Friday, 20 February 2009

On the absence of war

Amber Taylor wonders aloud if she’ll ever vacation in Belize again. Certainly combating nacrotrafficking and human smuggling across their borders can’t be keeping all of the Guatemalan armed forces busy.

Welcome to the jungle

Nate Silver has a nice explanation of the rationale behind the “jungle primary,” which is apparently headed to the ballots of Californians as a result of the state’s recent budget compromise. While the system has its flaws—particularly for those who believe in strong, programmatic political parties, although I’d argue that the American political system as constituted really can’t deliver programmatic parties—it does seem to reduce political polarization between the two parties driven by the gulf between primary and general election electorates.

See also: Soren Dayton and Rick Hasen.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Be still my heart

From the description of the memisc package for R:

One of the aims of this package is to make life easier for useRs who deal with survey data sets. It provides an infrastructure for the management of survey data including value labels, definable missing values, recoding of variables, production of code books, and import of (subsets of) SPSS and Stata files. Further, it provides functionality to produce tables and data frames of arbitrary descriptive statistics and (almost) publication-ready tables of regression model estimates. Also some convenience tools for graphics, programming, and simulation are provided. [emphasis added]

How did I miss this package before? It makes analyzing NES data—heck, any data with value labels and missing values—in R an almost sane thing to do.

QotD, screw ever getting a teaching award edition

The entitlement society marches on:

“I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,” Mr. [Jason] Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”

“If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?” he added. “If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong.”

It will come to no surprise to any observer of contemporary collegiate culture that Mr. Greenwood is a kinesiology major, often a refuge for future gym teachers and meathead football coaches who think the education school’s curriculum is far too challenging. “Doing everything the teacher asks of [you]” isn’t A-worthy; doing everything the teacher asks of you better than most other people do it and achieving mastery thereof is A-worthy. And I say that as someone who has historically been a relatively lenient grader.

Bonus quote:

Sarah Kinn, a junior English major at the University of Vermont, agreed, saying, “I feel that if I do all of the readings and attend class regularly that I should be able to achieve a grade of at least a B.”

Via QandO, Critical Mass, Orin Kerr, and Jacob Levy, the latter of whom dissents in part.

Snark aside, I think “consumer demand” by students is a less compelling aspect of the problem—or at least the dimension of the problem I see at TAMIU, which is rather different than the dimension I observed teaching at selective private institutions—than the complicity of faculty and—particularly—administrators in encouraging faculty to reward students for occupying space and going through the motions in a misguided effort to retain students (and, perhaps more importantly, their associated free money from state and federal coffers—the marginal cost of student instruction is essentially zero from an administrative perspective) in college who have neither the interest nor actual need to complete a four-year degree.

My past thoughts on grading in general can be found here and here.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

I only get to play southern politics expert as a hobby these days

Over at OTB I tackle a new lawsuit seeking to strike down Alabama’s 108-year-old state constitution on the basis of vote fraud.

As an aside, it’s only when I dragged out my copy of Key this afternoon that I remembered how much I missed teaching this stuff.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Old wine in new bottles

Apropos the recent return of debate over the filibuster, I’ll just point you to the Signifying Nothing archives for my proposed reform thereof:

What I’d do: tweak the Senate rules slightly, to require 2/5+1 to vote to continue debate upon a call for cloture, except when a unanimous consent agreement is in effect otherwise limiting the debate (this part allows for normal floor debate without gratuitous cloture votes). That would properly place the burden of sustaining the filibuster on its supporters, but not otherwise limit its use (unlike Bill Frist’s fundamentally silly “supermajority countdown” proposal).

Incidentally, the nice thing about having an ancient blog is that I’ve probably already discussed to death every topic under the sun. Now back to the dryer.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Repurposed content

Herein I present a rant on one-tailed tests in the social sciences; feedback welcome:

Unless you have a directional hypothesis for every coefficient before your model ever makes contact with the data, you have no business doing a one-tailed statistical test. Besides if your hypotheses are solid and you have a decent n, the tailedness shouldn’t determine significance/lack thereof.

Thought experiment: assume you present a test in a paper that comes out p=.06, one-tailed. That means you have a hypothesis that doesn’t really work to begin with (sorry, “approaches conventional levels of statistical significance”). More importantly, if you just made up the tailedness hypothesis post facto to put a little dagger (or heaven forbid a star) next to the coefficient, you really did a two-tailed test with p=.12 and then post-hoc justified it to make the finding sound better than it really was.

Now here’s the center of the rant: I really don’t believe you actually knew the directionality of your hypothesis before you ran the test and were willing to stick with it through thick and thin, since I know that you’d be figuratively jumping up and down with excitement and report a significant result if the “sign was not as expected” and it came out p=.003 two-tailed (p=.0015 one-tailed, opposite directionality), rather than lamenting how it turned out with p=.9985 on your original one-tailed test. I dare say nobody has ever published an article claiming the latter (although I might give it a positive review just for kicks).

And I really don’t feel the need to have these discussions with sophomores and juniors, hence why I prefer books that just talk about two-tailed tests (aka “not Pollock” [a textbook I really like otherwise]) so I don’t feel the need to rant.

See also: this FAQ from UCLA, which is a little more lenient—but not much.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Footnote of the year

“I have witnessed members walk up to other members on the floor and simply start yelling at them for having cast a certain vote or committing some other perceived misstep.”—Rep. Daniel Lapinski, “Navigating Congressional Policy Processes.” In Lawrence Dodd and Bruce Oppenheimer, eds. Congress Reconsidered, 9th ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2009.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Jobbing out

For my on-the-market readers who haven’t swung by the rumor forum yet, I have a short post about our International Relations and/or Political Theory position (originally it was two positions, hence the weird combination… but that’s a long, boring story) that allegedly is winding its way towards eJobs soon.

The bottom line: I’m happy to meet (informally—this ain’t an interview or even a APSA meat market session) with anyone who’s interested in the job this weekend at TLC in Baltimore; drop me an email if you’re interested in talking.

Short “pimp this job” FAQ: the pay is good for the region, the load is a 4–3, I think we’re willing to hire in IR or theory or both (frankly I don’t think we can usefully narrow the pool to and only, although there’s a chance the theory part is more non-negotiable since we’ve lived a while without an IR person but haven’t lived without a theorist until this semester), there is some research support, we don’t have the kind of “identity politics” issues that you see at other minority-serving institutions, and all your colleagues would be really nice folks. Playing nicely with others is essential; we do have our disagreements, but starting or engaging in pitched battles over ideology, qual/quant, pedagogy, etc. will not earn you a fan club, nor will free-floating hostility towards (as opposed to occasional mere frustration with) students. Last, but not least, it’s probably easier to live in Laredo and teach at TAMIU if you can tone down (or just bear with) any “Type A” tendencies in your personality.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Get your learn on

My APSA Teaching & Learning Conference paper co-written with my colleagues Lynne and Marcus is now done; I’m looking forward to my quick trip to Baltimore to present it and catch up with the methods-teaching crowd this weekend.

Stimulate this

Like Alex Knapp and Jim Henley I’m wondering about this whole stimulus thing; the more I think about it, the more I think that “recapitaliz[ing] the middle and lower classes” might actually be the more sensible stimulus. Pour $800 billion into a payroll tax holiday (probably the fastest way to inject money into the economy—it could be implemented and have money in peoples’ pockets by April 1st if passed today) of some form* and there are basically four outcomes I can see:

1. People spend the money. This stimulates the economy.
2. People save the money. This provides more money for banks to loan to stimulate the economy.
3. People pay off debt. The banks become better capitalized and less likely to go belly-up at taxpayer expense. This also provides more money for banks to loan to stimulate the economy.
4. People remit the money to relatives overseas. This improves our balance-of-payments and increases demand for stuff we export to those countries.

Then again, politicians can’t easily take credit for any of those outcomes, hence why it’s more fun to spend the money on things that we’d spend money on anyway at a later date.

* I’d exclude all income below the social security earnings limit from the “employee” contribution to FICA, Medicare, and self-employment taxes; at current rates we could have a 2-year employee contribution holiday for around $900 billion in extra IOUs for the various trust funds.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

I think a good time was had by all at my (first annual?) Super Bowl party at the humble abode on Sunday; the company was nice and the game didn’t disappoint, despite KGNS forgetting to hit the “HD switch” in the control room until near the end of the first quarter, a glitch I called in advance in my invitation email. And while I predicted the final score exactly wrong all-in-all it was a pretty good evening, capped by a classic Office episode. A win-win-win, I’d say.