was had by most, if not all.