Tuesday, 28 April 2009

QotD, where are my flying cars? edition

Dean Dad gets to the essence of Mark Taylor’s ramblings about higher education, which seem to have captured the imagination of waaay too many people among the professoriate this week:

“Sorry, kid, we aren’t accepting new students this year. Try again next year, when the theme will be cyborgs and we’ll have all new faculty to teach it.”


[Taylor] moves quickly from ‘insightful’ to ‘crackpot’ and back again.

Honorable mention (put this one in the file of “things I should have said in Friday’s department meeting but didn’t”), courtesy of Brian Griffin:

I would explain, but you won’t care or listen, so there’s no point.

Monday, 20 April 2009

The perennial rail discussion

Reflecting a recurring theme at Signifying Nothing, the administration’s announcement of its plans to sorta-kinda invest in high speed rail brings out the predictable reactions: Cato says it sucks, the central planning enthusiasts love it, and Prof. Karlson and John Stilgoe remind us that relatively inexpensive, incremental improvements are probably a better use of taxpayer money than flashy bullet trains over the distances Americans are likely to travel by rail.

My view, as always, is that all of these promised lines are of little value if they are not connected to the transportation system that most Americans already use: airports and their associated amenities like safe long-term parking and the rental car counter.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Thoughts on NAMUDNO

Over at OTB, I explain why NAMUDNO is not the name of Ricky Martin’s latest attempt at a musical comeback.

Update: More on NAMUDNO here for those interested in the case, which judging from the comments at OTB is... nobody.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

It’s all about the O

EDSBS says the role of Ed Orgeron in The Blind Side will be played by… Ed Orgeron. This may be the first movie ever made about American football with English-language subtitles.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Screw Lakoff, Orwell is where it's at

Democracy in America ponders Pew’s use of a new term for those whose presence in this country is not permitted by law:

What do you all think of the phrase “unauthorised immigrants”, which is used throughout the Pew report? It is less harsh than “illegal immigrants”, but seems to have the same logical problem, that the actions are illegal/unauthorised, not the people themselves. “Undocumented immigrants” might be better.

I think the term “undocumented” frankly is absurd; it sounds like a bureaucratic mix-up (“oh dear, I lost the title to my car, it’s now undocumented”) rather than the truth, which is that in a vast majority of cases—the unfortunate cases of those with jus soli or jus sanguinis without the proper paperwork aside—the “undocumented” have no legal permission or right to be in the United States, and often have forged (i.e. illegal) paperwork claiming otherwise, hence hardly making them “undocumented” but rather more properly maldocumented, the legal equivalent of a teen with fake ID who certainly isn’t an “undocumented adult.”

All that said, “unauthorized” (or for our Oxford-nonbelieving British cousins “unauthorised”) seems to be a reasonable compromise to me.

(And, for infrequent readers of this blog, I say all of the above as someone who generally advocates an end to immigration restrictions and the national drinking age.)

Will Texas Democrats get Kinky?

2006 independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman is apparently seriously considering seeking the 2010 Democratic nomination for said office. Given that I can’t think of a Democrat with any significant statewide stature off the top of my head (and drubbings at the hands of Rick Perry and John Cornyn generally don’t demonstrate “stature” in my book) Friedman may very well be the instant front-runner for the nomination.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

A political institutions reading list, revised and resubmitted

Here’s the current iteration of the book list. I’m also thinking of having the students write a book review each of an additional book not on this list.

  • Shepsle and Boncheck, Analyzing Politics.
  • Buchanan and Tullock, The Calculus of Consent.
  • Farrell, Electoral Systems: A Comparative Introduction.
  • Cox and McCubbins, Setting the Agenda Legislative Leviathan (replacing Krehbiel, one of whose books will probably become a book review).
  • Aldrich, Why Parties?: The Origin and Transformation of Political Parties in America.
  • Baum, The Puzzle of Judicial Behavior, per comments from commenter “prison rodeo” who correctly lamented the lack of anything on the judiciary.
  • Skowronek, The Politics Presidents Make, because I need something on the presidency and this one looks promising.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Headlines you don't see every day

“Woody Harrelson claims he mistook photographer for zombie.”

Now if it’d been Matthew McConaughey the headline wouldn’t have been quite as surprising.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Toward an American political institutions reading list

Here’s what I’ve got for my fall graduate seminar thus far:

  • Shepsle and Boncheck, Analyzing Politics.
  • Buchanan and Tullock, The Calculus of Consent.
  • Farrell, Electoral Systems: A Comparative Introduction.
  • Krehbiel, Information and Legislative Organization.
  • Aldrich, Why Parties?: The Origin and Transformation of Political Parties in America.

Obviously that doesn’t include articles yet, but I don’t need to figure those out until August or so. Obviously I'm trying to bring in a lot of rational choice here, since our undergraduates really don't get any of that as far as I know; I figure I can get away without Arrow and Downs since Shelpsle and Boncheck cover that territory, but I want something on election systems and I’ve used Farrell before and am happy with his treatment. So, any suggestions?

Monday, 6 April 2009

Cue "Ride of the Valkyries"

Per request, photos of the Chicago pillow fight, a phalanx of tourists riding Segways, and the Art Institute.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Ironic Google Reader justaposition of the day

Brendan Nyhan complains about Republicans who are opposed to a “mythical global currency.”

A few posts up, FP Passport explains Special Drawing Rights:

So what on earth is a Special Drawing Right (SDR) anyway?

Basically: it’s a currency.

There’s a long way from the UNero or whatever the Paul crowd thinks a global currency is and SDRs, which have slightly more tangible existence than the Social Security trust fund (which is, literally, a stack of IOUs in a government safe somewhere in Washington). But I suppose I’m easily amused.


The bits of paper I’m hanging on the wall tomorrow (well, later today) at Midwest wherein I discuss “Geographic Data Visualization Using Open-Source Data and R” are now online here for the curious or insomnia-stricken.